Category Archives: entertainment

The June Update Brings DirectX 12 Support to EVE Online

Summer is upon us and the usual warm weather player slump has shown up… if that is all it is… and before CCP effectively shuts down due to staff going on vacation they gave us an end of month update with some big changes.

June 2022 update

The big item on the list for me is DirectX 12 and what it brings to the table.  You can throw a lot of crap at EVE Online for its various failings, but CCP has always put in the effort to make sure space looks good.  That is one of the pillars of the game and the art team makes few mistakes. (They fixed the frills on the Stabber, didn’t they?)

The changes with DirectX 12 were:

  • Updated the texture compression format and removed the old texture packing system.
    • Increased the graphical fidelity of assets.
    • Reduced texture corruption and artifacting.
  • Cameras are now more performant as they have to render fewer objects when they are not in view.
  • Doubled the resolution of every background nebula
    • Rebalanced the color of all background nebula.
    • Significantly decreased seaming of the background nebula.
  • Overhauled the Level of Detail system, which allows assets to have a more accurate representation of how they should look when changing the zoom level.
  • Revamped every Career Agent mission site.
    • Added new decorative asteroids.
    • Added many new space assets.
    • Overhauled all existing assets.
    • Added new environment templates for these sites.
  • Updated and reactivated the Cloud Cover effects which can now be found in the Career Agent mission sites.

You can still roll back to DirectX 11 if there are issues, but the game just got a little be better looking.

In addition to that, the long neglected career agents… they’ve been barely attended to for more than a decade… finally got some attention with a new AIR Career Program that has a slate of careers, goals, and activities.

  • 4 Careers:
    • Explorer – navigation, scanning, hacking, Project Discovery
    • Industrialist – mining, manufacturing, salvaging, trading
    • Enforcer – PvE combat, missions, Abyssal Deadspace
    • Soldier of Fortune – PvP combat and support, Faction Warfare
  • 10 Activities per Career
  • 3-10 Goals per Activity
  • 188 goals in total

There is also a host of new rewards for completing the new activities, with skill points, expert systems, SKINs, and boosters being a part of the mix along with the usual ISK reward for each goal you complete.

That helps extend out the new player experience, as the old career agents were letting the team down.  However, as I have said before, the new player experience can only take new players so far.  There still has to be a way for players to go from training wheels to the various player organizations that collect around the myriad of activities the game has to offer.

There were also some audio updates… EVE has sound… as well as some additions to the still in beta Photon UI, the latter finally acknowledging that maybe not everybody plays on giant screens with so much real estate that lots of dead space won’t be noticed.

Also, an interesting note towards the end of the patch notes:

The Gallente Federation has constructed two new stations to house key government offices. The new Parchanier IV – President Bureau and Bereye III – Supreme Court Tribunal stations will serve as relocated headquarters for their respective government branches, moving these key Federal facilities into high security space. Capsuleer available industrial facilities and office slots will be added to these stations in the near future as the final construction work is completed on the remaining station areas.

I am not sure what prompted that, but I suspect we’ll find out.

There is a lot more detail in the patch notes, but that was what got my attention.

Anyway, the update went out yesterday and, after some teething issues, seemed to be finally set and settled by the time evening rolled into USTZ.

Related:

Returning to Minecraft

With the latest update to Minecraft, which I posted about previously, I was reminded that it had been a couple of years and a few updates since I last really dove into the world of one meter blocks.  So I decided to see what The Wild update… and the other two since The Nether update… had brought to the game.

The Wild update arrives

I wasn’t really ready to commit to a rolling up a whole new world, but I didn’t want to play solo either.  So I went and played on the AOKayCraft server, which is run by one of what I consider the extended family of our corner of the blogesphere.

I have, in fact, see the giant recycling center and the hospitality center shown on the site.  I even claimed a room.

And running around there helped get me back into the mood for Minecraft.  I was able to fiddle with the field of vision settings to get it to the point where it wasn’t causing instant motion sickness on my 34″ monitor every time I turned around quickly.

Meanwhile, we were taking on the plains in Valheim and slaying Yagluth and kind of reaching an end to our journey there.  There were still things to do, and I am not pulling down that server quite yet.  There is still some slim hope that the mistlands biome might show up some day soon, given how much the devs have been teasing it. (And because they’ve also got the game on XBox live for PC and XBox… which Microsoft did the dev work for… so they will have even more customers eventually hitting a wall after Yagluth.)

I will have more to post about when it comes to Valheim, but it really felt like we might need to find another title to occupy us.  Of course, there is a promise of Wrath of the Lich King Classic, but Blizz has not been forthcoming with dates on that.

Meanwhile, we all knew Minecraft and there isn’t a co-op server world easier to roll up than doing one on Minecraft Realms.  At least not one that I know of.  So I put that in motion quickly enough.

The main delay was that I wasn’t interested in a random world.  I kind of wanted something good, something with some resources nearby that we could dive right into.  So I went Googling around for the best 1.19 Java Edition world seeds.

I came up with one (seed 5636173029472278327) that starts you near a village that is next to a ravine with a large mining complex in it.  It was also close to an ocean, so boat exploration was an option.  I figured that would be a decent start.

But them I went over to the Chunkbase to their seed mapper to see what else was close by.  There were warm oceans and badlands biomes not too far away, easily reachable by boat.

The map based on the seed value

So I fired up the Minecraft Realms account, created a fresh new world with that seed, and the group joined in.  The village is nice.  I still have to get used to the earth opening up right next door.

That is a heck of a drop

I wasn’t in early on the Minecraft thing.  I didn’t play until Father’s Day seven years ago.  But the game has actually changed a lot since then.  People were worried about Microsoft taking over, and I was worried at one point that they were going to dump the Java edition, which doesn’t have a cash shop like the Bedrock edition, but things are still moving along.

Anyway, that is our home for the moment.  A fresh new world is always fun.

Frost Caves in Valheim

In my writings about our most recent run through Valheim, I skipped right over frost caves.  Though, to be fair, as a group we skipped right over them as well, leaving the mountains and heading for the plains at the first opportunity and never really looking back.

We got up there, made an outpost, found some onion seeds, grabbed a bunch of silver, killed Moder (twice), collected a bunch of wolf pelts and meat, some obsidian, and a few other items we needed, the went to our plains base and didn’t really look back.

At least we didn’t look back until we started trying to maximize comfort.  Ula’s hot tub was a step on that journey.

I went to the wiki to find the different things that could boost your comfort number and found the red jute carpet listed, the ingredients for which come from frost caves.  So we got together and headed back to the mountains.

I had marked a few on my explorations, so we had a couple near to hand.

Frost caves are essentially the mini-dungeon content added to the mountain biomes since we last played, the equivalent of the crypts in the swamps and the burial chambers in the black forest biomes.

They are, however, much more scarce than either of those.  I found two in the one big mountain biome where we fought Moder, and one each in two other mountain biomes.  It is possible I missed some, the can be hard to spot from any direction besides the front.  They either blend into a cliff side or they look like rock lumps, like troll caves, from behind.

Anyway, once we heard that frost caves held something we wanted, we spent and afternoon digging about in them.

Into the frost caves

As with the crypts and burial chambers, they are dark, with some lighting here and there.  It is advisable to have a torch to hand.

They are divided up into areas of rough hewn caves, covered in frost with icicles hanging down, and finished stone areas where the residents of the caves hang out.

We’re into the cultist area now

The caves look pretty good.  There is a lot more vertical going on in them, though that isn’t always all good.  Leaving aside when Ula fell down the middle of one of the rough hewn spiral stair cases, the random nature of the frost cave generation means you can go down and down and down various descents and end up in an empty area, making the trip pointless.

Ula went down the hole there

And then there are the creatures.  Bats are the most annoying, but least deadly.

Bats all over

They are just a pain to hit, behaving a bit like deathsquitoes, fluttering about, going in and out of melee range, but without the big damage.  They are also a bit tougher than the deathsquitoes, though they still died with one solid hit.

Then there are the Ulvs and the Cultists, neither of which I managed to grab a screen shot of.  Ulvs are kind of wolves, down on all fours… while the Cultists are like werewolves, up on their back legs.  Also, the Cultists have flame throwers, which is part of the reason I don’t have a screen shot because we were all busy trying to kill them or not get torched.

As for why to go to the frost caves, there are the resources, including red jute.  I am still not exactly sure where the red jute comes from, as it was dark and we were just knocking the crap out of everything and then some appeared.  It might be a cultist drop.

There are also crystals, which are the same crystals that stone golems drop when you kill them.  These are much easier to gather, so if you want to make that crystal battleaxe that is now in the game, this is the quicker path to that.

And then there is fenris hair, which is hanging all over the place.  If you collect enough of this, and you need a lot, you can make the fenris armor set.  I made the hood with what we collected, which actually looks pretty cool.

Glowing blue Fenris eyes

In hindsight, the fenris set might have been useful for our Yagluth fight.  While it doesn’t have the outright protection of the padded armor set, it is lighter, so you move faster, and it comes with fire protection, which would have been huge against Yagluth.

The fenris hood stats, with set bonus listed

Fast and fire resistant seems like a good plan.  We’ll have to remember that for next time.

Overall, they look good, even if the random generation does end up with some awkward layouts.  A decent addition to the game.

And, of course, we got our red jute rug.  That was the point of the expedition, to raise out comfort level up another notch.

Bing Hates Me… and so does DuckDuckGo!

This is another one of those “inside baseball” post about being a blogger, with perhaps a passing reference to the existence of video games at best.  You have been warned.

As I may have said in the past, web stats are like numbers from the UN, the more precise they are, the more likely they are to be wrong.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy web stats all the same, and so I have various ways to look at the traffic that comes to the site, including Google’s Search Engine Console tools, Google Analytics, Microsoft’s Bing Webmaster Tools, Yandex’s site tools, that flag counter widget in the side bar, and the built-in WordPress stats.  None of them ever agree with each other.

Which is fine, I have no need for precision.  I just like to see trends and what brings people to the site.  It doesn’t change what I write, but it is interesting to me to see what is accidentally popular.

This week I was bored and poking through the various stats and came to Bing’s tools, which were updated a while back to copy as closely as possible the Google console, and I noticed that somewhere around June 8th traffic to the site pretty much died off.

Bing stats running into June 2022

If that were an EKG on a medical TV drama they would be calling a code blue and yelling for the crash cart and headed straight for a commercial break before we knew whether the person had died or not.

Now, if that had happened with Google I would have noticed right away.  Most traffic here comes from Google, and when Google feels a chill sites like mine catch pneumonia.  Back in February they made some change and my traffic from them was cut by a third and it was immediately obvious in the WordPress stats.  They might not exactly line up, but trends stand out.

Bing, however, does not send me a whole lot of traffic.  If you look at last year’s annual round up, Google sent me 155K referrals and Bing sent 2,716.  So a hot day for Bing looks like this:

Bing rocking the seven referrals, the average for 2021

So Bing wasn’t a waterfall of new viewers, but it was never zero… until now.

Now, of course, it could be that video game trends have moved away from whatever it is I write about these days.  But not showing up at all, even in impressions… that seemed strange.

I opened up Microsoft Edge because it defaults to Bing for searches, and typed in the most common search term that brings people to the site, TAGN… seriously, some of you could bookmark the site… and this is what I got.

Searching for TAGN

The top result, which is a listing of acronyms, that remembers who I am.  But literally no other result was associated directly with my blog.

I searched for the full blog name and got results for sites that mention the blog, and sites where I auto-post links to recent posts, like Tumblr, Flipboard, Twitter, and even Facebook.  There were even links to the Blogger site where I used to backup my site until IFTTT broke that link.

But nowhere was there an actual link to tagn.wordpress.com.  I had been delisted.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do.  Microsoft has a list of reasons why your site might not be listed, but once you get past the technical items that you can check, it sums up to just maybe they don’t like you, which are the last two things on the list.

So somebody at Bing must have decided around the end of May that my site doesn’t meet whatever their quality thresholds are, because it says right on the page that “Bing likes unique, quality content.”

And, in looking into this, I discovered that DuckDuckGo uses Bing to get its search results.  That explains why traffic from DuckDuckGo, which is about on par with Bing, went away as well and why my attempts to find my blog there end up with the same set of results.

Oddly enough, I had been using DuckDuckGo as my default search engine recently to see how well it did, and was tempted to write a scathing post about how inferior its results were compared to Google’s, and then I found out they use Bing… and that pretty much explained it.

I must still be in Bing’s system somewhere, because every few days on the chart it shows I was in the results for 1  search.  But otherwise Bing appears to have disowned me.

Yandex still loves me though.  I still get a page view or two a week from them!

The Imperium Rebuffed at UALX-3

Apparently we ran out of Eagles.  Or that was the word by the time I was able to get logged in and join one of the reinforcement fleets.  I had an Eagle.  It was the ship I brought out on the first move op.

Heading eastward through an Ansiblex

But it was too late by then.  By the time I was in a fleet and up on voice coms we were being told to stand down, that we had been thwarted in our first major battle of the brewing war.

All of this was around the ihub in the system UALX-3… another system with some history, where another big fight took place… located in Tenerifis, where we were just a few weeks back.  The Imperium had reinforced the ihub and the timer came out yesterday afternoon my time.  PAPI decided to contest this and a tug of war over control of the system broke out, running for several hours.  The joys of Fozzie Sov.

Northwest Tenerifis – June 24, 2022

The system is not too far in from Catch, where we are staged currently, and would make a good forward base if we could grab it and hold it.  However, we failed to do that.  The battle report, which covers all of the systems in the constellation, because that is how the sovereignty contest system works, with nodes appearing constellation wide to fight over, showed very even numbers

Anyway, the header from the battle report:

Battle Report Header

1,400 pilots counted in the tally, divided between the two sides,  though those who don’t get on a kill mail somehow, which often means logi, don’t end up on the main report.  Still, a significant number of ships on the field, with 1,604 ships destroyed, which means there was significant numbers re-shipping and returning to the fight after they were blown up.

All told, just shy of 209 billion ISK was destroyed in the fight.  We’re not into World War Bee top ten battles territory yet… not even close… but for the opening of a conflict it is not insignificant.

The Imperium lost both the objective and the ISK was and had to pull its forces back to its staging system to regroup.  This failure means a reassessment of the plan of attack no doubt, along with a call for more supplies and more pilots to move to the staging Keepstar in Catch.  Move ops are carrying on and contracts are going up on the market to supply the war effort.

We will see how the next strike fares.

The Steam Summer Sale Returns Again for 2022

Summer has returned, so here we are again at the launch or another Steam Summer Sale.  The sale actually started yesterday, but I didn’t really feel the need to jump right on that with a post as I have done in past years.

Steam Summer Sale 2022

I write about the annual Steam Summer and Winter sales as much out of habit as anything now, and it is beginning to feel almost anachronistic to do so.  There is nothing wrong with the sales.  But the faded enthusiasm within me is a faint echo of a time when these events used to be a big freaking deal.

Steam was a ground breaker, and Steam sales have been loved by many a gamer and hated by many a publisher for years now, to the point that the edge is gone.  Everybody has a summer and winter sale now.  Blizzard just sent me an email about one.  Paradox always has one too that coincides with the Steam sales, in the hopes you’ll give them the money directly rather than giving Steam a cut.

But the landscape of video games has changed, and in a somewhat ironic way.

Well, there is an option to buy…

Back in late 2018 Tim Sweeney threw down the gauntlet, creating the Epic Games Store, with an eye to challenging the almost hegemonic sway that Steam held over PC gaming.  He has thrown money at developers to get exclusives and rarely misses an opportunity to bad mouth Steam or to try and frame himself as the plucky upstart hero, omitting how rich the Unreal Engine and Fortnite has made him.

He has also gone after Apple and Google in his self-declared crusade to break down alleged monopolies.

And during that time the console barons, Microsoft and Sony, whom he let off the hook in his crusade, splitting extremely fine hairs to claim that their absolute control over their platforms was somehow different than Google or Apple or Steam.  He vilified those three while letting the consoles off the hook.

Now, however, it is starting to look like Microsoft and Sony are going to be the real winners here with their competing game pass options growing out from their consoles onto the PC platform even as the acquire more studios so that they control content creation, platform, and sales channels.

The XBox Game Pass for PC… that is a damn sweet deal.  A much younger me, a me that had the energy to dive into new titles all the time, would be all over that subscription, playing new titles every month and barely caring about Steam sales of Epic Games exclusives.

The young and hungry love an all you can eat buffet with new dishes being served up on a regular basis, while old favorites remain an option.

Sony is a little behind in that race, but not by a gap that they can’t bridge.  They aren’t as all-in as Microsoft, but they have always been a somewhat conservative business.  But they will get there.

I do not subscribe to either service at the moment, though I did do a trial of the XBox Game Pass back at the end of last year, playing a lot of Forza Horizon 5 as part of that.  But there wasn’t much else I was completely sold on, so I let that lapse for now.

But at some future date Activision Blizzard will be part of the Microsoft stable of studios.  There is a lot on that plate that could tempt me.  I don’t think a WoW subscription will be on the XBox Game Pass, but if it was I’d be sold.  That could lead to crazy thing, unhooking the WoW team from the box sale pressure somewhat, or at least letting their core audience dabble elsewhere and feel no need to drop the subscription that gives them access to Azeroth.

But that is all in the future, and in no way guaranteed.  I am still not using the XBox Game Pass now, and don’t feel a real need to at the moment.  But that could change as the options it offers grows.

Meanwhile, there is the Steam Summer Sale.  I won’t toss that by the wayside either.  My Steam library still represents a substantial number of titles, and my wishlist is not empty.  I’ll go look at what is one sale and won’t be shocked if I am tempted into buying something.

But it isn’t the same, the Steam sales of a decade back, when they felt rare and the prices were so radically below our expectations that many people bought just because they thought they would never see that kind of discount again.

Instead, the discounts became the norm.  It takes a serious sale to really rouse me to action for a title that I am not set on playing immediately.  On the other hand, the site was pretty slammed yesterday during the first hours of the sale, so it remains popular.  Also, I suspect that the sale has a reputation for first day errors in pricing that lead to unexpected bargains, so people were no doubt scavenging for some extra special deals before they got fixed.

Facing Yagluth at last in Valheim

The one thing we ended up not doing as part of our first pass through Valheim was fight the final boss of the plains, Yagluth.  I had set us up for it… and I even did a test run with another group on their server… but we ended up never getting to Yagluth on our server.

A year later, and making another run at Valheim, we had once again reached the point where Yagluth was an option, and this time we were going to do it.  Enough resources had been harvested in order to get everybody into the padded armor that represents the plains tier, weapons had been upgraded, and we had found Yagluth’s altar.

That latter was a bit of an accident.  As with Moder, we never ran into a rune stone that would display the location of Yagluth.  Brynjar stumbled across the altar during an exploration run.  He and Lugnut had created a small base nearby and cleared the fuling camps that were close to hand, so we were about set.

Then there were the fuling totems.  You need five of them to summon Yagluth, but we had only found three so far.  We did a preliminary run at a big fuling camp, but which I mean I tried to solo it, got in over my head, died, then everybody had to come rescue me and everybody died a couple of times before we finally got things under control.  But we got the totems we needed.

So we grabbed some food and a couple of fire resistance meads each… they last 10 minutes, so we figured we might need two each… and headed out to the plains.  Our portal was kind of a run from the altar, so we moved it up to a big rock that was just within sight of the altar, then went to the altar.

Morning at Yagluth’s altar

It is on a raised rock in the middle of five stone pillars that stick up like fingers of a hand coming up to try and grab the altar and pull it into the earth.

We were geared up, had our fire resist meads, along with some stamina an health meads… the meads don’t share timers, so you can run them all at once… along with a stack of 100 frost arrows, said to be the best ranged weapon to use, along with the totem.  We felt like we were ready, so I started setting out the totems.

Getting out the totems for Yagluth

You can see some platforms that Lugnut built in the two screen shots above.  Platforms have had mixed results for us in boss fights.  They seemed very useful for Bonemass, but less so for other fights.  You can also see Lugnut on the platform, glowing Dragur Fang bow out and ready to go.

I put the last totem in its slot and activated the altar, summoning Yagluth.

Yagluth Arises

We got our bows into action and started plinking away at him.

For the most part his attacks… he swats at those close by and has a fire breath beam weapon that you can move out of fairly easily… were not too bad.  And then we got to his fire meteors, which rain down out of the sky like an artillery strike, landing on somebody who Yagluth is not facing.  The first to take a hit was Lugnut, whose platform was wiped off the rock spire with the attack.

As an attack it was survivable, if you were not low on health, moved out of it right away, and had the fire resist buff on you.  If you failed on any of those three, however, it could prove quickly deadly, which it did.

We started having problems with adds, as fulins, lox, and the occasional growth from a distant tar pit started showing up, dividing out attention, beating down our health, and making us susceptible to Yagluth’s meteor strikes.  We started dying.

Running back to the fight, the five finger stones around the altar visible

We started dying enough that we eventually pulled Yagluth back to our portal, which promptly got hit by his meteor strike and broken.  Now that would have been a disaster, because we were set to spawn back at the plains base and the only way to get back if it was down was a boat trip.

Fortunately we were taking turns dying, so somebody was always around to rebuild the portal, if they had inventory space.

Rebuilding the portal behind the rock this time

Meanwhile day turned into night and the plains became an active place for roving fuling gangs, which again occupied our attention as we fought to stay alive and chip away at Yagluth when we had the chance, all while avoiding his meteor attack.

The fulings were a double menace.  Groups of three or four could be quite deadly.  But even when you killed them, they dropped the black metal scraps which I was auto picking up, and having one on you means you cannot use a portal.  I died at least twice unable to jump through the portal because I kept picking up black metal scraps, which were strewn about the field at that point.

And then it became clear that we didn’t have enough fire resist potions to go around.  After a few rounds of death there were none left in the supply chest, so we started to brew some more, but were otherwise going to have to do without.

And doing without meant dying even more often as that fire resistance was pretty much the only margin between living and dying when hit by the meteors.

After an hour of this, with Yagluth having about one third of his health left, I had to go and get dinner ready, so logged off with a promise to return.  About 30 minutes later I was back on and Yagluth was still alive.  He was down to about 10% health, but more deaths had occurred.

We had also apparently burned through all of our frost arrows.  We had 500 in the supply box when we started, and each of us took a stack of 100.  But Ula had to go back and make 300 more to sustain the battle.

Still, even at low health Yagluth was still deadly and I managed to get hit by a meteor strike and die pretty quickly upon my return.

Running back towards the now broken fingers

Lugnut had a pattern he was working with Yagluth that was whittling him down, but eventually got caught by the meteors as well.  I was picking up to carry on for Lugnut when Brynjar got in there with the Frostner mace, the cold damage from which seemed to hit pretty hard on Yagluth, and finished him off.  He was down at last.

Defeated at last

That all took close to two hours to wrap up, with too many deaths to count.  We used up almost all of the 800 frost arrows we had made, drank up most of our potions, and put a severe dent in the food supplies we had back at base.  It was an effort, made more difficult by some of our own missteps, but we made it.

Yagluth’s giant head was ours now

The area around the altar was pretty ripped up from the fight.  The world does change in Valheim when you break stuff.

Then it was back to base and then to the stones at the spawn point to hang up the trophy on its spot.

The trophy mounted, the buff unlocked

After which we had kind of hit the end of our journey.  Back at our main base we sat down and thought about how far we had come in the last couple of months that marked our return to the game.

Ula lost her pants somewhere in the fight… they were in the potion chest

There are still many small things to be done.  Base building is an endless pursuit, and compared to our last run, we have barely explored as much of the world.  But, while the devs are still teasing us about the eventual Mistlands update, it isn’t there yet and we don’t want to invalidate another world by ranging too far and wide.

So we drank a toast to our efforts.

Raise a tankard to Odin

And we were then reminded that using a tankard consumes a mead from your inventory.  Oh well.  Now to consider where to go next while we wait for the giant ticks of the Mistlands to be made ready for us.

World of Warcraft Dragonflight up for Pre-Order and Promising a Q4 2022 Release

Blizzard would like you to please give them some money now for their upcoming “all the dragon things we could come up with” World of Warcraft expansion Dragonflight.

Dragons are a thing

Announced back in April (on 4/20 no less) you can roll up the dragon race to play the dragon class on the dragon island where you will fly around on a dragon and do all the dragon things with your dragon pals while seeing all the dragons and dragons and dragons dragons dragons.

I swear, if Hemet Nesingwary isn’t out there asking you to collect dragon poop it will be a travesty, because Blizzard is going so deep on dragons that I’m starting to wonder if they’ll have a dragon colonoscopy quest for us.  We’re going all in, so why not go ALL the way in?

After the descent from “good” to “bleh” that was the Legion, Battle for Azeroth, Shadowlands expansion progression, I still need to be sold on this being more than a few gimmicks to get me to buy a box.

A more expensive box.

When I was looking at expansions and pricing and pre-orders back in late 2019, Blizzard was charging $40 for the base Shadowlands box, $60 for the Heroic option, and $80 for the Epic expansion ride.

But inflation is hitting in places beyond the gas pump, and Blizzard wants ten bucks more for each level now.

Dragonflight pre-order pricing

And then there is the physical collector’s edition box, which will set you back $130.

Once again, you don’t get a character boost with the base box, something we got the last time an expansion was $50.  You need to pony up another $20 for the boost… though given the price of one ala carte is $60, that might be a deal if you feel you need one.

There are also some in-game pre-order bonuses, but you will need to have the Shadowlands expansion it seems.  It is there in the fine print.  A chance to sell even more boxes, though at least they’re selling some of those at half price right now. (Though if you shell out the $90 for the Dragonflight Epic edition you get a $20 copy of Shadowlands if you didn’t own it already.  So I guess if you didn’t own Shadowlands and wanted a character boost it would be cheaper to buy the $90 virtual box.  But I don’t need either.)

I guess if you’re really into dragons, you’re probably all in.  But some of the things they’re bragging about are not all that impressive in the context of the game’s history.

Level 70? What, again you mean?

Meanwhile, the most interesting part of the announcement is in the fine print, as it

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight will be available on or before December 31, 2022.

I had written off a 2022 expansion launch for Dragonflight previously, just based on Blizzard history.  Announce an expansion and ship it in the SAME CALENDAR YEAR?  Unpossible!

But there it is, on the page, as immutable as any web content… which means they’ll change it the second they need to and maybe comp you a mount for your faith in pre-ordering if they do.  I wouldn’t bet money against that happening.

I guess the plan for 2022 is Diablo Immoral for Q2, Wrath of the Lich King Classic for Q3, and Dragonflight for Q4, with whatever Overwatch 2 really is somewhere in the middle, and however many Hearthstone expansions they can fit into a calendar year.  Oh, and Warcraft Arclight Rumble.  How could I forget that?

They have to keep up the product roll outs to make whatever metrics they promised Microsoft when they signed the deal to be acquired.  Remember that from back in January? It slips my mind some days, but all of this may soon be Microsoft’s problem.

I think I might wait until WoW is on the XBox Game Pass PC to come back to retail.  We shall see.

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Reflecting on the CSM17 Ballots and Voting

We had the CSM17 election results last week, the culmination of a couple months of effort and the outcome was about as expected.  Null sec candidates won a majority of the seats.  That they won 8 rather than 7 was probably the closest we got to a surprise.

The CSM17 Winners

I am being a bit glib with that statement, but only just.  The CSM has changed over the years, but ever since null sec realized that if they didn’t have a seat at the table that non-null players would happily put null sec play styles on the chopping bloc for their own benefit, the null sec blocs have used their numbers and organizational power to see that they were not only represented, but over represented.

And like the outcomes, the responses to the results have been just as predictable.

Fortunately CCP gives us a lot of data about the election so we can all pour through the results to our heart’s content.  Angry Mustache, newly elected to the CSM, took over Suitonia’s old role and converted the ballot data, which is all just numbers in a file, into a spreadsheet in order to display the various ballots that were cast.

Then KZDavid took that data and created a summary chart that groups all the ballots by the top three candidates on them in order to make the ballot data a bit more digestible.  I am going to steal the updated version of his chart for the basis of the next part of this post.

KZDavid’s CSM17 Ballot Summary Chart

I tallied up the totals for ballots that had three null sec candidates at the top (I had to give Hy Wanto Destroyer a pass because he was second or third on a number of null sec ballots, but I didn’t count any where he was first) and came up with 15,249 ballots cast, which represents 49% of 30,814 total ballots submitted in the election.

Is null sec half of the game?  I don’t think so.  It is certainly more that the long discredited 15% number that has bandied about for years.  And we saw 35% of those logged into the game just in Delve back at the second battle of M2-XFE.   But even if null sec isn’t half the total active game population, they don’t have to be.  Only Omega accounts, those who are subscribed via real world money or PLEX, are allowed to vote.

I also don’t know how many Omega accounts are active in the game.  I have been down “the how many people play” path before.  I would have guessed at a number around 100,000 a year ago.  It is probably less now, but it seems pretty clear that not every Omega voted.

So null sec votes in greater numbers than other areas of the game.  In fact null sec votes in numbers almost equal to all other areas of the game combined, and in an election, voter numbers matter more than total numbers.

Null sec also votes with greater focus and/or organization.  More than one third of those null sec votes, or more than one in six of all ballots cast, were for the top of the Imperium ballot.  That was enough to elect three candidates in the first round and still trickle down some votes to the fourth spot on the ballot.

Other null sec groups voted in smaller numbers, but with similar focus, sticking to the ballot endorsed by their leadership, and the top candidate on all of the null sec group ballots was elected.

And so null sec is represented beyond its numbers in the game, because even the most pro-null player isn’t going to insist that 80% of the game is out in 0.0 space.

How do we change that?

First, I am going to assume that somebody wants to change the way things are just based on the amount of bitching.

I am also going to assume that CCP wants to maintain the whole elected council aspect of the CSM as that stirs up a bunch of game coverage, even if a lot of it is within specific niches of the community.  Those who say that the CSM is just a PR exercise are not wholly wrong.

And, finally, I am not going to suggest the unlikely.  High sec, low sec, and wormhole groups are not going to suddenly come together and organize into any sort of effective voting bloc.  It isn’t impossible, but it requires a lot of work.  You cannot just wait until next year when CCP announced the CSM18 election schedule and think, “I’ll start on my campaign now!”

If you’re not on a null sec ballot and you aren’t famous, you should probably start campaigning today.  You don’t have to be overt, but you should start getting your name out there, engaging in good faith discussions about the game, and generally laying the groundwork.

So, in thinking this through, I have come up with two things that CCP could do to try and change the makeup of the council.  And one of them will actually work.  They are:

  • Pack the Council
  • Put Voting in the Game

Put Voting in the Game

We’ll start with the second item first, putting voting in the game, as it is the least likely of the two to change anything.

The idea is to get more people to vote.  Early on many critics of complained that CCP was not doing enough to get out the vote.  To CCP’s credit, they have… if slowly… over time piled on more and more ways to tell people about the CSM elections.  We’re at the point where it is on the launcher, announced in a pop-up at login, comes to you via the email address associated with your account, gets a dev blog, a login event, in-game voting information stations, and CCP sponsors a host of candidate interviews.

So they have been putting in some effort.

But in the end you still have to leave the game and go to the web site, get logged in, which for me means dragging out my phone and finding the Google Authenticator app, navigate to the right page… because when I logged in it didn’t return me to the voting page I had started at… and figuring out to vote in something of a sub-optimal UI.

It isn’t a horrible experience.  But it isn’t the best experience either.

So the operating theory for some who still think CCP is deliberately suppressing the vote to favor null blocs… I kid you not… is that what CCP needs to do is put voting in the game.

And I could see that as an improvement.  Put it in The Agency, give it a decent UI, pop that at login every time somebody enters the game during the election until they have voted, and given them something… some ISK or some skill points or an “I voted for CSMXX” hat… once they have voted.

They could even make it a polling interface in The Agency that they could use for other questions or issues with the player.  It doesn’t even have to be used for serious things all the time.  You could have votes for favorite faction cruisers just for grins.

And, of course, if an Alpha account logs in CCP can remind them that the franchise is for Omegas, so please subscribe to vote.

Done right, it could boost the election turn-out.

Would it make a difference to the results?  Maybe?  I don’t think you’re going to roll back null sec bloc votes to less than six seats.  But maybe it keeps null sec from grabbing eight seats again.

Pack the Council

This option will work, if your goal is simply to get a few more non-null sec voices on the CSM.  Basically, CCP just needs to go back to a larger council.  If CSM17 had been 12 players rather than 10, there would have been two more non-null sec voices.  If it had been 15, there would have been five more non-null sec players elected.

The coordinated, targeted, ballot oriented voting of the null sec blocs goes deep on a few candidates quickly, then peters out.  If you go back to my election results post and look at the order of elimination, you have to go backwards quite a ways before you find another null sec candidate.  If they missed the early trickle down of vote, they did not hang out for long.  Pando was a rare exception, squeaking in due to broad support outside of his bloc.  But the fifth candidate on the Imperium ballot, Hyperviper1, was out in round 16.

So CCP could get wider representation on the council fairly easily by just having more people on it.

CCP reduced the size of the council to ten with the CSM12 election because they wanted to fly the entire council to Iceland for the summits.  There was some immediate analysis about how that would affect representation.  What has come to pass is that null sec owns 6-8 seats on the council.

CCP could expand the council and bite the bullet on the cost of a comping a couple more people for a trip to Iceland.  But given that Covid has kept there from being a live summit for a couple of years now, they might just opt to keep them remote in any case.  That would be a disappointment to many, as getting to know the CCP team socially creates a bond that makes them easier to work with.  But it wouldn’t surprise me.

What Will Happen?

Probably nothing.

The status quo serves CCP’s needs when it comes to publicity and player engagement and looking like they’re listening.

Would they like a more diverse council?  Probably.

Would they spend another dime to get it?  Probably not.

Would they listen to a more diverse council any more than they currently do? Not a chance.

But if they did want to change something, they do have options.

The Imperium Deploys East for War

The Initiative and the Goon Expeditionary Force just spent two months burning down FI.RE’s territory, sweeping clear the flood plains before their home, arriving at the gates of the main staging system in Tenerifis.  We returned from that operation at the end of the first week of the month.

Capital ships taking a gate on the way home

That expedition came about because FI.RE and their PAPI allies were poking at our eastern border.

The lesson did not stick though.  Soon after we withdrew FI.RE and PAPI… not that there is much of a distinction between the two at this moment… returned to our eastern border and began attacking structures, culminating in the destruction of a Dracarys Keepstar in 68FT-6.

If that system sounds familiar, it might be because that was where Judgement Day occurred, when The Judge sold out Circle of Two, handing their Keepstar over to the Imperium, leading CO2 to implode after their leader was banned for threatening to cut off The Judge’s hands.

Good times

But I digress.

Instead of a weekly fireside update, yesterday was scheduled as a State of the Goonion address, at which The Mittani would deliver a short address after which forces would be mustered and move ops would begin.

The full text of the State of the Goonion has been posted over at INN.  But, in summary, this was all BS and we weren’t going to stand for it any more.  The full weight of the Imperium’s war machine would hove eastward to deal with this menace.  Impass is something of a fringe zone, not really in our space but we have assets there.  The hard line is at the Catch border, so we will be going there.

Some new doctrines will be in use, which meant I had to come up with some new ships (at which I failed, the market was bare by the time I got there) and older ones would be left behind. (I still have too many Megathrons sitting around, bought in anticipation of the final climactic battle in 1DQ that never came.)  At least I had a couple of Eagles on hand, as that was one of the doctrines going to the front.

And the movement of forces eastward began.

I was actually busy at home and missed the first round of move ops, which was probably fine.  The first op was a combined capital and sub-caps op, which always moves very slowly.  I did several of those on on the GEF deployment and they can be trying.  And, by the time I was ready to move there was a sub-cap only move op going, which took all of ten minutes to run from undock in 1DQ1-A to arrival in our staging Keepstar.

Heading eastward through an Ansiblex

There were ops starting not long after I arrived.  But, as usual, I brought the wrong ship first and couldn’t go along.  But I got out on the first day of deployment, which is usually a good thing.  I will wait for the supply train to catch up and buy whatever else I need out there.

And the propaganda war has begun.  The meme engines are revving up.  Soon I predict the most popular thing to complain about on r/eve will be people posting about the war.

Just two years ago World War Bee kicked off.  Are we on to another big war again?

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