Category Archives: entertainment

Remaking our Diablo II Group

After the three of us played Diablo II Resurrected on an off week, the return of Beanpole brought up the question of whether we should get back to Outland in WoW Classic or keep running in Diablo II.

Diablo II, being something different, won out, though Beanpole did suggest we would do just about anything to forget how to play our classes in WoW.  But now Diablo II is an instance group thing.

A larger group meant a restart with fresh characters.  We hadn’t gotten that far before, so it wasn’t a huge burden to re-roll.  And, in re-rolling it was a chance to try a new class.  There was some discussion as to what we ought to play, and Potshot asked if it would bother anybody if he played an assassin, a class locked as female.  I immediately say no, indicated that we would likely make fun of him at some point, which I guess was enough to throw that idea in the bin.  We’ll probably have to roll up a group at some point where Ula plays a barbarian and the three men play female classes.

But for now the boys each grabbed a male class, Potshot going with druid, Beanpole grabbing the necromancer, while I went with a paladin.  Paladin was kind of on my over-played list, but I thought it might be different with a group due to the aura thing that paladins get.  Ula went with an Amazon, which gave us the following characters.

  • Talon – Amazon
  • Ulfar – Druid
  • Ernest – Paladin
  • Kevin – Necromancer

Beware Kevin

Then we had to spend a bit of time sorting out how to play Diablo II again, as Kevin hand’t played it in many years and even I was still remembering things.  The whole skills and talent tree and right click swap assignments and accidentally hitting the W key which swaps you weapons were all refreshed.

Hanging out in the Rogue Camp while things get sorted

Still, we were out into the world soon enough, fighting the first few creatures as we made our way around to the Den of Evil, the first quest objective of the game.  We made our way into there and set about clearing it out.

Down in the Den of Evil

It was time for a couple of teachable moments.  Kevin got himself killed in a scuffle with a mini-boss, but I was able to open a town portal for him to get back quickly.  We also learned a bit about BNet issues.

You can see the four of us, Talon, Ernest, Kevin, and Ulfar in that picture.  Ernest has his might aura up, and you can see it glowing at the feet of everybody save Ulfar.  He was in the game, but somehow wasn’t fully connected.  It also turned out, as we went back to the rogue camp, that he couldn’t use the portal that I had to put up, and had to cast his own in order to return quickly.

We thought maybe the problem would sort itself out, so went off after Blood Raven.  However, even though we finished up that fight successfully, I noticed when we were going into the crypt in the graveyard, that Ulfar was still not getting my aura.

No aura for you

He also had to take his own town portal home yet again.  He could see mine, but couldn’t enter it.

We did a bit of disconnecting and reconnecting after that and eventually got everybody on the same page connection wise, with everybody getting the paladin aura and able to use each other’s portals.

Of course, after the Blood Raven quest everybody got a rogue mercenary.  With four of those, and Kevin’s growing skeleton followers, and Ulfar with a couple of wolves, we were starting to become a bit of an army.

From there it was on from the Stony Field, through the dark tunnel, and into the Dark Woods and the Tree of Inifuss for the scroll for Akara.  Being the old hand at this, I insisted that we explore a bit more to get the waypoint in the Dark Woods.  We would be needing that later.

From the waypoint it was back to the rogue encampment and Akara.  By that point we’d been playing for quite a while.  We were just warming up as a group so things were going a bit slow.  But I got everybody to come along for one last push.  I figured we could get to Tristram easy enough.

So it was back to the Stony Field and the Carin Stones, which opens the portal to Tristam.  Then it was into the portal and into town to rescue Deckard Cain and clear the place out.

Clearing out the town square while Cain waits in his cage

We cleared the town out, freed Deckard Cain, who took a portal back to the rogue camp, then swept around the town to make sure we got everything.  I made sure we found Wirt’s corpse and that somebody grabbed his leg.  I will do the cow level some day, I swear.

Then it was back to the Stony Fields, because the waypoint was next to the Carin Stones.  No point in wasting a town portal scroll while we were still poor.

Leaping back into the Stony Field

Then it was back to the rogue encampment, where Deckard Cain thanked us and promised to identify all our items, which is also a bit of a gold saver this early on in the game.

So that brings us up to where we stand in Diablo II Resurrected.

That actually wasn’t last weekend, but the weekend before, which was probably a good thing.  Apparently Diablo II Resurrected is doing very well, to the point that the servers were falling over last weekend, at least during EU prime time. (I played in the evening Pacific Time and never saw a blip, but by that time the load had passed.)

Blizzard actually has a long post about the troubles the servers are having, which is in part because the code from 20 years ago didn’t face as much traffic as it is getting now, and because people are starting new games in rapid succession to farm specific mobs for drops because the end game of Diablo II has always been trying to get some crazy rare item in the rain of loot that litters the game.

There is a list of things they are doing to handle the problem.  People have been making a comparison between this launch and the Warcraft III Reforged launch.  But that feels like a false comparison.  Both saw problems, but not the same problems.

Warcraft III Reforged launched missing a lot of features and some petty restrictions that left a bad taste in the mouths of many.  Blizzard ended up having to offer refunds on demand.

Diablo II Resurrected feels more like it delivered what it promised.  It isn’t anything new, just better looking.  But that seemed to be the right mix to get enough people on board to swamp the servers trying to recreate a 20 year old experience.

EVE Online is Back with Native MacOS Support

Back in the day CCP used to support a native MacOS client.  It was finicky… I once ran it on the wrong MacOS version and got some very odd results… but it mostly worked.  Then Apple swapped over to Intel processors and it became possible for CCP to just use WINE emulation to run the Windows client on Macs.  There was some extra work to do to support that, including contributing code to the WINE project, but it was a lot less effort than maintaining two clients.

And then recently Apple left Intel for their own new M1 processors which led to EVE Online MacOS players potentially being unsupported if they purchased the new machines.

This swap by Apple also prompted Intel to launch a petulant “Apple Sux!” ad campaign because I guess they think Apple will never ever buy another chip from them again or something.  But that is another story.

So CCP was left with a choice.  Given that they are still optimistically talking about growth and working on the new player experience, they opted not to ditch almost 10% of the PC market, which meant going back to native MacOS support.

While 10% might sound like a small loss, CCP knows how many MacOS users they have, so it might be worth it to them.  Also, the 10% number vastly understates the number of systems that might actually be able to run EVE Online.  There are a lot of base model Windows boxes sitting in enterprises and on desks all over the world that aren’t even in the running.  When I go to visit the sprawling medical center where my doctor resides, I walk by dozens of PCs… one at every reception desk, one at every nurse’s desk… they all little desks now because the need to access their PCs… one in every exam room, two in my doc’s office, and more in spots I whose function I could not identify.  And not even one of them is likely ever to load up any video game more complicated that Solitaire… and only that if the IT department hasn’t purged it.

Anyway, the path back to a native client culminated with yesterday update and the new EVE Online X Apple era, whatever that means.

Times Apple? Ten Apple? Kiss Apple? I don’t know

Post update there is a transition from the old WINE version to the new native version which is covered in detail in the patch notes.

To celebrate the update and transition back to native support, CCP has some login rewards for us that run for five days.

Included in the rewards are the usual skill points and SKINs, but there are special Quafe Zero Green Apple flavor SKINs.  While they aren’t the classic old blue Quafe SKINs, they are still good.

And the is also some Quafe Zero Green Apple flavor boosters to go with the event as well.  Per the packaging:

Capsuleers can now enjoy Quafe Zero Green Apple, the new flavor of New Eden’s favorite performance drink with the potency of a booster!
A taste explosion that will help avoid ship explosions, the Green Apple edition of Quafe Zero provides the benefits of increased agility and power with Zero drawbacks!

Benefits:
+5% Agility, +5% Capacitor Recharge Rate. Duration: 1 hour.

Quafe Zero Green Apple is fortified with a proprietary mix of performance enhancers, oxidizers, and natural fruit juices designed to push your abilities to the limit.

The secret is in our patented fulleroferrocene nanite delivery system, which attaches our exclusive pro-capsuleer formula directly to the neurons you want, not the ones you don’t. The result is an immediate and direct boost to your performance, with Zero drawbacks!

For maximum experience overload Quafe Zero Green Apple has been further enhanced with proprietary Quafe nanoparticles responsive to popular brands of subcranial nanocontroller personal enhancements, such as the LD-X100 range from Lai Dai!

So make sure to login and collect your SKINs, skill points, and boosters.

Yesterday’s patch also made some changes to the Dynamic Bounty System thresholds, whatever that means, and continued the iterating on the new skill window and skill plan functionality.  They have already fixed the most egregious issues, like the huge amount of empty space, but there is still tuning to do.

And a new skill was added, Rogue Drone Specialization, which is required for using the new modified rogue drones.

Not present in the update was the capital PvE ratting mechanics, previously announced as Summon the Swarm, which are still brewing on the test server.  That still needs some work.

Related:

The Terror of Luclin is Coming to EverQuest

The next EverQuest expansion, the 28th in the series, will be Terror of Luclin as the elder Norrath title takes its turn getting back to the moon.

The Terror of Luclin approaches

The lead in for the expansion says:

The shadows cast by the light of Luclin have been whispering of intrigues. The Akheva are on the move, striving to reassert their power and rebuild their moon-wide empire. Amidst the turmoil of their actions, rumors abound. Mayong Mistmoore has been seen on Luclin. The only known truth is that the master vampire has since disappeared into the shadows and even his devoted followers and sycophants have begun to worry.

Clearly something is stirring on the moon of Luclin. What secrets or magical power was the Lord of Mistmoore seeking? Is he trying to usurp another god? Do you have the strength to peer behind the shades and track down the vampire lord to prevent whatever evil he is plotting?

The Mistmoores on the moon I guess.

The expansion announcement lists out the features coming with it.  This time around there is a boost in the level cap, bringing that to 120 levels.

  • Level increase to 120.
  • 7 Expansion Zones
  • New Raids, Quests, and Missions
  • New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
  • New Collections
  • Teleport Item Key Ring – every character on your account will get a 10-slot Key Ring to store teleportation items! You can add slots with marketplace items as you need them.

A lot of that is what one might consider the standard boilerplate of an EverQuest expansion.  They have been sparing with the level cap increases, doling them out every couple expansions, but the rest is par for the course.  More stuff to do, more places to see.  And when you’re on expansion 28, who is to argue with success?

The expansion is also now available for pre-order and available in the four packages that have become the standard.

Standard Edition – $34.99

You get the stuff listed above and a shadow weapon cosmetic item if you pre-order.

Collector’s Edition – $69.99

  • Standard Edition items plus:
  • Contract of the Stonegrabber (for every character)
  • Umbral Plains Mushroom (for every character)
  • Goblet of Adventure III x 2
  • Terror of Luclin Painting
  • Bloodbound Satchel
  • Zelniak Saddle
  • Metamorph Wand – Lightcrawler
  • Teleport Item Key Ring Slots (5 Slot Packs) x 9

Premium Edition – $139.99

Collector’s Edition items plus:

  • Umbral Plains Scrying Bowl (for every character)
  • Bloodbound Satchel
  • Ten Perfected Augmentation Distillers x 2
  • Shared Goblet of Adventure III x 2
  • Owlbear Saddle
  • Metamorph Wand – Rockhopper
  • Visage of the Akheva

Friends & Family Edition- $249.99

Premium Edition plus:

  • Bloodbound Satchel
  • Shared Goblet of Adventure III x 2
  • Tradable: Terror of Luclin
  • Tradable: Heroic Character
  • Tradable: Zelniak Saddle
  • Tradable: Owlbear Saddle
  • Tradable: Teleport Item Key Ring Slots (5 Slot Packs) x 9
  • Overseer Pack x 30
  • Halfling Heritage Crate x 5

Now, if you ask me, I am going to say that $250 is a tall price to pay for an EverQuest expansion.  I don’t know that there is $215 worth of fluff in that package over what you get with the base expansion.

However, the fact hat Daybreak keeps selling the Friends & Family Edition likely means somebody is buying it… a couple years back it was reported that half of expansion buyers splurge for something above the bask pack… and you don’t have to sell that many to make it worthwhile.

Anyway, that is the expected EverQuest expansion for 2021.  It is already in beta and will no doubt ship some time between now and mid-December.

Words with Strangers

It has come to this.  It is 2021 and I am writing a blog post about a Zynga game.  This time it is Words with Friends.  Though I guess I do have a Zynga category on the blog, so at least there is some history there.

Happy FarmVille Memories

Stranger still is that this is my third attempt at a post about the game since 2019, at least one of which got bogged down in a 750 word aside about Zynga, Mark Pincus, and that time Richard Garriott thought it would be a great idea to get in bed with the company, which all took on a life of its own and had to be abandoned.  I’ve written about all of that before.

Time to start with a fresh page.

So what is Words with Friends?

It is a blatant rip-off of Scrabble, but in this day everything is a blatant rip-off of something else, so it is hard to hold that against it.  If we turned our collective noses up at that sort of thing there would be little new to play.

And I like Scrabble.  We used to play it after dinner at Thanksgiving until it began to turn into a blood sport and we had to stop to maintain family unity.  Unfortunately, on mobile, EA holds the rights to Scrabble and have produced a monstrosity that is both buy to play AND littered with ads AND is broken every other build according to a friend who persists in trying to play it, having spent the money.

Instead I play Words with Friends because at least you don’t have to buy it up front.  Also, my daughter started playing it and asked my wife and I to play and then they both stopped after two weeks and I kept on going.

At its simplest it is an only rip-off of Scrabble, so the board will look familiar to any who have played the old staple.  And all the usual moves are there.  You can play a word, pass, swap out tiles, forfeit, or piss off the other person who is winning by taking your damn time to play.

The Words with Friends screen

I play on the iPad in landscape mode, which I find optimal, but you can play on your phone if you so desire.  Just make sure you have unlimited data or a WiFi hot spot nearby.

However, this being the online version of a board game, there are some differences and quirks.

To start with, you can only play against a single opponent.  That keeps everything simple, keeps one slug from holding up a whole group, and all that, but it does cut out some of the interesting flavor that a multi-sided game can bring.  I have been known to feed the person to my left big scoring opportunities just to be sure the person to my right… usually my mother-in-law…. won’t win. (She is a bad winner and a worse loser… but more entertaining and less insufferable as a loser.)

And then there is the fact that you can only play valid words.

This might seem like a “well, duh” to the uninitiated, but there is a whole dynamic to words and bluffing that comes into the live board game.  I once played the word “ponys,” declaring it to be the plural of “pony” in a game and, because nobody had successfully challenged one of my words up to that point, the rest of the table let it pass fearing I might pull some sort of Old English variation out of the Official Scrabble Dictionary sitting there on the corner of the table. (I was bluffing.)

So there is no bluffing in WWF.  But, beyond that, there is the opportunity for what I call the “brute force” play, where you just shove letters at the board where you have something like a triple word score hoping you’ll find something that sticks.  And since WWF uses a combined US/UK dictionary, and the two countries divided by a common language can’t agree on how to spell anything more complex than “cat,” brute force opportunities abound.

And then there is cheating.

It is certainly easy enough to put your letters into Google and see what words will show up.  And I am sure if you Google “Scrabble cheat” you will find sites to help you, or lists of words that have a “Q” and no “U,” or even apps that will help you find the optimum word.

Top of the results in the App Store

I am always mildly suspicious of people who never have a turn where they end up playing that 5 point, two letter word.  But they can be hard to suss out because the game has its own, built-in, monetized cheating as well.

Up at the top of the board you may have seen these three tokens.

The Three Sanctioned Cheats

Those three are, from left to right, Word Radar, Swap+, and Word Clue.

Word Radar shows shows you all the possible places you can play one of your tiles based on the in-game dictionary.

Word Radar in Action

It will also sell you the best scoring moves for 30 coins, coins being the primary in-game currency, which I will get to in a bit.

Word Clue will offer you a moderate good word to play, highlighting the spot on the board and the letters in your hand.

And then there is Swap+, which lets you swap tiles without losing your turn.

As you can see, I have 99+ Word Radar tokens, 99+ Word Clue tokens, and 30 Swap+ tokens, so you can probably figure out what I use the most.

There is also one more token, Hindsight, which will tell you what the best move was after you have played.  I have 99+ of those as, in most cases it isn’t much use.

Which brings us to how the game earns money.

Ads.  The game is mostly about serving up ads.  When playing against another player, after each move, you get an ad.  I may write a post about the wide variety of ads that come up, the ones that are good, the ones that are bad, the ones that are broken, the devious and downright shitty things they do with the dismiss button, and how I can tell when my wife is looking at the Macy’s web site on her computer because I start getting Macy’s ads for the things she is searching on.

The ads are a deal breaker for some.  For me they are part of the challenge, and I am well practiced in spotting how to dismiss ads in the quickest possible fashion.  The biggest downside of the ads is that they require constant network traffic to load them up which will eat into your battery run time.  Not as bad as Pokemon Go, but it is noticeable.

Ads are the baseline revenue stream, but Zynga will also happily sell you things.  Coins, for example, to buy those sanctioned cheats.

Fortunately you can also earn coins by completing daily and weekly tasks, which I always go out of my way to do.  I save up my coins and spend them on Swap+ tokens.  You can also earn the tokens themselves, which is why I have 99+ of the other three tokens I so rarely use.

And then there are whole packages you can buy with special portrait frames, colorful tile sets, emojis that you can send to your opponent with your play (which I have never seen anybody use ever), and even some ad free time, though the prices are ludicrously high.  I think the last time I saw an ad free package it was $39.99, which is a screw job level of price.

But that is all there to harvest whales.  The ads are where the steady income flows.  And you can tell that they worry about that.  Apple’s new opt-in requirement for ad tracking has them fretting a bit.

If you have 82% then you don’t need me, right?

Anyway, with all of that I still play daily.  You can find me using my usual handle, Wilhelm Acturus, if you are just dying to beat me in Scrabble.

Now that we’re here at the end of the post, I realize that I have left the title somewhat unexplained, though I imaging that you can probably guess the meaning.  Since my wife and daughter stopped playing I have ended up in matches against a host of random strangers.  There is a whole match making mechanic and it pushes likely opponents at you, so I have ended up playing against a regular group of people who are mostly women whom I tend to think of as being my grandmother’s age.

And then I remember my grandmother would have been 102 last week and has been dead for 25 years and that I am now the age I remember her being, so perhaps I have found my demographic.

The September MER Shows EVE Online in a Post War Mining Boom

CCP was out early this month, getting the September MER posted before the end of the first full week.

EVE Online nerds harder

Unfortunately we have another MER with a missing region, and I don’t just mean Pochven, which has yet to make the cut.  This time around Period Basis did not get included.  Regions have gone missing in the report in the past and that is apparently a small enough error in CCP’s eyes that they won’t bother with a revision.  Period Basis isn’t a huge region, so its absence won’t tilt the numbers dramatically.  Just know that it isn’t there.

Mining

I expect that we will see Delve in the top five for September and that overall mining value will go up with the changes we saw in last week’s update, where ice availability was doubled and Mercoxit spawns were increased.

-From my August MER Review

I made that minor prediction last month and it seems to have come to pass.  It is nice to be right now and then, even with a gimme prediction.

Overall mining output jumped from 21.95 trillion ISK value mined in August to 32.77 trillion ISK value mined in September.

When it comes to the most productive regions, Delve did indeed bubble up into the top five as expected, landing in the number two position.

  1. Genesis – 2.15 trillion
  2. Delve – 1.80 trillion
  3. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.69 trillion
  4. Vale of the Silent – 1.51 trillion
  5. Fountain – 1.39 trillion
  6. The Forge – 1.38 trillion
  7. Metropolis – 1.11 trillion
  8. Domain – 1.07 trillion
  9. Malpais – 908 billion
  10. Syndicate – 874 billion

The odd one on the list is Genesis, an empire region with a mix of high and low sec systems.  According to Reddit, Dock Workers and some allies are setting up a mining empire there.  But overall null sec regions now represent half the list, a change from June 2020 after the big mining nerf, when 9 of the 10 top regions were high sec.

Meanwhile, mineral prices kept to their decline, no doubt helps along with the boost in Mercoxit spawns which should have helped the morphite shortage.

Sep 2021 – Economic Indices

Since the value of minerals mined is a function of the market price, 30 trillion ISK in ore mined in September is still less ore than 30 trillion ISK mined two years back when the price was very low.  We will see if the increased output can keep pace with the falling prices.

Production

Things still have not kicked up much on the production front since the big industry changes back in April.  It still doesn’t make sense to produce many of the ships whose requirements were changed, capital ships especially, so most people are getting by on what they had before the update.

September 2021 – Production vs Destruction vs Mined

There was a bit of a post-change surge as it looked like there was going to be an epic end battle to the war, and that has carried on somewhat with the Imperium rebuilding its regions while Brave and TEST try to settle down into new space far from Delve.

CCP showed production value overall at 101.98 trillion ISK, up about 5 trillion over August.  I expect that might settle down a bit once the post-war rebuilding effort cools off.

The top regions for production in September were:

  1. The Forge – 19.26 trillion
  2. Delve – 11.47 trillion
  3. Lonetrek – 7.44 trillion
  4. The Citadel – 7.38 trillion
  5. Vale of the Silent – 7.28 trillion
  6. Sinq Laison – 3.95 trillion
  7. Fade – 3.85 trillion
  8. Domain – 3.07 trillion
  9. The Kalevala Expanse – 2.99 trillion
  10. Placid – 2.81 trillion

As always, The Forge, Lonetrek, and The Citadel all feed the Jita market and are always in the top five.  Delve was up slightly in amount, but otherwise stuck in second place due to the rebuilding effort in the region.

Destruction

The was was over in August, but there was still plenty of cleanup work going on… I was on two Keepstar kills in September… the war was mostly over and so the destruction level started to trend down a bit, dropping to 31.41 trillion ISK, about 5 trillion down from August.  The top regions were:

  1. The Citadel – 2.01 trillion
  2. Vale of the Silent – 1.74 trillion
  3. The Forge – 1.66 trillion
  4. Delve – 1.35 trillion
  5. Metropolis – 1.34 trillion
  6. Lonetrek – 1.31 trillion
  7. Genesis – 1.09 trillion
  8. Esoteria – 1.07 trillion
  9. Sinq Laison – 1.04 trillion
  10. Geminate – 995 billion

The Citadel is up top, being home to Uedama, the favored ganking choke point in high sec since the Trigalvians took Niarja away from us last year.  It is the place where Catalyst destroyers blow up.

MiniLuv keeps itself busy.

Vale of the Silent is home to a low grade conflict, while The Forge was more ganks.

Delve is on the list, mostly due to remaining clean up and an opportunistic period during the rebuild.  You have to hold the ihub in a system for 35 days before you can start putting up Ansiblex jump gates.  Once up, travel becomes considerably safer.  During the wait for that a few groups took advantage of people gating for travel and got in some kills.

Trade

ISK keeps New Eden going, but trade was down a bit in September, ringing in at a 607 trillion ISK total, down  40 trillion from August.  The top regions for trade were:

  1. The Forge – 449 trillion (Jita)
  2. Domain – 43.55 trillion (Amarr)
  3. Delve – 16.73 trillion (Imperium)
  4. Sinq Laison – 15 trillion (Dodixie)
  5. Lonetrek – 14.74 trillion (Caldari High Sec)
  6. Metropolis – 9.27 trillion (Hek)
  7. Heimatar – 7.34 trillion (Rens)
  8. The Kalevala Expanse – 6.21 trillion (PanFam)
  9. Vale of the Silent – 4.98 trillion (Fraternity)
  10. Essence – 4.34 trillion (Gallente High Sec)

Those are the same ten regions in the same order as August, so things have carried on as before.  Some were down a bit, a few were up, but it was mostly the same.

ISK Faucets

And then there is where the money all comes from.

Sep 2021 – Faucet end of the chart big chart

That is hard to read, I know, even if you view it full size.  Somebody at CCP has much better eyes than mine if they’re making charts with such tiny print.

But the current order of things stayed about the same in September, with commodities remaining the top faucet, bringing in 35.7 trillion ISK.  NPC bounties and ESS payouts combined stayed about the same as last month, ringing in at 29.47 trillion ISK.  I suspect the Period Basis numbers would have bumped that up a bit more.

Sep 2021 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

Going into September NPC bounties and commodities were running neck and neck, and then CCP had an in-game event and commodities saw a spike as people turned in their drops.

Missing from that top ten chart are Redeemed ISK Tokens, which saw a huge spike previously, enough for that to break into the chart, knocking blueprints off the list.  Well, now that most people have redeemed their tokens, it is off and blueprints are back on.  I guess that means the chart isn’t really the “top ten sinks and faucets over time” but “this months top ten sinks and faucets and their three year history.”

For commodities, you can see how they are broken out on this chart.

Sep 2021 – Top Commodity Items Over Time

The event items fell into the Overseer’s Personal Effects line, boosting that up as the month closed out.  Triglavian Data, which are drops from Abyssal Pockets, fell off a bit during that as people swapped to the more lucrative event path.

As for NPC bounties, Delve continued its come back, topping the list for September.

  1. Delve – 2.22 trillion (Imperium)
  2. Vale of the Silent – 2.11 trillion (Fraternity)
  3. Outer Passage – 1.45 trillion (TEST)
  4. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.39 trillion (PanFam)
  5. Fountain – 1.34 trillion (Imperium)
  6. Malpais – 1.06 trillion (PanFam)
  7. Tenal – 956 billion (Fraternity)
  8. Querious – 951 billion (Imperium)
  9. Oasa – 911 billion (Fraternity)
  10. Tribute – 891 billion (Fraternity)

The null sec blocs are back to crabbing to prepare for the next big war.  It is the necessary prerequisite if your going to burn trillions of ISK a month in a campaign.

Related:

Warm Up for No Time to Die

As I may have mentioned here a few times, my wife and I are fans of the James Bond movie series and, with the final Daniel Craig film in the series, No Time to Die, coming out this weekend we felt it might be time for a warm up back into the series.  It has, after all, been five freaking years since we’ve had a proper Bond film in the theaters.  Not the longest gap in the series, which was between Dalton and Brosnan, but still a long time.

Having seen the cast interviewed on Graham Norton where it was mentioned that the new film carries on straight from Spectre, we thought we had best watch that again.  Then my wife suggested before I could even utter the words myself, that we should watch all the Daniel Craig Bond films.  So that was what we did, and here is the summary from our viewing.

Of course, this was easier said than done.  Much to my disappointment, none of the streaming channels to which we currently subscribe… which total more than half a dozen at the moment due to following various series, including HBO, Showtime, and Starz… had the films available.

So it was time to get out the disks and crank up the PlayStation 3, which is still out source for watching DVDs and Blu-Ray.  Fortunately we have all the Bond film on disk.  I had to put new batteries in the remote and go through yet another patch update for the PS3 and then figure out again how exactly it was hooked up to our sound bar, but once settled things went well enough.  We have the first film, Casino Royale, on DVD only.  That was fine and it looked good on our TV.  For Quantum of Solace we bough the DVD+Blu-Ray combo, because we didn’t have the PS3 yet.  The other two are on Blu-Ray only.

It had been long enough since we watched a store bought Blu-Ray film that I had forgotten how the studios liked to cram trailers for other films to run before you get to the main menu.  You can skip through them, but I tend to watch them for as long as it takes me to guess the film and get it confirmed.  It was a reminder of past times.

  • Casino Royale – 2006

Not my favorite Bond film, but I have softened on it since I put it on my “least favorite” list back in 2012.  I’ll trade it out for Die Another Day.  I think I’ve seen Casino Royale three times since then, including the past week’s viewing, and it has grown on me a bit.  I still have my gripes.  I am not saying they should have dumped Judi Dench, but when they made a big deal about cleaning house for a fresh Bond look and then kept the same “M” as the Brosnan series still strikes me as odd.

It also has to bear the weight of being an actual Bond story, one that has been done twice, once on TV and once in parody form.  It breaks the Bond mold in that it starts off with him not yet being a double-0 agent, so we have to establish that first, then we break into the intro credits before getting onto the traditional set piece action sequence which, true to the series, isn’t all that relevant but is a lot of fun.  Best parkour ever.  But we keep having to establish the Bond tropes because it is a reboot of the franchise.

But the real failing point of this outing for me is that the stakes really aren’t that high; win a card game.  What happened to plots to destroy the world?  Yes, there is a lot around that card game, but it still comes down to cards… and not even baccarat which, while unfathomable to me, still has all the classic dealer lines.  Instead it was Texas Holdem, which was a fad at the moment.  But Bond films are always of their time.

The opening credits are an excellent animation and the theme song is perhaps the most on-point since Goldfinger; a line like “But you yourself are nothing so divine, just next in line” calls to the reboot very nicely.  It might be one of the more underrated songs from the series… and it made an excellent WoW parody.

Overall decent, though it gets out of hand for the last 30 minutes or so, most of which could/should have just been appended to the opening of the next film.  Also, Daniel Craig looks so lean and crisp in the face.  I guess we were all a lot younger in 2006.

  • Quantum of Solace – 2008

My trajectory with QoS has been rather a flip when compared to CR.  I liked QoS a lot when it came out, but less so with each viewing.  It feels a bit like an appendage to the first film, carrying on immediately from the final scene, lurching forward with promise, then losing its way.

It doesn’t start out bad.  It opens with a car chase, a quick interlude, then a foot chase, then a quick trip, followed by even more action including a boat chase.  Very Bond.  And it carries on hitting all the usual Bond points with more action and a woman with whom he slept being murdered.

But the opening is about a shadowy organization that has infiltrated everywhere and is potentially a world menace, and ends up with Bond solving a water utility problem in Bolivia.  You might not notice the sudden reduction in scope on the first pass, but after a few viewings I’m left with sort of a “Hey, what the hell?” kind of reaction, and it is something that doesn’t even get revisited until Spectre.  We start with one goal, straight off the end of CR and end up in the Bolivian desert with no real answers.  Cool plane chase though.

Certainly not the worst Bond film, but doesn’t really stand out either.  Even the theme song, which was again on point, fails to stick.

  • Skyfall – 2012

After all of that secret society stuff that ended up nowhere, the franchise headed off in a more traditional “crazy bad guy with a Rube Goldberg level scheme that is timed down the second” event that would fall apart the second you applied any thought to it.  But it looks so good and runs along at such a brisk pace, giving you little time for reflection, that it works in almost a “a whole that is greater that the sum of its parts” sort of way.

Skyfall does not have the best stunts, the best chases, the best action, the best shootouts, the best locations, the best gadgets, the best villains, or even the best theme song of the series.  The story isn’t even that compelling.  But everything is good, or at least good enough, the villains especially after the tedious Le Chiffre and dull Mister Greene of the previous two outings.

This is my favorite in the Daniel Craig batch so far.  It also nicely brings in some of Bond’s past and does the leadership transition at MI6.  Sam Mendes did a good job.  A solid outing.

We even got Adelle for the opening theme, which is a bit nonsensical in the vein of the Thunderball theme, but at least sounds nice.  I don’t remember any of the lyrics, just that it is easy on the ears and goes with well with the credits.

  • Spectre – 2015

After writing past Bond stuff I meant to write a review of Spectre when it came out, but I wasn’t moved to do it because it felt kind of empty.

Part of it was, of course, the fact that Skyfall came together as such a solid outing.  Having Sam Mendes come back to direct after that seemed like a promise of more quality work.

And the film seemed to have so much going for it out of the box.  The title is literally the secret organization we have wanted to know about as recently as half way through Quantum of Solace, Andrew Scott shows up as a menacing “C,” Christoph freaking Waltz as the main bad guy, there are locations to die for, and it kicks off with arguably the best opening action scene of any Bond film ever.  This was going to be great.

Okay, the opening theme was completely forgettable… I’ve seen Spectre three times now, including just minutes before I started writing the section and I can’t remember anything about it… but you can’t have everything.  It just has to live in the shadow of the Mexico City opening.

And it is ambitious.  It tries to tie together the previous three films… ret-conning Skyfall and its main villain into the mix… as all part of the grand plot of an international cabal that drives everything behind the scenes.  Bond goes from Mexico to London to Rome to the Alps to Algeria, and is fairly exciting the whole way.  And then we end up at their HQ in the desert and things start to come unglued as we find out what is going on.

There is the big reveal, the raison d’etre for Spectre…  and I won’t spoil it, but it was akin to  when I found out that Lex Luthor is evil because young Superman caused a lab accident that made all his hair fall out and, rather than using his considerable intellect to work on a baldness cure, Lex spends all his time trying to kill Superman with kryptonite.  It was a serious “Are you shitting me?” moment.  I mean, sure, they’re still a sinister and powerful international crime syndicate, but their leader is hung up on something that happened ages ago and all his wealth and power somehow hasn’t assuaged it.

It was hard for me to take the movie seriously after that.  It felt like a lot of build-up expended pointlessly.  There is still the whole final climax yet to play out at that point, but you know Bond is going to win, it is just a matter of filling in the details.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • No Time to Die – 2021

So we’ve had the build up, seen Daniel Craig age as we all have over the last fifteen years, now it is time to see the final act in his Bond arc.  The movie apparently picks up right where Spectre left off, which is a bit of a theme for these five movies.  I’ll probably write something up for next weekend about how it played for us.

Ji Ham Speaks about Enad Global 7

I am finally catching up on things that happened a month ago at this point.  In this case there was a change at Enad Global 7 that saw Ji Ham, who was heading up Daybreak, become the acting CEO of the company, displacing the well liked Robin Flodin.

Enad Global 7

This led to an interview with Ji Ham, posted to YouTube, where most of us not only saw him for the first time, but heard his voice for the first time as well… which is a bit odd for somebody who has been CEO of a video game company for six years, but hardly the most unusual thing about the Daybreak era.

So I finally sat down and watched the video.

I haven’t seen much written about the video, and that which I did see dismissed it as a whole lot of nothing.

And, I will attest, if you were expecting some detailed information about the company, its operations, or its games, there wasn’t much to chew on.

That said, the 27 minute video was not completely devoid of information.

Ji Ham’s ascension to the CEO role, which was again stressed as an acting position and that he will not be moving to Stockholm, was attributed to the change in the business model that EG7 is now pursuing.  Having grown through acquisition, the company now has a number of live products generating substantial revenue, meaning a different outlook may have been needed in the leadership position.

There was no mention of Robin Flodin’s interview gaffe, so the party line is apparently this was planned and completely normal.

But, while live games are now part of the mix, the company is still seeking more acquisitions to fill what it sees as holes in its offerings or that would fit well within their portfolio.

I have mentioned in the past that growth through acquisitions is a popular choice for publicly held companies as any asset they buy is always assumed to be worth what they paid for it so there is no hit against margins; writing your own code costs, buying somebody else’s’ code is a wash.

No acquisition targets were mentioned, but I suspect that if you looked at what is missing from their current ecosystem that keeps them from being self-contained you might at least come up with some potential segments.

Which isn’t to say that they are giving up on developing their own titles.  Once again a triple-A title was mentioned, but no specifics were given.  However, I think some of us just assume it is going to be a Marvel version of DC Universe Online.  We shall see.

Long time followers of Daybreak will no doubt be amused that Ji Ham said both that communication from the company had been lacking and that titles in their portfolio had not seen much in the way of investment during the Daybreak era, something EG7 would like to rectify.  Whose fault might that be?

I guess at least he didn’t blame it on Smed.

Acknowledging that the Daybreak portfolio was old… most of the titles are over a decade old, with H1Z1 being the young one in the bunch, having only passed the six year mark back in February… one wonders where they might throw some resources.

He did mention two titles specifically when it came to targets for investment, DC Universe Online and Lord of the Rings Online.

DCUO is the most popular title in the Daybreak lineup, claiming more than 400K monthly active users last year and bringing in more total revenue than any of its siblings according to last December’s reveal. (Though EverQuest still beat it for net earnings.)

DCUO has a lot of players on consoles, and was at one time the top earning free to play title on PlayStation, so worth keeping up to date.  One of the investments it needs is to get it onto the latest generation XBox and PlayStation 5 hardware.   Also, it would totally make sense to invest in it if you were going to make a Marvel version of the game.

As for LOTRO, it was singled out because, in his words, it is the only Tolkien online world currently available.  True enough, that statement.  The problem is that I am not sure EG7 has the resources available to make LOTRO into a viable, competitive title fourteen years down the road.  While the world is beautiful in game, character models, responsiveness, and the general interface was poor relative to the standards of the industry in 2007.  While there have been a few graphical upgrades over the years, the UI and the character models are still garbage and all the more so on any monitor over 1920×1080 in resolution.  And that leaves aside the layers of monetization piled onto the game, where every dialog wants to sell you a short cut to get around whatever effort game play asks of you.

There is no financially viable road forward that fixes all of its fundamental issues… and I am not even going to go into garbage mechanics like legendary items, which they’re kind of hand waving a fix for because they can’t get rid of it as the grind is so horrible that it likely leads more players to the cash shop than anything else… when it made maybe $15 million tops last year.

I know, that sounds like a lot of money.  But Tolkien Enterprises gets their cut right off the top I bet, then there are the servers and infrastructure to maintain and keep up to date, and the staff needed to keep things going as they are, and then the amount needed to keep Jason Epstein and Ji Ham in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.  And now the whole thing is owned by a public company, so the pressure to earn is even higher.  The time to invest and fix things is when you’re private and can get away with a few quarters of loss without the market calling for your head.

I’ve spent a lot of time with LOTRO and cherish those memories, but the wide appeal of its theme is held back by the raggedly old mechanics of the title.  Such is life.

Not mentioned, much to my surprise, was H1Z1.  Robin Floodin used to bring up H1Z1 every time he spoke about the titles that EG7 held, promising its player base that they were looking to revive the title.  I guess it is the newest title in the bunch and, for a brief stretch, was the flagship battle royale title, a position in managed to squander and is unlikely ever to recover. (NerdSlayer has a new Death of a Game video about H1Z1 that covers all the main fumbles.)

But perhaps Ji Ham, who was the CEO when H1Z1 flailed, flamed out, and ceased to be a force in the market, knows better than most what its value now is.

Anyway, those are the bits that stuck out for me.  There was more in the interview, including a caution on earnings, but I was mostly interested in the product related side of things.  The YouTube page has bookmarks in the description that divide up the whole thing into the various topics discussed.

The next thing we hear from EG7 is likely to be Q3 earning in about a month.

Friday Bullet Points Once Again from Space

It is Friday and there are a few EVE Online items I want to bring up but that don’t quite merit a full post at this time.  Not included in this is the September Monthly Economic Report, which I’ll get to on Monday.  That I can string out into 1,500 words easy.  Meanwhile, CCP it trying to outdo me with their own Community Beat post today.

  • Introducing Quasar

CCP posted a dev blog this week titled Introducing Quasar, which is a look at the changes CCP has made, and further changes that they are contemplating, to improve server performance of EVE Online by getting around Python’s Global Interpreter Lock that keeps the game running on a single thread.  Basically, if you take some housekeeping items off of the server’s to-do list, like skill plans, there is more bandwidth to track ships in space.  As put in the post the goals are to “dodge the GIL and clear the table for moar lasers.”

There is some additional insight into this over at TNG.

  • Totality Day Celebration

Come October 13th it will have been a year since the Triglavian Collective took the 27 systems they had conquered from the four empires and disconnected them from the previous gate network to for the new region of Pochven.  (Which, among other things changed the shape of travel in empire space with the removal of Niarja.)

So… time for an anniversary celebration I guess?  CCP thinks so and has some events planned according to this dev blog.

The Triglavians are still behind the other empires of New Eden as they don’t seem ready to offer login rewards for their event.  Maybe contact with the other empires will lead them to this technology at a later date.

  • Faction Warfare Report

Faction Warfare is often mentioned as one of the neglected aspects of low sec space in New Eden.  You don’t hear much about it unless somebody is complaining that it is broken… or noting CCP’s neglect.  But a group of Gallente pilots have started up a podcast, the Federation Frontline Report, to give some insight into that aspect of EVE Online.  They also have a guest post up on INN about their efforts and what Faction Warfare is.

  • SSO Endpoint Deprecation

For those who use the CCP APIs for various things, they are deprecating the old security authorization token interface, so if you are connecting to the using ESI or using the EVE SSO for user authentication, you need to update to the v2 versions of the API by November 1st.  Details are available in a third party developer blog post.

  • Mega Skill Point Packages

There was a post over in r/eve this week from a player with an account that had been dormant since 2010 who received an offer from CCP to buy 50 million skill points for the low low price of $999.99.  Another user reported an offer for 12.9 million skill points for 229.99 GBP.

I didn’t get an offer, but I dug around in an account that was last Omega maybe three years ago and found I had a special offer for 8.1 million skill points for $199.

Skill Point Offer

I am sure we could find a few other data points and figure out how many skill points you get offered based on how long your account has been dormant.

  • Monocle Offer

It has been a little over a decade since the Incarna expansion, which got the player base to explode over a variety of issues.  Often referred to as the “summer of rage,” the name that stuck for a lot of people outside of the game was “monocle-gate.”  I covered the anniversary in a post earlier this year, including the fallout, resolution, and how things went forward from there.  But monocles became the symbol due to a pricey eye piece that was added to the in-game store with the expansion.

While the monocle stuck around long after things simmered down, it remained a trigger for some, which is why it was a bit of a surprise to find CCP offering special monocles again in the in-store ten years down the road.

Monocular times are here again

I can’t tell if this is CCP just looking for some new cosmetic item to sell or if they’re just trolling us a decade after their first monocle.  And the monocles are only available until downtime on October 14th, so they’re trying to push the FOMO button as well… if anybody has any actual fear of missing out on a monocle I guess.

  • New Player Experience Explored

Shintar sent this video to me, so credit to her.  CCP apparently went out looking for streamers who had never played EVE Online to go through the recently revamped new player experience and give their response.  They were supposed to go in without reading up or getting external help and just let the game guide them.  Preach Gaming took on the challenge and put together a video about the experience.

It is kind of fun to watch as somebody who knows the answers.  There are a few places where I don’t know how he ended up with a particular idea, but otherwise it seemed to go pretty well.  Something that will come as a surprised to exactly nobody is that the problems began when he hit the now very out of date career agents, but I remain impressed that he figured out how to use probes and scan something down in under two hours with no external help.

Anyway, that is what was on my list.

A Necromancer in Diablo II Resurrected

In thinking about my initial lack of enthusiasm for Diablo II Resurrected back during the beta, I suspected that part of my problem was that I went and played the same class in the same way as I generally have over the years, which contributing the the feeling of sameness.  So I decided for my first post-launch play through I would try something new.

Having watched Potshot play a Necromancer as part of our first group adventure in the game, I thought that might be a good place to start, so I rolled one up for myself.

And I managed to bumble my way through the first act doing my usual routine of just putting skill points wherever they might feel good.  I put some into skeletons, some into skeleton mages, some into teeth to give me a ranged attack, then put my stat points into making sure I had enough mana, and it kind of worked.

With my first follower mix

I died a few times in the first act, and the final boss, Andariel I struggled a bit.  And end of act boss should be a bit of a challenge, but the first act is kind of a warm up and I’ve always been able to slouch my way past her.

Go myself a little too deep into the fight

I had to make a few trips back to town through a portal, but eventually managed to finish her off and wrap up the act.

At Andariel’s throne

My normal mode of operation is to continue to half ass my way through Act II until I am facing Duriel at the end and then use my re-spec to fix my setup because he is usually too tough for whatever nonsense picks I have made.

My problem with talent trees, and especially the Diablo II talent tree, is that I see a smorgasbord of choices available and I want to serve myself up a little bit of everything.  I have some vision of flexibility, but anybody who crunches the numbers will tell me I am an idiot.  The game doesn’t care about flexibility, it cares about damage on target and killing mobs dead.

So when I looked up necromancer builds I found that going all-in on skeletons was the optimal path.  20 points into skeletons, which gets you 8 followers, and 20 points into skeleton mastery, which makes them tough and hit hard.  They have you put a point into golems early on, just to get something a bit tankie when you’re starting out, but after that it is all skeletons all the time until you’ve gone 40 points in.

Meanwhile, on the stats front, the guide was to put enough into strength to be able to wear gear you need, but otherwise to put everything into vitality so that your health is enough to survive.  As a side benefit, your stamina is also huge so you can go everywhere at a run when you get enough levels behind you.

So I went all-in as suggested and headed into the sewers of Lut Gholein with six skeletons, a golem, and my rogue archer from Act I and the results were… pretty funny.  The skeletons are all over the place, though they do try to go where you are going.  As a group they mobbed most everything that showed up and, when I lost one now and then I just raised a fresh skeleton from a corpse.  Ranament was no problem.

No match for Skeleton patrol

The main problem is that every time you start the game to play again you have to go out and find some corpses, which are required to raise skeletons.

My little army stormed the desert and made it through very well.  It is a little tough in tight corridors, as the skeletons follow you and won’t run ahead until they seem something to attack.  There are times when you have to act like a SWAT team with a no-knock warrant, kicking in the door to a room and rushing it to beat down anything that moves.

The most troublesome bit was probably the Arcane Sanctuary… Act II has the widest variety of locations, which is part of why it is my favorite… but that was largely due to pathing, skeletons lagging behind me, and the general narrowness of the ways through the zone.

All the melee is out in front for once

I did ignore the advice to get one of the Act II followers which have auras that can boost your skeleton army, but I had found a very nice bow for my rogue and she was killing it, so I stayed with her.

I managed to get through Duriel at the end of Act II in two passes, jumping back to town through a portal to restock my skeleton army.

Act III was a cake walk.  The paths are wide enough for skeletons to roam ahead and they just chewed up any mobs that happened by.  I had enough points in skeletons by the time I got to Mephisto to do him in one go without having to head back to town.  I was light on skeletons when I was done, but I was done.

Act IV saw me swarming through the first part pretty well.  When you’re going through as a single character the game tries to get you with the big “Ah ha! Here comes a pack of a dozen mobs! Fight for your life!” routine.  But by the time I was into Act IV I had 8 skeletons, a golem, my rogue, and a skeleton mage because I picked up a wand that gave me +1 to that skill, along with myself, which gave me a dozen on my own team as well, so the scrum was pretty even with me just needing to replace a skeleton now and then or summon a fresh golem.

You have an army? Hey, me too!

Pretty soon it was time to face Diablo.

That turned into a bit of a challenge.  Actually, the groups that came as I unlocked the five seals cost me some skeletons and a surprise attack actually brought me down.  But once the seals were undone and Diablo appeared, then the real challenge began.

Diablo had my number when it came to skeletons.  I would get on the floor with him and he’d do his big AOE attack and my rogue, my skeleton mage, and my golem would be down and my skeletons would all be fairly weak.  They would beat on him for a bit before dying off and I would have to run around and find more corpses.  That became the real issue for me, as corpses don’t last very long on the floor, so despite slaying hundred on the way in I was scrounging for corpses after expending three waves of skeletons.

I also decided to get in and do some damage of my own.  The wand I had, which gave me a skeleton mage, also gave me +3 to the spell Bone Spear.  And while my mana pool was pretty small, it isn’t a high cost spell, so I loaded up on mana potions and got in there with my skeletons to hit at the boss.

I finally brought him down with my seventh full wave of skeletons, five remaining alive when Diablo died.

Diablo defeated

I got the big pat on the back and collected my rewards and moved on to Act V.

Not being a huge fan of Act V, I was going to write this post ending with the death of Diablo.  And then me and my skeletons stormed through the final act in a single evening where I kept saying that I was going to stop at the next waypoint, but then the waypoint seemed awkwardly far from where I would need to go next, so I just kept rolling along until I was at the final waypoint in the Worldstone Keep.  And once you’re there you might as well finish the tour.

I had a bit of a problem with the last group that Baal summons before the final fight.  For whatever reason my skeletons were not biting very hard on that round, even with curse applied, which doubles their damage.  I had to get out the mana potions and Bone Spear again to push them along.

Then it was time for Baal.  I had no idea how this would go.  I went in, opened a portal to town, then headed straight at Baal, letting my skeletons get at him.  As with Diablo, my golem, rogue, and skeleton mage were having a tough time of it, but the skeletons seemed pretty durable.  By this point I was level 35 and had 20 points in skeletons and 15 points in skeletal mastery, so they were pretty tough.  They just were not doing much damage.

So when I lost the first wave of skeletons I went back to town, want to the first waypoint and scrounged some more mobs to rebuild my skeleton force.  Then, back in town, I filled up on more mana potions and went in to assist my skeletons with Bone Spear once more.

Facing Baal with Bone Spear

That seemed to tip the balance again and I only had to assemble one more pack of skeletons before I was able to bring Baal down and finish Act V.

Baal down with six skeletons, a golem, and my rogue still alive

Now, there was something odd with the fight in retrospective.  There was no second, fake Baal in the fight.  I don’t know if the fight is bugged, but I only had to chase down the one Baal, which made it go a lot more smoothly.  And, thinking on that, I recalled that Diablo had gone a bit soft as well, not putting up the bone prisons on the town portals like he used to.  Maybe they softened up normal mode because they were afraid kids these days couldn’t handle the truth as it was back in 2000.  Or maybe it is just bugged.

Either way I finished my first play through of Diablo II Resurrected.

There is something amusing about being Slayer Siddartha

On the way through I managed to collect a whole bunch of gear and gems and jewels and runes and what not such that I have already managed to fill up all three shared stash tabs, so I am going to have to make a storage mule or two after all.

I am on such a roll that I will have to jump in and see how I do on Nightmare mode.  I know I have played through Normal mode multiple times over the years, including my play through last year, but I cannot recall if I have ever finished on Nightmare.  We shall see.

Also, I once again forgot to do the cow level.  Still things to do.

Blizzard Goes Back to the Vanilla well with the WoW Classic Season of Mastery

With the team spending their time scrubbing questionable content while Shadowlands founders and their legal problems continue, Blizzard has decided to play the nostalgia card again, returning to the WoW Classic well that got them out of the doldrums of Battle for Azeroth.

Classic is as classic does

Last week Blizzard announced WoW Classic Season of Mastery, which will be their second run at a vanilla experience.

That means some new fresh start WoW Classic servers will be coming our way at some as yet unspecified future date.

But wait, there is more.

Taking lessons from the original WoW Classic run Blizzard has decided to move the dials a bit when it comes to how the game plays.

To start with, players will level up faster.  Per the announcement:

We’re planning on increasing experience gains from what they were in the first iteration of WoW Classic. Our current plan is to set them close to what the 1-60 XP rates are in Burning Crusade Classic with a bigger focus on quest XP increases.

That should flatten out the slump from the late 30s to the late 40s when it comes to the leveling curve, or at least keep players from having to scrounge for every single quest in every zone before moving on.  I do like the pace of the Burning Crusade Classic 1-60 leveling, but I somehow managed it with three characters before that hit.

There are also a couple of “quality of life” changes mentioned in the announcement:

  • Meeting Stones converted to Summoning Stones
  • Increased Mining and Herbalism nodes

The former seems like a bit of a cheat, though I suppose I am biased having gone through WoW Classic without summoning, but mining and herbalism nodes did seem to be a bit of a choke point.  As Blizz points out, more players are on classic servers than were back with the original launch, so maybe that deserves a review.

Blizzard is also going to introduce honor system and battlegrounds right away rather than trying to simulate the progressions (and problems) that were seen both back in the day and with the WoW Classic phases.

But the big focus of this appears to be on raiders and raiding guilds.  Do I once again detect the hand of Holly Longdale guiding this?  Certainly raiders were a key demographic for the EverQuest retro servers.

While the new servers will go through the same six phase plan that WoW Classic did originally, the goal is to roll them all out at an every other month cadence, so the final phase will be available in less than a year.

Meanwhile, the team is concerned that the raid bosses seemed a little bit too easy in WoW Classic, so they are making some adjustments to increase the challenge in order to make groups wipe at something closed to the 2004 rate rather than the 2019 rate.  Those include:

  • World buffs (like Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer and others) disabled in Raid instances
  • Restoring mechanics that were removed early on to some Raid bosses
  • No boss debuff limit (up from 16 debuffs in WoW Classic)
  • Increased health on bosses, to offset player buffs and the removed debuff limit

So get set your raid calendar I guess and get ready for tougher fights.

Now I wonder how popular round two of WoW Classic will be.  There was at least a decade of pent up demand to see the content that had been missing since Cataclysm when it first launched in 2019.  Who will be queuing up this time around?

Somebody will, I am sure.  If the EverQuest progression server experience has taught us anything, is is that there is always SOME demand for a fresh start retro server experience.  Daybreak seemed to be able to swamp a server and have queues throwing a fresh one out there every other year.

But Blizzard and WoW… well, they have their own complications.  Leaving aside that the company is in bad odor due to its own bad behavior, they haven’t had Burning Crusade Classic running for all that long at this point, which has a lot of draw for raiders as well.  I am certainly not feeling any huge draw for the vanilla experience… or a slightly reformed version there of… right now.

As noted, the launch date for this new round of servers has yet to be mentioned, though beta testing for them started yesterday.  My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.  Blizz has tried to address some of the outstanding questions, but we’ll have to see how this rolls out going forward.