Category Archives: entertainment

Black Friday Bullet Points about New Eden

It is Black Friday today here in the US, so called because the post Thanksgiving shopping spree is alleged to be the date when many retail outlets become profitable for the year… go into the black.  So the day has become something of an obnoxious tradition, both offline and online.

You cannot escape it even in New Eden

Meanwhile, CCP has been tossing out tidbits of information left and right, so much so that they are posting their own summaries of the week.  But I will persist with my own version, which has both more and less than what they have covered.

  • Team Security Rules and Policy Clarifications

When the CCP security teams posts it is often wise to take heed of what they say, and earlier this week they posted a new item going into details about account sharing, botting, and illicit ISK buying and selling.  Some common misconceptions are explored and there are some stats and graphs on the topic.

Find it all here.

  • Permaband is on Spotify

The in-house band might be the most successful CCP venture after EVE Online itself, having given us original songs like HTFU and Warp to the Dance Floor, which are legitimately good tracks.  The band’s music has appeared on a number of services and now Spotify has been added to the list.

Take that Elite Tauren Chieftain.

  • PGL Joins Goonswarm Federation

Progodlegend, a leadership figure in TEST second only to Vily in the PAPI led attempt to purge Goons from the game… known as World War Bee or Beeitnam… is now in Goonswarm Federation.

He has joined us

I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but it does speak to the flexibility of relationships in New Eden and perhaps how the Imperium is a bit different since the departure of The Mittani.

I found out about this via a Jabber ping:

Attention Goons, we now have an immediate job opening in alliance leadership. The job is stressful and very demanding, yet simple. Make sure every ship progodlegend undocks has rigs fit. Apply in elysium. That is all.

One of the memes of the war was about PGL forgetting to fit the rigs on his ships, and kill mails with evidence of that were widely circulated.

In addition to alliance leadership experience, PGL has sat on the CSM multiple times.

  • Somebody Won Alliance Tournament XVIII

I kind of expected a news item out of CCP on this one.  They seem to be posting news about literally everything else this week.  I watched a bit of the AT, and actually won a SKIN during a give away, but once things were over CCP seemed to pack up and head out.  They didn’t even update the spreadsheet they were using to track the tournament.  I guess they were too busy writing all of the other news updates they did this past week.

Apparently Truth. Honor. Light. won the final round in a 3-0 sweep over Odin’s Call, so congratulations to them.  There is also a recap of their journey to the title posted to Reddit.  There is some insight into what it takes and what it means to compete in that post.

  • Faction Warfare Stuff

CCP keeps posting things about the empires and faction warfare and, if I read the most recent one correctly, the Caldari have grabbed a constellation in Syndicate, an NPC null sec region adjacent to Placid, where the Caldari and Gallente have been facing off.

The DS-M4Q constellation

CCP has been adjusting the battle lines for faction warfare and if there was space less well utilized than low sec in the game, it would have to be NPC null regions.  But the burning question here is really whether or not Poitot will remain the only named system in Syndicate.

Meanwhile, the faction warfare updates have brought a lot of attention to low sec, though there do seem to be some issues left to iron out with the changes.

  • Further with the Photon UI

CCP has been pushing their updated Photo UI, though bragging about an adoption rate when they forced it on for all player seems a bit hollow to me.  They seem to have fixed the more egregious bugs like my Neocom issue, but the big problem for many seems to be that the UI doesn’t offer anything new aside from having to learn a new notifications paradigm. (At least we didn’t get more red dots!)

Now, however, CCP has finally announced what might be the killer feature for the Photo UI, multiple overviews.  The overview is one of the critical aspects of the game’s UI and seemingly the most neglected.  It shows you what is in space near you and allowed you to filter or display based on specific criteria.  We’ve long been allowed multiple overview tabs, so you could swap between say, celestial objects in the system and hostile capitals on grid, but having both of those views up in their own windows in the UI would be a huge change.

Of course, the flip side of this is the question of whether or not I want even MORE windows open and hiding space in my UI… but utility will win out in the end I suppose.

  • New Default Overview Coming

Evidence for my statement above about neglect is that the default overview options haven’t changed in over a decade and those defaults are… kind of crappy.  You get something like”Show all the things” and “show mining asteroids” and a couple more, which serve you well for about the first week and then your life gets more complicated and they end up holding you back.

So CCP has put a new default overview on the test server for people to try out.  It comes with some new tabs setup as well as a range of pre-sets a user can apply to their tabs for specific scenarios.

The overview is one of the most complicated features to explain to a new user… I’ve been around the game for 16 years and I mostly understand the overview, but wouldn’t bet money on my knowledge… so giving new players defaults that actually do useful things could be a huge boon to the game.

  • Black Friday Omega Discounts

And, just to end on the Black Friday theme, CCP does have some Black Friday deals on Omega subscriptions available in the web store.  The pricing isn’t back down to the pre-increase numbers, but it is still a discount if you’re like me and buy in 3 or 6 month increments only when there is a sale.

Star Trek III The Search for Spock

We have made it to the third entry in our Star Trek film festival of sorts.  After the uptick in quality we saw with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it was time to hit another odd numbered film with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

We’re at another point where I think I have only seen this film once, probably back in the theater, back when it premiered in 1984.  That I saw it in that particular context meant my reaction then was considerably different than the way I responded it to it last week.

To start with, Christopher Lloyd is the Klingon commander, Kirk’s main nemesis. At the time I only knew him from his role in the show Taxi (also my baseline for Danny Devito) where he played the erratic Reverand Jim, a character whose unique personality traits I projected onto the Captain Kruge character in the film.  This, of course, pre-dates many of the roles that would influence my views about him, including the Back to the Future series of films.  So 1984 me saw him as Reverend Jim the Klingon, while 38 years down the road… well, if not Reverend Jim, then sort of the expansive and slightly loony mix of the many characters he has since played.

And then there are some other actors I probably wouldn’t have noticed at the time, like John Larroquette… another Klingon for pete’s sake… or Miguel Ferrer who would later gain notice in RoboCop.

Anyway, the movie itself picks up immediately in the wake of Wrath of Khan, framing the situation with a few clips from the end of that film, with the Enterprise safe but damaged, Kirk headed back to base, and the photon torpedo case used to bury Spock in space sitting happily and fully intact on the surface of the planet created by the triggering of the Genesis device.

On the voyage home McCoy breaks into Spock’s quarters and has an episode where, in Leonard Nimoy’s voice, he chastises Kirk for leaving him behind on Genesis, which is now what we call the planet that was created from the device.  Kirk thinks McCoy is just drunk or suffering from PTSD and has him committed to the psych ward when they get back to Star Fleet.

There they also find that the Enterpise, now 20 years old… in reality and Star Fleet years I guess… is to be decommissioned.  As Kirk and his bridge crew are getting drunk at Kirk’s bachelor bad, where Kirk himself is wearing some leisure wear that the 70s called him to say they did not want back, when Sarek, Spock’s dad, shows up to speak with Kirk.  Sending everybody away Sarek wants to know what Kirk did with Spock’s consciousness… because, as we learn, any Vulcan that knows they’re going to die will implant themselves in another person… only to find out that Kirk doesn’t have it.

Eventually they figure out McCoy has it, so they have to break him out of the psych ward, steal the Enterprise, fly it to Genesis with just the main cast, fight a Klingon bird of prey captained by Reverend Jim, find Spock’s body, collect everything together and get to Vulcan where in some “are you sure you want to do this?” ceremony, Spock can be put back together so he can be in the next film.

Roll credits and cue the time travel whale hunt in the next film!

I previously compared this movie to Spock’s Brain, the opening episode of season 3 of the original series, and widely regarded as the worst episode in the bunch.  Seriously, the plot line is literally somebody STEALS Spock’s brain and the crew of the Enterprise has to go find it and put it back.

But The Search for Spock is not that bad.  I must be feeling incredibly charitable towards the film series, because I enjoyed the film.

I mean sure, it is still a glorified original series episode, stretched out to two house.  And yes, there are some incredibly goofy bits in it, like when McCoy goes to what I can only describe as the Star Fleet version of the Mos Eisley cantina, complete with framing shots of strange aliens, or when half the bridge crew breaks McCoy out of the detention block and shoot up the coms station in a way very reminiscent of another Star Wars scene.  Then there is stealing the Enterprise, losing the Enterprise, stealing a Klingon bird of prey, and the fact that on reassembly Spock remembers something he said to Kirk that we established earlier happened AFTER he backed up his brain in McCoy.  I mean, is that how brain backups work?  Are they like jump clones in EVE, getting a constant update feed until the being dies?

Anyway, in summary, it was goofy and had its flaws, but not in a huge immersion breaking way.  It wasn’t as tight as Wrath of Khan, though that has its own level of goofiness, but it wasn’t bad. So for the ranking so far we’re going to put it in second place.

  1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  2. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  3. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Next up, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  We’re watching that tonight after Thanksgiving dinner has been finished and cleared away.

The Persistent Death Knight in Northrend

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my Death Knight, Irondam, has become my main “level through the game and see all the things” character.  There are some advantages to having a DK in that roll.

This is why they had to give us that water mount in Pandaria

One of the aspects of him being in that role is that I have held him to finishing up the main quest lines to the point of getting the quest achievement for each of the zones he has worked his way through.

You don’t have to do ALL the quests in a zone for the achievement, but you end up doing most of them, usually leaving off the group quests, and the total rings up at a hundred or so for some of the zones.  So, while he has gotten himself to 75, he has really only worked in three zones so far.  They are:

Borean Tundra

This is kind of the lesser of the two starting zones.  It certainly feels like the zone where you should start if you’re running into the Northrend at level 68… like I did with four characters.

Welcome to Borean Tundra

There is a lot going on with the Borean Tundra map and you run into a few different groups, each with their own sets of quest lines.  With each little area pretty much sticking to itself and the various story threads not really intertwining, the place feels like a bit of a patchwork.  That isn’t bad, but aside from Coldarra perhaps you don’t come out of it feeling like “well, there was a story!”

I mean, there are stories there, some even related to the main thread of the expansion.  But they are a bit jumbled together.  Mostly it feels like the zone you show up in dressed from the last expansion and leave with all your gear updated to a new look and an appreciation into how to play your class.

I made my way through and didn’t have any problem finding enough quests to get the achievement.

So you say

It has its moments, but isn’t as memorable as later locations.

Howling Fjrod

While you can start in Howling Fjord, unless you’re in a hurry to get to the first dungeon, there isn’t a lot of advantage to it.

Welcome to the Fjord

Having played through both the start of Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord on three of four characters, you don’t get any especially different gear.  I sent my hunter over there hoping to get a gun rather than the bow that is the first ranged weapon in the tundra quest chain, but found myself offered a crossbow instead.  There is a gun further down the line in Howling Fjord, but there is also one in Borean Tundra, so whatever.

And the initial quests are a bit of a trial.  They aren’t hard, just kind of a pain and maybe a bit opaque in description.  But you have to run back and forth through a gauntlet of mobs to keep reporting back in.

Once you get through that though and out of the pit that is Valgarde, it is also where you start getting into some of the meat of the story as well as getting to experience the new vehicle mechanics that Blizz introduced.  You are flying around in planes, playing sky crane with a helicopter, shooting harpoons at dragon riders, and riding a flaming harpoon across the Fjord.

Never did this in Outland

There are also some goofy mechanics and some quests with rather unhelpful descriptions that kind of just assume you’re going to go look it up I guess, because I had to in the end.  Still, I made it through without having to beat the bushes for additional quests.

I've been all over

I’ve been all over

I am glad I started into the expansion at 68, because even though those first two levels were quick, they did burn off a layer of quests so that Irondam didn’t get ahead of them too far in levels.

Both of those zones converge into Dragonblight.

Dragonblight

These feels like the zone that Blizz said, “Here, here is where we will dig into the story and play with some of our new ideas.

Dragonblight in the middle

It is also where you run into many more quests with some dubious quest text descriptions.  Also, there is the whole Winterguard Keep series of quests where you have to run back and forth through fields of mobs to get to various quest objectives.  It isn’t too bad if you steer your mount around things, but err in that and get dismounted and you end up having to take down the half dozen mobs that were most recently chasing you.  Again, DK for the win with just enough self healing to keep going.  My druid would have been toast.

But it is also story time and in a big way.  It is here, in Dragonblight, that the devs are suddenly ready to tell you all about Arthas and his army and how he gave into his need for revenge at any cost.  You see his ghostly army still haunting the shores where they landed.  You also follow a vision of Arthas as he picks up a handy sword he found just sitting in a cave.

Frostmourne? Cool name for a cool sword

And then there is the foreshadowing event at the Wrathgate, where you get a cinematic in the middle of a zone that includes the steamiest chemistry between two WoW characters outside of the Goldshire Inn.

Get a room you two!

The Wrathgate is a big enough deal that you get an achievement for just being there to see the cinematic.

Veteran of the tour, in anyway case

But as I wound up the various quest lines, I found myself coming up nearly 20 short of the 115 quests needed for the zone achievement.  Eventually I ran down one quest that sent me to Stormwind to the king who had Jaina portal me around and then we ended up outside of the Undercity, ready to run in and figure out who was behind… something… I sort of lost the thread of the tale as I was trying to keep up.

Anyway, you’re outside the Undercity with the king, ready to attack.

Whenever you’re ready Varian

This was actually a bit of a slog, not helped by the vague quest description, the need to wait around for five minutes before anything happens, and the ongoing fights where you’ve been given a buff so you likely won’t die unless you AFK, but is just one empty fight after another until you reach the guy at the end deep in the Undercity for one last big fight.

Then the king sends you back to Dragonblight and you get a reward with a serious gear upgrade, and an easy dozen or more quests because the whole event is a series of short milestone quests.

After that I was still a couple of quests shy of the mark, but realized I hadn’t done any of the quests in Mo’kai harbor yet.  So I flew down there and was soon over the mark.

It is quite a fright, especially at night

A lot of the quests I recognized, though I have no memory of that assault on the Undercity.  But it was both a discreet and slightly dull event, so maybe my memory just let go of that one.

That put me ready for the next zone.  I wasn’t sure whether Sholazar Basin or Grizzly Hills was the right choice, but I was closer to the latter and had picked up the flight point from that one quest in Winterguard Keep that basically throws you on a bird and flies you there without warning the moment you accept it.  So that is where I am headed next.  I don’t remember much about it, besides some bees or something and maybe chasing a heard of horses.  I guess I’ll see when I get there.

Mistlands Available for Testing in Valheim

It has been almost two years since Valheim showed up and became a minor sensation, and in that time there has always been the promise of more biomes and, thus, more vertical progress to come.

Valheim on Steam

The Valheim team hasn’t been idle and they have provided quite a few good updates to the game since launch.  They also launched the game on XBox.  But game play has stopped in the plains since the first day it was available to us, and the hunger for MORE content in the game is real.

And the next biome on the list has been the Mistlands.

We’ve had hints and images of a possible future for that biome, but nothing really to raise much beyond curiosity until last week.  Last week we got a Mistlands game play trailer on YouTube, with a timer on it set to become available today.  And so we have it, our first minute or so glimpse into the new biome.

But that is not all.

In addition to that short video peak, the new biome is now available for public test.  There is an announcement about what it contains and how to access it.

Highlights of the update include:

  • New biome – Mistlands:
    • New mechanics
    • 9 new creatures + Mistlands boss
    • More than 20 new crafting materials
    • 2 new crafting stations, 3 crafting station extensions, and 3 other resource/crafting constructions
    • 15 new food items
    • 3 new potions
    • More than 25 new craftable items (weapons, armours & tools)
    • More than 35 new building/furniture pieces for building, decorating and defending your base
    • New type of dungeon
    • New lore stones
    • New dreams
    • New music

Some of that is unremarkable when listed out, things that you expect to find whenever you advance to the next biome in the game.  That is the progress template for the game.

What those items are, how they look, how you use them, and what the new biome will be like, that is the exciting bit.

Of course, if you stop and wonder what a “public test” of content in an “early access” game entails, you might start to doubt words have meaning anymore… so maybe don’t do that.

And remember the caveat as to how games like Valheim work with content updates.  Already explored areas will not generate the new content.  Also, be wary of mods.

An important thing to note is that the Mistlands biome will only generate in areas you have not yet discovered. Therefore, if you have explored a lot of your world, you might be better off starting a new one in order to actually be able to travel to the Mistlands. As per usual, mods will also most likely cause the game not to launch, as they are only compatible with the Live version of the game. If you have mods, you will either need to remove them or wait for the mod to be updated before you can play.

As for diving in, our group is pretty invested in Wrath of the Lich King Classic, so we are not in a rush to find something new to play.  We can wait for the Mistlands update to hit the main release of Valheim.  When we need another break from Azeroth, it will likely be there waiting for us, and those who rushed in early will have found the bugs for us!

Catching up on Harvesting in Azeroth

I have been enjoying playing my Death Knight in Wrath of the Lich King Classic.  As I have said multiple times at this point, it is over powered, but in fun and engaging ways.  It is a hero class that feels like it has the power to be an actual hero, and it has been fun to level mine up.  So, good times.

We have a small orchard here

On the other hand, he does come with some challenges on the trade skill front.

I don’t really need another crafting alt, and I am not into the absolute grind it can be to get up into and through Outland in order to be useful.  But I wouldn’t mind another harvesting alt.  Having a character out there than with mining and herbalism that could gather for my actual crafting accounts would be very handy.

Here’s the thing.  Death Knights start at 55, and they even get a boost with first aid so they don’t have to go back and start with linen cloth.  But if you want a gathering profession, like herbalism or mining, it is back to skill level 1.

It isn’t the hardest thing in the game to do, especially if you’re already past level 70.  You can run around the old zones with impunity, one-shotting any mob that looks at you sideways.

And, since I have had a gathering marker addon installed throughout WoW Classic, I have map references for a lot of the older zones as to where various herbs and ore can be found.  I have that going for me.

The problem is that it takes time.  If I have an hour or so in the evening, do I want to spend it in an old world zone

Mining some iron out in Arathi

Most evenings I would rather focus on Northrend and the quest chains and seeing the story, experiencing those zones, and leveling up.

Occasionally I will have an evening where I want something really mundane to do while I listed to a podcast or an audio book and I will bring him back to the old world and run around one of the zones where I can get some skill ups.  I am currently at around 170 for both herbalism and mining.  Herbs are generally more plentiful, so the skill ups in the field are more frequent, however you do get some mining skill ups from smelting your ore, which allows that to catch up.

I would like to have mining and herbalism active while I am running around in Northrend doing quests, but I just haven’t felt like investing the time yet.  I still have a long ways to go before I even hit Northrend.

The one saving grace is that at least with the two skills trained, while I cannot harvest anything in Northrend, I can harvest locations on the map.  I’ll get a message that I need a much higher skill level in order to collect the herb or ore, but it will be on the map for my other characters.  And doing that marking doesn’t even dismount me.

As for the other skills, fishing and cooking, I am not sure.  Fishing is likely never going to happen.  I have one character that can fish in Northrend and that is all I really need I suppose.  And on the cooking front, it is my hope that we’ll the harvest festival holiday event that allows you to catch up on cooking all in once concentrated go.  I think that came in with Wrath, but I supposed I will find out soon enough.

All Quiet on the Western Front

A book and two movies already lay in the past for this tale, but it is a classic so I suspect that we are not out of remakes yet.  And so I found myself on Netflix watching the latest version of All Quiet on the Western Front.

All Quiet on the Western Front

It is a German production, available dubbed in Netflix, and I will say that they did a very good job on that aspect, though English dubbed over German does seem to work pretty well in many cases due to at least some similarity in words… and you’re spared that who need to wait the verb trailing at the end of anything beyond simple sentences.

I will also say that post-war German cinema has the visual imagery of the waste and despair of war down pat.  Anything from The Bridge to Downfall to Stalingrad, they get the point across that war is not a glorious adventure but simple trauma and misery and death inflicted on ourselves, and hardly worth the effort in what we gain from it.

A particular recurring theme of German cinema is the betrayal of the common soldier by an out of touch, self-obsessed high command willing to sacrifice others… in the films I noted above, the young boys sent to guard the bridge for no reason, the German nation, or the whole of the Sixth Army… in the name of their own honor and the honor of the nation.  And this production of the story is no different.

As in other productions, it follows the tale of Paul Baumer, who comes of age as the war is already under way.  Having been fed a non-stop stream of tales of glory, honor, and service by his teachers… something so aptly torn apart by Paul Verhoeven in Starship Troopers… he and his circle of friends are excited to join the army, eager to get into the fight before it is too late and they miss out on the great adventure.

The theme of the film is broadcast in the first few minutes where we see a crew of soldiers behind the lines stripping their own dead of uniforms, boots, and equipment.  That is piled onto trains and sent back to Germany where it is soaked, cleaned, repaired, and supplied to the new recruits joining the army.  And there is Paul, the new recruit on his first day, receiving his uniform and kit, only to find a name tag already sewn into the collar of his tunic.  He goes back to the supply sergeant to point out he has somebody else’s stuff.  The sergeant says something bland about uniforms sometimes being issues in the wrong size, rips the name tag out, and says the uniform is Paul’s.  We know what happened to the man whose name was casually discarded, but Paul is set to find out.

So we follow Paul into training and up to the front and his baptism in fire, where death and blood and chaos and eternal mud and terror await him.  Death finds his friend group almost immediately.  But Paul survives and adapts, learns from the veteran Kat how to survive, where to find small comforts and a bit more food as they slaughter French attacks wholesale, only to have to rise up out of their own trenches and attempt to move forward only to face a similar slaughter as they are driven back in turn.  His friends fall and new recruits show up, only to fall in their turn, but somehow Paul and Kat persist through the horror, growing calloused to the slaughter, burying their trauma in order to survive, only to have it well up unexpectedly at times.

The visual are what sell this film.  The mud of the trenches, the dirty re-used uniforms, the machine guns and soldiers trying to advance across no man’s land, the thump of bullets hitting corpses and dirt as each side seeks to bring down their attackers.  And mud.  Always mud.  The earth, churned up, the shell holes full or water, the trenches filling up in the rain, always making for more and more mud to squelch through.

The film, however, does depart from the book and the previous movie versions in its flow.  Here Paul spends very little time in training, and we miss the sadistic training corporal who resents the fresh faced youth of Paul and his friends and makes their lives a misery… though hardly so in light of what they will soon face at the front… so there is no moment of satisfaction when the corporal finds himself at the front later on and his tough talk is laid bare.

In fact, the film seems very much in a rush to get to the end of the war.  Paul’s school, training, and early experiences in the trenches are rushed through because the script really wants to be about events in November 1918.

The film, while happy to display the spectacle of war for us, the filth and the blood and the quiet moments in between, it really wants to go after the army command.  So we have the field commander in his immaculate uniform on the balcony of a ruined chateau ordering his tired and despairing troops into one final push, days before the Armistice of Compiegne and the end of the war that they might secure a peace with honor.

Paul and Kat and their comrades go over the top once more in a final push.  French machine guns cut down many of the attackers, but they make it into the French trench and engage in brutal bout of close range combat, eventually wresting control of the line.  In the momentary respite as the French flee, the attackers pounce on the food left behind.  Their own rations have been so meager that hunger overtakes them.

And then the French return, supported by a line of Saint-Chamond tanks, which advance slowly on the Germans, cutting down any who expose themselves.  Not exactly historically accurate… either having tanks readily to hand for a local counter-attack or those models being used that late in the war… but it is a dramatic scene and the Germans rejoice as they manage to defeat one of the metal monsters.  But that does not slow the French down, and the tanks are backed up by French flame thrower teams, lending a lurid light to the grim spectacle.  Also, probably not exactly accurate, but nice cinema.

The Germans are thrown into flight while negotiations are going on in the railway car in the Compiegne forest.  We get the scene of Paul in the shell hole with the wounded French soldier, though it isn’t as moving as past versions and feels like it was tossed in as more of a need to align somewhat with the source material than to show Paul realizing how the war has warped his humanity.  The movie ends with peace and tragedy, though the wrap up gives lie to the meaning of the title of the book.  At least it does to me.

Here we get into the baggage I bring with me causing problems.  In the book and the two previous films, the final death comes a month before the end of the war, in a peaceful moment between fights, when the troops can feel the end is near.  The death is overlayed with the status dispatch from the sector, which reports “Im Westen nichts Neues” or “Nothing new in the West,” which was translated to “All quiet on the Western Front” for the English speaking audience.

Yes, in both scenarios, the final death is senseless.  But in the original a sniper’s bullet takes the final life in a moment of peace and hope, when the end seems so near, while in this new version the death is very much the end result of violent action.  They are both lives thrown away, but it feels like a bit of a message shift for me.

But, as I noted above, post war German cinema has often been keen to focus on the betrayal of the troops by their commanders who were willing to sacrifice them while they lived well, and this is another entry in that category.

Still, without my baggage, the film stands alone pretty well.  The battle scenes and life in the trenches are gritty and real.  It lacks the raw attempt at getting the sense of battle in the 1930s version of the film, or the focus on Paul’s humanity in the 1979 version, but it brings its own strengths to the table; the sense futility and random death and the processing of soldiers through the military machine like the reused uniforms they wear.  It wants very much to be an anti-war film like its predecessors, and gets its points across, if somewhat less deftly than the previous entries.

Of course, there is an argument that there is no such thing as an anti-war film.  Any film that shows battle will seem like fun and glory to somebody.  That brings me back around to Starship Troopers again, which was very much a poke in the eye of militarism and meaningless patriotism and where that leads.  And yet, at the time and even now, there are many who watch it and don’t get the elevate satire of the film, seeing it literal glorification of war and embracing that as the message.

But if it wants to find more of an anti-authoritarian niche for its message… that those in power who talk about duty and honor only when used to elicit sacrifices in others… well there is certainly room for that.  Won’t get fooled again and so on.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

Our Star Trek film festival continues, having survived contact with Star Trek: The Motion Picture last week, to arrive at Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The Wrath of Khan

I said in last week’s post that Wrath of Khan might be the most overrated of the films, but having watched it again I am not too sure.

In some ways it is not much more than an over-inflated, two hour episode from the original series, drawing as it did from the episode Space Seed.  But it is also, perhaps, the most iconic and influential of the film series entries.

To start with, it opens with the Kobayashi Maru training scenario, something that has become cultural short hand for a no-win situation.  I saw it applied to Elon Musk’s situation with Twitter just last week in a major publication.

And then there is this.

Kirk shouting “Khaaaaaaan!”

Just go Google “Kirk Khan meme” and see how many entries you get.

So, for cultural impact, its bona fides are clearly established.

But is it a good movie?  Yes?

I mean, it is much, much better than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it was also the one from the TOS films that I had seen most recently… possibly the only one I had seen this century… and my fuzzy memories from that viewing were not ones of enthusiasm.

And it has the same starting problem.  Why did they make Kirk an admiral only to have to spend time at the start of every film finding an excused for him to take over, commandeer, or steal the Enterprise?  They always come up with something, and we have to have that scene reflecting on being old and missing command of a ship.  I guess that pads out the run time a bit.

Overall though, despite my misgivings over whatever that last viewing entailed, it was pretty good.  I enjoyed watching it.

In being essentially a two hour long TOS episode worked to its benefit.  It got in some of the classic aspects of the show, including two larger than life performances out of Shatner and Montalban as the egos of their two characters clashed on screen.  We had ships fighting, silly space maneuvers, engineering problems, handy close by cosmic anomalies to hide in, some decent uniforms for the crew… both crews, because Khans space rogues were quite the site, and Shakespeare quotes… though not in the original Klingon.

We also got to see Kirk having consequences from a past relationship!

Yes, they had to also work us with the Kirk/Spock relationship.  But after years of the Trek stories in paperback where every budding author couldn’t seem to resist working in some sort of “Spock must wrestle with his human side and his relationship with Kirk” aspect, that is hard to get worked up about.

It was good, kept my attention, had decent effects, a silly but enjoyable plot line, and few dragging moments that felt like they could have been trimmed from the script.  Overall, I’d watch it again.

So that is two of the films down, and in the hope that we’ll keep watching, I’m going to start a stack rank of them by quality or enjoyment or whatever metric is within me.  It is easy at this point, with only two films under our belts.

  1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The next on the list is Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Spock’s Brain entry in the series, if you know what I mean.  I haven’t see it since it came out.  We’ll see how it rates.

Friday Bullet Points while Twitter Burns

It has been a good couple of weeks to drop bad news while Elon Musk’s gross mishandling of Twitter has been grabbing all the attention on the tech front.  You might not have noticed Facebook or Amazon or some other tech firms laying off thousands.

Going around the Twitterverse

And this week’s Twitter fiasco was Elon’s great loyalty oath campaign.  The remaining employees had to sign the oath or, if the refused, be laid off.  Some huge percentage of the survivors are said to have not signed, leaving critical systems unattended.  This caused Elon to panic about sabotage or something and he had the offices closed and the employees locked out like the unhinged oligarch he aspires to be.

Twitter isn’t down, and there is no plan to shut it down, but if some technical hiccup brings it offline, getting it back up and running might not be easy.

Last night on Twitter was like the end of high school, with everybody signing each other’s yearbooks and promising to keep in touch.    It is still up today, but the threat looms.

But there are other things going on in the world, and not even all of it is bad.  Most of these items I learned about on Twitter, but I am reluctant to link there now.  I don’t need any more dead links on the site.

  • Blizzard and NetEase Part Ways

This was telegraphed in the Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financials, but it feels like there should have been more emphasis on it if the collapse of the relationship was going to be announced a week later.  But the other shoe dropped this week with a press release.

NetEase is Blizzard’s partner in China, which means more than you might think.  Doing business in China means working with a company there as a joint venture (a term which always reminds me of late Soviet perestroika) where the local partner holds a controlling interest.

NetEase controls the business that runs games like World of Warcraft and OverWatch in China.  If you fall out with your partner you have to find a new one, which can be a convoluted mess in any circumstances, but much more so if it needs the approval of a totalitarian government.

Blizzard has been through this before, so if they want to keep doing business in China they need to find somebody new to work with.  Meanwhile, the deal with NetEase expires on January 23, 2023, after which point most Blizzard games will be turned off in China.  Diablo Immortal, which was made under a different agreement is the exception in this.  The horrible cash grab Diablo mobile game will remain active.

As for why this has come about, NetEase, following the example of its governments diplomatic policy, is aggressively blaming Blizzard and one individual in particular for the parting.  I don’t doubt Bobby Kotick is a jerk, but I don’t see any evidence that NetEase is somehow the victim in all of this.

  • EVE Online FanFest 2023 Announced

CCP has staked out the dates for EVE FanFest 2023, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of EVE Online.  And it is going to be… in September?

Yes, the dates are September 21-23 in Iceland, which will put Fanfest a good four months past the games 20th birthday, but when you’re booking an event big enough to show a blip on the countries MER I suppose you have to work with multiple factors in order to find a viable time slot.

Early bird tickets are already on sale and should be much easier to obtain that Taylor Swift tickets.

  • CCP Embraces a Bullshit Metric

When is a bullshit metric even more bullshit?  When you use only at its peak without giving any context.  I have criticized Blizzard for moving from subscriber numbers to MAUs as a transparent attempt to hide the actual state of WoW from investors, but at least they give us a number every quarter so you have some context.

So when CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson came out and said that EVE Online had hits its second highest DAU count since 2016, there were layers of BS to unpack.  To start with, CCP never tells us MAU or DAU numbers, so how do we know?  Was the day a lot better, a little better, not really better at all?

The game is clearly seeing more players.  The daily concurrent user graph over at EVE Offline shows that.  The expansion has sparked fresh interest.  But those graphs also show the peak concurrent for 2022 landed in January during the Doctor Who event.  So what is going on?

Well, as I noted, CCP had a login event with the expansion and gave away 7 days of Omega time to all players, which is a double incentive to login, because you need to do so in order to claim your prizes.  So last Sunday may have been a good day, but was it really a “best in the last six years” sort of day?  I suspect not.

Anyway, glad the game is doing good, but talking about numbers you won’t share in front of a crowd armed with spreadsheets is always a risky move.

  • Enad Global 7 Q3 2022 Financials

Things continue to look good for EG7.  Daybreak continues to dominate revenues on the video game side of the house.  Daybreak executives continue to run the show.  Things are going well.

However, the presentation itself was somewhat terse compared to previous ones.  Few insights and no future statements or handy graphs about upcoming titles.  Just the bare minimum to get by this time around.  Which is fine.  But that doesn’t give me much to build a post around.

  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet Launch

Hey, it is also a Pokemon launch day, as Pokemon Violet and Pokemon Scarlet go on sale today!

New Pokemon to catch, a new land to explore, and a new adventure to complete!

Nintendo very much has a cycle nailed down for these launches, landing just before Thanksgiving in the US which heralds the start of the holiday shopping season here.  Plenty of time for parents and grandparents to buy copies for the kids that haven’t gone out and bought it on day one already.  And, of course, lots of holiday free time during which to play.

This time around I am not joining in.  My daughter and I played the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes last year, and they were a lot of fun.  But I am not feeling it for another new title.

  • Valheim Mistlands Preview

Finally, the dev team working on Valheim have a game play preview video for the Mistlands biome that we have all been so (im)patiently waiting for.  But we’re going to have to wait for it too, because the video doesn’t unlock until November 22nd.  Dammit!

I hope there is a launch date in there, but I guess we won’t know until next week.

Anyway, that is what I had piled up for Friday.  Bring on the weekend.

Making Azjol Nerub Harder Than it Needs to Be

Having finished up The Nexus it was time to get along to the next instance, which was Azjol Nerub.  That got us out of the starter zones at last and into Dragonblight.  Not very far into Dragonblight.  You just have to ride in as far as Stars Rest, grab the flight point, and then the dungeon is just across the way.

Azjol Nerub in Dragonblight

Several of us had already been to Stars Rest as part of the attempt to connect up the flight paths between Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra.  The only one missing it was Beanpole, and he was able to ride out pretty quickly, so we soon had the group together.

The group together

From there it was just across the way to where Azjol Nerub is… though it is down in a pit and you have to wind your way around to find it through some caves without many distinguishing marks.  So we ended up getting lost and spread out in an area probably the size of basketball court.

We eventually stopped going in circles and found the instance and the quest giver hanging around just outside.  There were just two quests, one to collect some spider eggs and another to pick up an item from the final boss.

In we went and, honestly, the first boss is not that far down the path into the instance.  We had to clear a bit of trash, but we spotted Krik’thir the Gatewatcher pretty quickly.

Nobody is ever glad of our arrival

The eggs we needed to pick up… which included shared updates with the group, so only one person had to do it… were scattered about in that room and we quickly completed that.

Krik’thir is an event… I think that is the theme of this dungeon, that every boss is an event… and we weren’t quite ready for it, but once it started we managed to power on through.  One boss down.

The drop was the cobweb machete, which turned out to suit Bjorid as a pair with the fist weapon he took out of The Nexus.

Everything is a hunter weapon… except maces

That done, we rolled on down to the next area where Hadronox, a giant spider and also the second boss, hangs out.  Here is where we got hooked up with problems.

As with a couple of the past runs, Potshot had found a nice video guide to the instance.

And the main thrust of the description of the Hadronox fight was that you could avoid all the problems and pain of the fight with this one simple trick.  Somebody with a skill that lets you disengage and be safe should jump down from the ramp into the event… because, yes, another event… engage the first set of mobs, then disengage, and get safe.

When that happens the whole event will reset and for a short time there are no other mobs to worry about and you can run down, take out Hadronox, and be set.

For our group Bjorid had the right type of skill, feign death, so we set out to use that method.

The ramp to Hadronox

So we gave it a shot.  The first time we went too soon.  The second time we got separated and somebody died before we got to Hadronox.  Then we waited too long.  Once the event didn’t even reset.

That time we made it down to him, then wiped when all the trigger mobs came

We screwed around doing this enough times that we got into paper doll and had to run out to Stars Rest again to find a vendor that could do repairs. (Note to self: Make another repair bot.)

We also turned in the one quest we had finished, which actually got me a gear upgrade.

We got back into the instance that took a break, during which I went back to read up on how we managed this horrible fight back in 2009.  I was sure there was a tale to be found in that post.

But there wasn’t.  The fight barely got a mention in the post.  Potshot and I both looked the fight up on WoW Head and… the alleged “hard way” we were trying to avoid didn’t seem all that hard.  So we went down to try the fight the way Blizzard intended.  We took on the first sets of trigger mobs, then stood around until Hadronox came up to get us.

Hadronox cometh

If you’re patient and just watch for a while, slaying the occasional non-elite rando that runs your way, Hadronox does all the heavy lifting for you.  He stops all the other mobs from showing up, kills off the remainders, and sets himself up for you, practically on a silver platter.

He wasn’t a problem at all at that point.

Dead spider clean up

After Hadronox it was time to go jump in a hole.

The hole in question…

Ula had actually already been down the hole during one of the abortive short cut runs with Hadronox, having fallen through the hole in his web first and then down this hole after.  But now we needed jump through as a group.  I vaguely remembered something about this and went first… or second, really, Ula having already given it a try earlier… and landed in the pool of water several stories below.

It is actually quite a fall, with enough things along the and to deflect you the right way if you don’t have quite the right trajectory.

That got us to the final boss, Anub’arak.

Anub’arak revealed

We had to walk a ways to get to him, but there wasn’t much in the way, and his two guardians were dispatched quickly enough, leaving just him to deal with.

Again, another tickle in the back of my brain said “event” for this fight, and specifically that everybody needed to be on the on the platform with Anub’arak or they wouldn’t be in the fight.

So we got everybody up right on the edge of the platform, just a step from being on it, because we didn’t want to get too close or aggro him early.  Fergorin hit me with beacon, I said I was going, and ran into engage Anub’arak.  As expected, a barrier went up around the platform once the fight started.

Only Ula was on the wrong side.  Ooops.

So with a good fraction of our DPS out of the fight, it turned into a bit of a slog.  At various points in the fight he burrows under the platform and you have to fight some minions, but we managed to hold it together… mostly.  It turns out that, while the webs around the platform keep players from coming in, it does not stop Anub’arak‘s minions from going out and then caught Ula and killed her.

Then, as the fight was about to end we were hit with a poison just as Anub’arak died.  Achievement earned.

Achievement complete

And then the poison killed everybody in the group except me, and I only survived because I was getting healed by Fergorin.

Still, I survived and, as a pally, I could ress everybody.  We got everybody up again and took the final screen shot with Anub’arak‘s corpse.

The group at the end

I don’t think I commented on this back in the day, but this was an oddly short instance, though it had a lot of ground to cover.

Next on the list for us is Ahn’kahet: The Old Kingdom, which is next door to Azjol Nerub, but a couple levels higher when it comes to content.  We will probably take a week to go do some overland questing as a group to get a level or two before we return for that.

Back Filling Enchanting back in Outland

For neither the first time nor the last I am going to go on a bit about the design philosophy that one my infer from the mechanics of The Burning Crusade.

To sum it up, it felt very much like, “OMG how are we going to keep people playing for two years if we only have ten levels of content?  We have to slow them down!” which I am sure is an opinion that would not surprise anybody who was there back in the day, or more recently in WoW Classic.  Though, admittedly, the WoW Classic version went faster all the same because, as with all retro servers, the solved problem aspect makes it so.

So there was stuff left for us to do there.  While the Wrath pre-patch reduced some barriers and we got an xp boost to help us along, that did not really apply to crafting.  Ula was still stuck in the middle of the curve for enchanting for Outland and on her list of things to acquire were 8 large pristine shards, necessary for advancement.

The best way to obtain them was to disenchant blue drops from Outland dungeon bosses, so we got a group of four of us together, Ula, Wilhelm, Fergorin, and Bjorid to try and do a few dungeons.  It was a short group, but we were geared up for Northrend, and had even managed to do some bosses out there with a short group.  How hard could it be?

Landing in Shattrath, we headed over to Auchidoun, where there are a couple of dungeons.  We went into the Mana Tombs to give that a run.

Terokkar Forest

We got in a little bit over our heads at the first boss, Pandamonius because we were in a hurry and didn’t clear the room around him and, of course, every mob in the room comes to assist.

There he is… get him!

Okay, I was in a hurry and perhaps a bit over confident.  I mean, we beat him and all the mobs that came with him, but we did lose Fergorin and I did have to lay hands to keep it going at the end.

However, his drop, when disenchanted only yielded a small pristine shard.  And so did the drop from Tavarok, the next boss.

Didn’t we just see his brother in The Nexus?

And so on through the instance.  Our intel was wrong, or we misread it.  Perhaps only blue drops from bosses for the heroic version would get us the right shards.  But we finished up the instance, got the achievement, turned in the quests (the reward for one of which did give us the right shard) and went looking for the right target.

I figured the dungeons up in Netherstorm might be the right place to go.

Netherstorm

Out there at Tempest Keep there are the three floating instances.  We decided to give those a try to see how we did.  We had to fly up there, then summon Ula, who did not have the flight point, but the meeting stone only takes two to summon.  You do, however, need a flying mount to get into the instances.  I chose one at random.

We’ll try this one

It turned out to be the Mechanar, and so we fought a lot of mechanicals.

As before, we ran in headlong and occasionally got ourselves into a bit of trouble.  I managed to buy the farm as we fought with Mechano-Lord Capacitus, the first boss.

Capacitus strikes me down

However, we were far enough along in the fight to prevail in the end.

This instance was a little more challenging for us to navigate.  The Mana Tombs was very linear, but the Mechanar is not… and we were already used to dungeons having maps, something that came with Wrath, but which was not added retroactively to Outland until some later date I guess.

But, once we were all back up we lurched forward and I ran about, going this way and that, until we found our way to Nethermancer Sepethrea, where we once again had some issues.

Nethermancer Sepethrea wipes the group

She was a bit tougher than we figured, so read up on her while we ran back from the wipe.  The guide suggested tapping and kiting the fire elementals, who are slow but dangerous.  In order to do that we set out to clear some space, going up the hallway on the far side of the room, which triggered the event for the final boss, Pathaleon the Calculator.

We did not calculate on this

We managed to survive that onslaught, defeated him, and got the achievement for the instance with Nethermancer Sepethrea still hanging out waiting for us.

We went back to her, tried to get the kiting thing going with Bjorid, but ended up just getting the fire elementals to run around after the rest of us until Sepethrea went down.  Instance done, and all  the blue loot disenchanted into large pristine shards.

At that point I think we had five of the eight required, so it was time for another run.  This time we chose one of the other floating instances, ending up in the Botanica.

This actually went very smoothly.  We were OP enough to take care of multiple groups of trash… the Wrath paladin “AOE all the things!” tanking method working out very well for me… and we managed to make our way around the instance… still could have used a map… until we arrived at War Splinter, the final boss.

Arrival at Warp Splinter

That fight, like all the others in the instance, went our way without much drama and we were soon done and in possession of enough large pristine shards for Ula to… start working on the next set of ingredients to get enchanting up into the Wrath range.

I am just glad I managed to get myself through engineering in Outland and into the Wrath era without as much effort being required.