Category Archives: entertainment

April in Review

The Site

Well, the MMO Bloggers Feed in my side bar got a last minute reprieve when IFTTT decided not to cut off Pinboard support on April 4th.

FeedlyPinboard

Pretty much the synopsis…

That was probably a good thing as my experiments with Delicious created RSS feeds have been a complete flop.  Not only do they have ads injected into the feed… which I get, they have to make money somehow… but something between Delicious and WordPress.com isn’t picking up the feed as it updates.  So while I look at the raw RSS and see new things being added, the feed just sits with the first couple of items.  Bleh.

Meanwhile, nobody has suggested anything about the Google+ syndication issue I mentioned last month, which I am going to take as a sign that either nobody really cares about Google+ syndication or nobody noticed that my posts stopped appearing there.  Probably the latter.

In addition, because I have a Google login that I use to comment on Blogger sites, I made a blog over there to point to this one since my Google profile only likes blogs they host.  But as I was tinkering with various RSS and feed options, I thought I figured out how to get anything that posted here to also post straight to that site as well.  I put that in place but never actually tested it.

Imagine my surprise when I passed by the blog half way into the month and found that it worked.  So I renamed the site The Redundant Ancient Gaming Noob.  The only problem is that it takes the post as published and never picks up any revisions, so all my original typos are there. (And I am too lazy to go fix them… though it takes a while to poll, so if I fix them right after I hit the “Publish” button… which, due to some lesser known physical property of the universe,  is the only time I can actually see my own typos… then I can catch them in time.)  Still, it seems to work.  Not sure it is much use and I figured the whole thing our about nine and a half years too late for me to jump ship to the Blogger platform.

And, finally, I thought I might not have anything to complain about when it came to WordPress.com this month, and then they decided to change the interface for doing inline links in such a way that they are more annoying AND you can easily delete them by accident.  Since that is a feature I use constantly… just look at them all in this post… that bit of nonsense has had me fuming for days.  It is like they never think things through.

One Year Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right?

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  They also had a beta for the Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot longer than just a year ago.

Five Years Ago

Of course, there was some April foolery both here and at Blizzard.

I also wrote something about magic quadrants.

Sanya Weathers had one of the best quotes about MMO gamers ever, made all the more amusing by its truth.

Battlefront.com released a completely new version of their original WWII Combat Mission series.

Wargaming.net released World of Tanks.

SOE’s spy themed MMO, The Agency, was officially cancelled.

We got a PlayStation 3.  And then the PlayStation Network got hacked.  At least I could still play Blu-Ray disks and stream Netflix.

The instance group got together and decided to try out EverQuest II Extended, the one-time separate free to play version of EverQuest II.  However, the game immediately began to kick us in the teeth for daring to do solo content as a group.

Being there in EQIIx also meant looking at what the cash store had to offer.  Some of this stuff is gone now in the post merger era of EQIIFlying mounts are still around.  And some idea, like selling max-level characters, would have to wait a while to come back.

And Potshot and I were still playing EverQuest.  We moved on from Unrest to Lake Rathetear and spent an evening there.  Then it was on to Kerra Island and finally we made it to Runnyeye, at which point SOE also went down due to the PSN hacking.  That pretty much ended our EverQuest adventures for 2011.

I did have to explain EverQuest to my daughter.  Her foundation in MMOs is World of Warcraft.

Ten Years Ago

ANet releases its first post-launch Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Factions. It only took them a year, too.  Right, Blizzard?  See?

Auto Assault went live, perhaps the first “troubled at launch” MMO I am personally aware of that fails to get past its issues.  The game ends up being shuttered by NCsoft 19 months down the road.  It is, for a while, the poster child for MMO launch failures.

Nintendo announced the name of their new console, slated to replace the GameCube.  Known up to that point only by its code name “Revolution,” Nintendo said it was going to call it the “Wii.”

Viacom spent $102 million to purchase Xfire.  According to Viacom: “Xfire and its users fit squarely into the Company’s multiplatform strategy to build an engaging universe of music, gaming, entertainment, news, networking and interactivity for focused audiences.”  They also thought NeoPets were worth splurging on as well.

Featured Sites of the Month

For this month’s featured MMO Blog I want to bring your attention to:

Kirith Kodachi has been plugging away for more than a decade at his blog.  While not initially about MMOs, he fell into EVE Online at about the same time I did (I beat him by 10 days), at which point it began to take over his blog, a situation that persists through to today.  EVE is just a crazy game that is fun to write about, and it has been interesting to watch our parallel, yet very different, trajectories through New Eden.

Then of the “other” site of the month, I want to point you at is:

While zKillboard now gives you something of a battle report with its related kills option, I much prefer the output from the Battle Report Tool.  It draws data from zKillboard to piece together the raw details about who shot whom and which ships got blown up and how much ISK it was all worth.  While I am not all about the kill mails, I do like looking at battle reports this site generates in order to understand what happened.  I often have a sense in a battle if we’re doing well or not, but this helps quantify what just happened.

Most Viewed Posts in April

Well, I can write every day of the week about EVE Online, but nothing brings in traffic like a World of Warcraft post.

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2016
  2. Blizzard, Nostalrius, and the Classic Server Question
  3. Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?
  4. War Footing, War Fever
  5. FCON Leaves The Imperium
  6. SMA Leaves The Imperium
  7. World War Bee – What’s in a Name?
  8. WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers
  9. Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead
  10. The Russian Complication
  11. FCON Shows Up in Immensea
  12. CSM 11 Announced – Xenuria Wins at Last

Search Terms of the Month

Claude Ring
[Once I saw that, I made an alt with that name]

origin unifies your gaming life
[The way your mom organizes your trading cards]

legion gonna suck
[And haters gonna hate]

if you change world of warcraft payment plan do you get a refund
[no]

lotro level store
[I don’t think the cash shop is quite there yet]

what do you get after you complete the national pokedex
[Your life back?]

Diablo III

I haven’t really played much Diablo III this past month, except to go in once Season 5 ended to clean up my storage situation.  It is nice to have everything combined into the common storage, but the fact that the game mails you all of your seasonal stuff was kind of a pain.  Okay, maybe I should have recycled some of those legendary items I held onto, because it took a while to collect all the items and then sort them out into different boxes.

EVE Online

The war goes on.  On the down side, we’ve lost almost all our sovereignty.  On the up side, we don’t have to go very far to find fun.  There has been an almost continuous supply of fleet ops from Saranen for the last few weeks.  I am starting to think the war effort depends mostly on Boat holding out.  He has been running fleets every day for hours at a stretch.  Best fleets to be on though.

Oh, and there was the Citadel expansion that has the potential to change everything in New Eden.

EverQuest II

I have pottered around on the Stormhold nostalgia server off and on this month.  EQII is less of a solo game for me than others.  I don’t think I have ever played for more than a week or so without ending up in a guild with at least a few people I know.  But it is fun.  The pace is slow and it is relaxing if I have a couple of free hours.  My shadow knight is level 22 and fumbling around between Nek forest and Butcherblock.

Minecraft

I swear I meant to do a Minecraft post this month.  Actually I have a few.  But I never quite got there.  News of the moment from the war in New Eden and Blizzard managed to preempt tales of building.  Still, if I look at Raptr, I spent more time in Minecraft than any other game in April… though that might be because Raptr stopped tracking EVE Online when I upgraded to the new launcher.  Doh!  I have to remember to manually enter that time, and I forget more often than I remember.

Pokemon

I have been carrying on with Pokemon Blue.  Another gym badge down.  Progress has been slow in part because it remains the fourth item on my list of things to play of late, and because it is a game I don’t play sitting at my desk in front of my computer.  As such, I never launch Pokemon by default, I have to actively want to play it.  Still, I have time to finish.  Pokemon Sun & Moon are not due until winter.

World of Warcraft

I did not actually PLAY WoW in April, aside from logging in to check something out on a level 20 character.  But I did write about it.  I didn’t even write that much, but if you look at the top posts for the month, WoW was definitely a big topic.  The whole vanilla/classic/special server thing opened up a lot of emotions and I am sure we are not done with it yet.  I know I am not.

Coming Up

Summer is coming, and May is its harbinger… at least out here in Silicon Valley where despite what the calendar says it can feel like Summer from some point in April through until November.  Not sure that means much for the blog, aside from the fact that I might write more with the window open in the evenings.

The war in New Eden will carry on and we shall see who has the greater endurance.  CCP though, I am going to bet we are going to see a lot of post-Citadel patches in May.

The Warcraft movie is just a month and ten days away, so I expect to see Blizzard ramping up on that pretty strongly while trying to go back to ignoring the whole vanilla server drama it stirred up by shutting down Nostalrius.

Speaking of Blizzard, their latest title, Overwatch, will go live this month.  I am not really interested in playing myself… and my daughter, who wants to play, is fuming about the lack of MacOS support… but another game from Anaheim means that much less focus on WoW.  It isn’t a zero sum thing, but a company can only put out so much PR before it is trying to talk over itself.

Also, isn’t Daybreak supposed to ship Landmark this spring?  May is the last full month of spring left this year… well, that and 20 days of June.  That will be a thing.

I will write something… or finish writing something… about Minecraft.

And… what else is coming up in May?

Friday Bullet Points from Beyond the Blog

Or just some tidbits I want to bring up which didn’t quite justify posts of their own.

Nintendo and More Nostalgia Validation

As part of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, Nintendo released Virtual Console version of the original Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on February 27th of this year.

Old games come to the Virtual Console

Old games come to the Virtual Console

They just reported some sales numbers, which included more 1.5 million copies of those three titles.  Not bad for 20 year old games.  Of course, as I noted, vanilla Pokemon, if you will, plays pretty well.

EverQuest II hits Game Update 100

I can’t recall if EQII has gone through every number, 1-99, with updates, but still, hitting 100 is something of note.  And this update has a bit of a nostalgia twist to it.  While I’m not exactly thrilled about the owl mounts, the re-use of Zek, the orcish wastes zone for additional content has me happy.  It has always been one of my favorites among the original zones, probably for its consistent/coherent “orcs, orcs, orcs” theme.

I won’t be playing it however.  For openers, I think my highest level characters are still in Kunark… which is late 2007 content.  And then there is the fact that I am still pottering around on the Stormhold nostalgia server, where I am level 22.

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Nostalgia on Wayne!  Often the theme of this blog.

However, Stormhold still seems to be lively enough.  There aren’t five versions of The Commonlands running any more, but Freeport always has a couple versions running due to population.  Still, it is nostalgia one way or the other.  That seems to be a theme of late.

Blizzard Might Give You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor

Way back after Blizz announced the Warlords of Draenor expansion, I had a post about phishing attempt offering a free version of the expansion.  One of the key tells was Blizz giving you a free copy of… well… anything.

Of course, things change.  As Keen reports, Blizz now has an offer out to long lapsed subscribers offering them some free game time as well as a FREE copy of Warlords of Draenor.

Nostalgic old WoW logo, image swiped from Keen and cropped

Nostalgic old WoW logo, image swiped from Keen and cropped

Blizz must be staring at the reality of a long spring/summer until WoW Legion hits.  They stopped announcing subscription numbers last year, but it would be hard to imagine they have gone up from 5.5 million in the last six months.

Of course, this offer has only gone out to people who didn’t purchase Warlords of Draenor, which is making me think about my pre-order of WoW Legion.  Given that my post-Cataclysm experiences in WoW have generally been best when I am late to the expansion party… being a year late to Mists of Panderia was excellent timing… I am tempt to just cancel my pre-order and wait a year or so until Blizz is ready to give me a free copy of WoW Legion.  Or until they open a retro server.  One or the other.

DC Universe Online and on XBox One

Well, the first title for the company formerly known as SOE has made it to the XBox.  As promised earlier this year, the five year old DC Universe Online has gone live on the Microsoft console platform.

XBox One! Would you like to know more?

XBox One! Would you like to know more?

Back during the Daybreak transition, this was one of Smed’s selling points, the ability to get titles on to XBox.  We shall see if it was worth the effort.  But at least they made their “Spring 2016” target.  Making dates is generally a good sign.

Diablo III Season 6 Starts Tonight

Just a passing note on this.  I had a lot of fun with Diablo III and Season 5… right up until the moment I got that last achievement and stopped logging in.  Goal driven much?  Still, the Season thing seems to work well, especially for those of us who are goal drive.  And here comes Season 6.

It has a 6 on a leaf, because leaves are seasons or something

It has a 6 on a leaf, because leaves are seasons or something

However I am not sure at this point if Season 6 is in the cards for me.  I might need to skip a season to keep it fresh.  I would want to play a fresh character again, but not another crusader, so I would have to figure that out.  And I would have to see if the rewards appeal to me at all.

EVE Vegas is Coming

One of the final announcement at EVE Fanfest this past weekend was the date for EVE Vegas this year, which has sort of become the US EVE Fanfest.   The official EVE Vegas site has all the details.

The would be Halloween weekend

The would be Halloween weekend

Tickets went on sale while players were still in Iceland and the early bird discount tickets were gone in a flash.  I am tempted to go.  I had a good time last year.  However, Halloween weekend seems like an awkward time to plan such an event.  It will definitely not be an “off” weekend for the strip, which means prices for everything will be up and venues will be crowded.  Not a problem for the party animals I am sure, but for a grumpy old guy who prefers discussion groups with maybe four or five people, this might not be the ideal date.  Anyway, tickets are going fast so my decision to go or not might be made for me.

Anyway, those are all the items that I had on my list of notes.  Tomorrow there will be an end of month post and then we will be in May.

BB74 – Bump and Grind

This month’s blog banter , 74th in the series, asks the following:

So when this Blog Banter goes live Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a “nerd-boner”. What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

The most important item for me, personally?  That is a tough question.

First of all, there was a lot of stuff brought up at Fanfest.  CCP has a summary page of topics posted for each day (day one, day two, and day three) which gives you a nice list to choose from.  And from those posts I could probably justify at least half a dozen as important or interesting or just plain fun.

I particularly liked CCP Quant noting in his presentation during the keynote that the ratio of player assets in the game, 3,070 trillion ISK worth, to liquid ISK in the game, 978 trillion ISK, comes out to just about 3.14, or pi.  (Also, CCP Quant is NOT having your PLEX market manipulation theories, which might be the most amusing post-Fanfest read.)

And there were plenty of things that were important to the game, not the least of which was the new producer, CCP Ghost, giving us a vision of a better new player experience that might actually engage players rather than drive them away. (Also during the keynote, official video of which is now up.)

But given all those choices, I am going to pluck a small item off the list, one that showed up on day two of Fanfest and which did not take up much time.  It was, however, big enough to make it to the day two summary page.

  • Ship bumping – at maximum for 3 minutes
    A small, but important change is coming. A ship will get into warp no later than 3 minutes after the warp was initiated, regardless of any bumping, as long as the warp engines aren’t disabled (warp scrambled, bubble etc.).

When this has been implemented, a ship will enter warp after three minutes even if it is being bumped out of alignment.   Right now a ship, especially a big ship like a freighter that takes some time to align, can be bumped off its alignment indefinitely and without consequence, holding it in place until it can be blown up.

Clearly this is a swipe at suicide ganking in high sec, where somebody bumping a freighter on a gate in Niarja, a prime ganking system between Jita and Amarr, isn’t any sort of news.  Happens every day.

But why pick this particular item?

Yes, I have been on both sides of the coin.  I have lost a ship to gankers, back before I knew that was even a thing, when I blithely auto-piloted my way through Niarja with a valuable cargo.  And, during Burn Amarr, I tried my hand at the ganker side, joining the catalyst swarm to kill three freighters.

A Dead Obelisk

A Dead Obelisk with a bumping Machariel flying past…

Fair to say that suicide ganking isn’t really my thing in New Eden, so what brought me to this upcoming change?

For me, this change illustrates the intersection of a few threads that permeate the game.

First, there is the desire for CCP to not restrict how players play the game.  They want a wild west sandbox where we can create the content rather than trying to force us into some standard roles.  There is no playing EVE Online wrong, though you can still play it badly.

From that point of view, suicide ganking is completely legitimate and CCP is on record as such.  It is emergent game play and they will not do anything that will kill it off completely.   There will be no “safe” high sec.

Second, there is the desire by CCP to keep things in some state of balance.  If something is too easy, if some ship is too strong, if some aspect of the game seems to be killing off others, CCP is motivated to tinker with the game to try and fix that.  They have to, because while there is no “wrong” way to play EVE Online, people will flock to anything that presents itself as an optimal choice.  As Edward Catronova, something of a fan of EVE, once said,

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

Or, in this case, being an immortal space pilot from the future doesn’t turn that off.  When drone assist was the was to win battles, fleets of carriers and Dominixes and Ishtars ruled the space lanes.  When heavy missile spewing battlecruisers were over powered, Drakes were everywhere.  When insta-locking Svipuls are totally too good, guess what is a feature of every half decent gate camp?

So CCP steps in… or, in the case of Svipuls, will hopefully step in soon… and changes things up, nerfs one thing or boosts another.

And, thus, when suicide ganking seems too easy, CCP feels compelled to ratchet up the difficulty, as they have done on a number of occasions over the years.  They don’t want to kill it, they just want to make it more of a challenge.

Of course, how well they have manage that leads me to the third thread, which is are unexpected consequences.  CCP is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to making changes to the game.  There are a couple hundred people at CCP at most looking at game mechanics, and many less on any given change, while there are tens of thousands of players looking for the optimum fit or tactic or whatever.

The mental processing power alone favors the players who will optimize after any change… something that isn’t improved when CCP won’t listen when players, or the CSM, point out the obvious flaws.

So we have, once again, CCP attempting to tweak things against suicide ganking, hoping to tamp it down some.  But we have yet to see how players will respond.  Will this make things more difficult for suicide gankers and cut back on kills, or will things simply settle down on a new optimum path?  Will it be as easy as just having a sacrificial warp scrambler hit the target every two minutes and fifty seconds to keep it in place?

And what else will come from this?  How many capital ships in low or null sec will escape now because somebody is holding them down on a gate by bumping, but the three minute timer lets them go?  What other ripples will come from this particular pebble being tossed into the pond that is New Eden?

I always find this sort of thing interesting or amusing or important because it is, in its way, the essence of the interaction between CCP and its players, the give and take, the friction, the way things develop and progress.  It isn’t anything unique to EVE Online, but these little items feel like they have more impact in New Eden than in places like Azeroth or Norrath.

Anyway, it was is a small thing, but one that jumped out at me.  And the question didn’t demand the biggest reveal or most dramatic new feature, just what was important to me.

That is my response to BB74.  Here are some of the other submissions:

 

Citadels Arrive in New Eden

The long awaited, anticipated, feared, speculated over, and otherwise examined Citadel expansion arrives on the Tranquility server today.  Seriously, we’ve been all over this since EVE Vegas last year.

Coming Spring 2016

Now Available

Citadels, the new structures in New Eden are here and will likely change the game in unexpected ways.  There are four citadel types:

  • Astrahus (Medium)
  • Fortizar (Large)
  • Keepstar (Extra Large)
  • Upwell Palatine Keepstar (Extra Large, Extra Special, one per New Eden)

And there are all sorts of details that players will need to sort out as time goes along.

For me, one of the more interesting items is how players will attack citadels.  In what I can only see as something of a rebuke of Fozzie Sov, players will actually shoot things rather than fly around them in circles running an entosis link module.  To my mind, shooting something is always the best option.  CCP has tried to give us a feel for shooting them in its cinematic trailer.

So a huge change there, with CCP relenting somewhat at the last minute on the whole tax thing meant to drive people to use citadels.  I expect the unexpected and for comedy to ensue.

And, if that were not enough, there are a range of capital ship changes going in today as well.  Starting off there is the introduction of the Force Auxiliary capitals, already commonly called “Fax Machines.”

Fax Machines

Fax Machines are all Vertical

They come in four flavors, one for each major NPC faction, and replace the triage role that carriers used to perform.  They are:

  • Apostle (Amarr)
  • Minokawa (Caldari)
  • Lif (Minmatar)
  • Ninazu (Gallente)

Carriers and super carriers will no longer use drones, but will restricted to fighters.  Fighters themselves will have new functionality and controls.  A lot of things will transform with the expansion drop, triage carriers into fax machines, old fighters into new, and drones into some location you may not have considered.  The transition is covered in a forum post.

I have a carrier that will still be a carrier after the update and which will be pretty empty since all the drones will get dumped out and I never bought any fighters for it.  But, then, I have only ever used it to haul around subcaps.

In addition, dreadnoughts are getting rebalanced in order to turn them into the gun platforms they ought to be.  Titans are getting a rebalance and new doomsday weapons.  Carriers are getting a rebalance too, and so are supercarriers.  There are also pirate faction capital ships and capital level escalations for anomalies and new anti-sub cap weapons for capitals and the removal of ewar immunity for supers.

And then there is the usual round of fixes and updates and changes to various aspects of the game, most of which (but never all) are summed in the patch notes and on the updates page.

There are enough things going on with this expansion that if it were the old days I would have started training a long skill.  Even CCP is running long on just the deployment.

But, since my skill queue already goes out past 500 days right now, I am not so worried about that.  Still, I suspect there will be issues and some patches coming pretty quickly given the scale of things.

Wait, there it is, the announcement… the expansion is live and the server is up… for now.

The official launch announcement, complete with links for feedback, is up on the CCP site.

But even if the server goes down we will at least have a new theme song to listen to.

Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?

The developers however prefer to see the game continuously evolve and progress, and as such we have no plans to open classic realms or limited expansion content realms.

February 2011 repost of an earlier Blizzard response

People have been asking for a Vanilla server for a long time now.  That quote is from the old forums, which are no longer available.  When Tom Chilton stands up and loudly declares a vanilla server can’t be done and, even if it could be, that nobody would really want it, I believe his real motivation is encapsulated above. That has always been the sense of things that I have taken from the company and its statements.  They want to move forward, that today is always better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be better still.

That quote at the top was posted less than three months after the Cataclysm expansion removed the original 1-60 game content of Azeroth.  But it was brought forward from the old forums, so it certainly pre-dates Cataclysm.  The whole vanilla server idea isn’t new.  It didn’t just come up this month.  Customers asking for it isn’t new.  Blizzard saying “no” isn’t new.  Even this reminder that Blizzard knew people wanted the old world back when it was still current and available, yet decided to do nothing with it until enough time passed to allow Tom Chilton to say it is too hard isn’t even that new.

A day that will live in infamy...

A day that will live in infamy…

What is new, what has sparked this constant smoldering hum of people asking for some sort of classic server… probably since The Burning Crusade launched… into an actual conflagration was Blizzard going after a private/pirate vanilla server that was an outlet for 150K players looking for that old school experience.

Serving the Nostalrius server with a cease and desist notice got people stirred up and brought the question of classic servers, long simmering, to a full boil.  We got a few choice blog posts in our corner of the internet when this kicked off:

Blizzard immediately tried to dismiss the whole thing in the way they always have.  However, the tide was already rushing in and, in a world where 5 million subscriptions, down from 10 million a little over a year ago, is the new normal somebody, and the game missed bringing in a billion dollars in revenue for the first time in a long stretch, somebody at Blizzard apparently decided that they might want to listen to that increasingly loud segment of the World of Warcraft fan base.

And so there was a blue post in the forums this morning, which I will quote in full at the end of the post.

It starts out with a statement that Blizzard’s silence on the subject shouldn’t be taken as a lack of attention on their part.  After years of silence, punctuated by terse and glib dismissals of the idea, that seems a bit disingenuous.  I mean, I have your pre-Cataclysm quotes handy if you want them.  So I will take it as read that there has suddenly been enough noise of late that they are actually taking the idea seriously for the first time.

That is followed up by a statement that Blizzard has to protect its IP and doesn’t know how to grant Nostalrius any sort of license to operate that would also protect the World of Warcraft brand.  I might suggest they check out what SOE did with Project 1999, but Blizzard hasn’t been interested in copying EverQuest since 2005 or so.  So Nostalrius will likely remain dead.

Then there is the return to why Blizzard won’t do a classic server; because it is hard.  If it were easy, of course they would do it, but it isn’t, so they won’t.  Pre-Cataclysm Azeroth is forever gone from Blizzard servers.

The post then offers up the idea of some sort of special, fresh start server that sounds remarkably like something I outlined in a comment over at SynCaine’s blog and what Rohan wrote about at Blessing of Kings. (And refined in a follow up post.) My own statement from about two weeks back:

Blizz has never been a company to take a step in a direction that hasn’t been well trod or to take big steps when little steps would do. So them jumping to a Vanilla server, even if they could get past the mental block and do it without too much cost, seems unlikely.

I think they would first venture into an alternate rules server test, something like a “hard mode” server. Crank up MOB damage and hit points, tone down exp gain, normal mode dungeons tuned up to not be face rolls, no transfers or insta-level characters, no heirlooms, flying restricted to only in Outland after 60 70 and Northrend after 68, 78 and some bits and pieces like that. Throw in some special achievements… or maybe just a gold border on current achievements that you get when you do them in hard mode, and I bet that would be a draw.

That is, after all, pretty much all SOE is doing with their nostalgia servers.

I think there is some merit in that option.  A fresh server experience with some differences and greater difficulty with everybody starting off at level 1 would be a draw for some.  Bhagpuss has said in the past that he wouldn’t want to play what would be simply a more difficult version of the same content available on live servers.  And that is a legitimate point of view, certainly.  But some people would.  I bet a lot of people would.

Yes, I know, that isn’t vanilla.  While I actually like some of the 1-60 Cataclysm content myself, having run through every zone now for my attempt at the Loremaster achievement, it still isn’t the same.  It isn’t old Westfall, old Deadmines, old Stranglethorn Vale with its myriad of pages to collect, or old Sunken Temple with its long series of challenges.

But it might be a start, a step in the right direction, an admission by Blizzard that their same old routine of the last eleven years of an expansion every two years with a one year content drought can’t just go on indefinitely.  Maybe they are finally feeling the need to do something different, to offer up a server that isn’t PvE, PvP, PvE-RP, or PvP-RP.

World of Warcraft is still the cash cow at Blizzard.  It still has a big team.  It still could make a billion dollars a year in revenue if it could attract back some of the lapsed player base with something a little different.  Maybe this is the first step to vanilla.

I doubt it.  I think that so long as Tom Chilton is calling the shots, Blizzard will continue down its standard path. (He is becoming the Blizzard version of Smed when it comes to quotes, especially after calling Garrisons the WoW version of housing.)  But it could happen.

Is today’s post a sign of a shift at Blizzard, or an attempt to calm people down and hope the whole issue goes away once the Warcraft movie premiers and the WoW Legion expansion launches?

Others writing on the topic, updated as they pop up:

Today’s blue post quoted in full after the cut:

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Capitals at Okagaiken

HURRICANES – OP3 – THOMAS LEAR FLEET – STRATOP – STANDING FLEET GET IN THIS – EVERYONE – HOSTILES CAPITALS TACKLED GO GO GO GO

Jabber Ping, 2016-04-26 02:30:08 New Eden time

I happened to be sitting in front of my computer when that ping, my wife was out of the house and my daughter was otherwise occupied, so it was clearly time to log in and shoot something.

I got on, jumped in the Hurricane I had sitting in the back room of the Quafe Company Warehouse, joined the fleet, and connected up to voice coms.  It was go go go time.

We got ourselves sorted out fairly quickly and undocked.  FC Thomas Lear gave us a free burn destination, Okagaiken.  Just five gates to travel and the promise of hostile supers trapped at the far end.

We burned off as quick as we could and, as we approached our destination, Thomas Lear told us to hold our cloak when we jumped through into Okagaiken.  Sure enough, just there on the other side of the gate was a pile of Psychotic Tendencies capital ships in a ball between the gate and a blue water planet.

Psychotic Tendencies capitals spotted

Psychotic Tendencies capitals spotted

When we were through in force we anchored up and set out after the enemy.  We were told to start shooting fighters as the situation sorted itself.  We took shots at a couple of carriers before Aliventi in an Archon was spotted away from the pack.  We headed for him to bump him further from his support then shot him up fairly quickly.

Aliventi about to go down

Aliventi about to go down

Once he was down we turned back towards the main force and tried to take on a another carrier.  However, by then the enemy had reinforcements bridging into the system to help.

About them I saw the fighters on my overview begin targeting me.  I had clearly been called primary by someone.  I called for shield reps and our logi got on me before the fighters began to hit in force.  However, it was not enough and my Hurricane blew up leaving me in my pod.

Thomas was getting people to align and warped us all away, me following along in my pod.  Then we turned about and as I was setting the self-destruct we were warped off again before I could cancel in, aborting my attempt.  At the far end I got somebody to pod me and was back in Saranen.

However, by that point orders had come down waving off anybody else coming to Okagaiken.  The enemy had arrived in force and it was decided not to feed them kills.  The fleet docked up in the station at Okagaiken and waited for the enemy to clear off.

The exchange was a bit in our favor, with the battle report indicating we lost 66 ships worth 4.8 billion ISK while the enemy lost 33 ships worth 5.8 billion ISK.  A short, sharp encounter.  Here are a few more screen shots:

Fast Times with Boat in Fade

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Deklein is gone.  I have a Harpy, a Burst, and a Scimitar left in a couple of stations up there, ships I dropped off in out of the way places.  But that does not mean that things have been quiet.

If you have been listening to The Mittani on The Meta Show, and given the rage in chat some of you just can’t help yourselves I guess, you have heard that The Imperium is picking its battles, fighting where it can win.  The target for that has been Fade, where Pandemic Horde has set up shop.  If they have came to the North seeking fights, we have obliged them.  In addition, we have also taken back a few systems in the region.

Fade - April 25, 2016

Fade – April 25, 2016

Fade, once entirely conquered by the Moneybadgers, has eight systems controlled by The Imperium as of this point.  We may not hold them for long, but now they have to come back and retake them.

A large part of this attack on PH has been led by Dabigredboat who has been leading fleets of bombers and coordinating with interceptor gangs to keep the horde busy while racking up a large number of kills, putting GSF at the top of the list over at zKillboard.

zKillboar Lists - April 25, 2016

zKillboard Lists – April 25, 2016

While I have been hearing about the exploits of Dabigredboat, or Boat, or DBRB, I wasn’t able to get into one of his fleets until Sunday.  The ping showed up announcing that he wanted to try something new.  Leaving behind his stealth bombers and interceptors, Cormorants were the ship of the day and he would be handing out 100 for free to those who joined his fleet.

Free ships got a response and he actually had to get 30 more together to hand out and, once the pre-op nonsense and confusion was resolved, we undocked our fleet.  No logi, no links, a couple of support ships, and a whole lot of Cormorants.

Cormorants undock

Cormorants undock

I actually splurged and bought a skin for my Cormorant, the Guristas 30-Day version, which somebody thoughtfully stocked in our staging system.

Guristas Cormorant Sking

Guristas Cormorant Skin

Then it was off to the usual destination for DBRB this past week, O1Y-ED in Fade.

It was another fine example of DBRB in action.  He is loud and excitable.  He gets frustrated quickly when people makes mistakes, but that passes as quickly as it shows up.  And clearly enjoys taking advantage of the enemy when they make a mistake.  We rolled up on our target, the staging station for PH.

Aptly named or not?

Aptly named or not?

DBRB has the area around the station well bookmarked, so we began what would become a routine over the next two hours of warping, aligning, and warping off again while looking for a tactical advantage.

The horde however, wasn’t sure what to do about us for a bit.  We were able to knock off a few ships around the station, the best probably being a Vargur that apparently felt he could tank a bunch of Cormorants.  That loss alone was probably worth more than our entire fleet.

We did get a couple of small surges where the pattern for the afternoon seemed to get set.  Horde seemed set to headshot DBRB at every opportunity, and he ended up losing four Cormorants during our time in system.  However they never managed to pod him and so he was able to re-ship… somebody in fleet would jump out of their Cormorant and DBRB would take it and continue to lead us in the fight.

Eventually PH got together a Ferox fleet and started to chase us around in that.  That was not a winning proposition for us, so we warped around them for a while… occasionally hitting a lone Ferox that wandered off from the pack…  until they tired of that.  We remained trailing our coats within site of their station.

Cormorants still there...

Cormorants still there…

Then it was time to come after us with frigates and destroyers, which is when the kill mails began to pour in for us.  There were a couple of points where we landed in amongst a PH formation and took down targets as fast as we could lock and shoot.  The battle report I was looking at after the fight showed we had racked up more than 500 kills during our visit. However, it kept updating after that and the total now appears to be beyond 600 kills.

O1Y-ED Report

O1Y-ED Report

Not all of those kills were ours.  There was another group zipping around hitting PH.  But not all of those deaths were ours either.  Still, out time there added greatly to the total of kills in the system over the preceding 24 hour period.

The most effective response to us came from a few intrepid stealth bomber pilots who managed to score hits now and again.  For a while there we were able to catch bombers or warp away in time… except for people who were not aligned as instructed.  Towards the end though we got caught a couple of times.  When we finally turned for home I had taken a few hits and was about halfway through my armor.

Shield regeneration kept me going!

Shield regeneration kept me going!

So my ship was looking a bit chewed up when I arrived back in Saranen.

Armor damage on the Cormorant

Armor damage on the Cormorant

Of course, my ship had some additional markings as well.

Kill marks

Kill marks

I think those are two “5 kill” round-up marks on the ship, though I am a little confused on the whole count, as I only got 7 final blows during the fight.  This was a handout ship however, so maybe it had three kills on it already?  I didn’t check before the fight and I *think* I can see marks on the side in one of the screen shots above that might be the same marks… so I might be looking in the wrong spot.

Edit: Those are the kill marks, the kill marks are located here:

7 kill marks in a neat row

7 kill marks in a neat row

Anyway, I got home safe with the remains of the fleet and repaired the ship for next time.  DBRB let us keep the ships for now.  We shall see if I can get out with it again and add to its kills.

Overall though it was one of the best fleets I have been on in a while and a prime example of what happens when Boat is let loose in the right situation.