Category Archives: entertainment

New Eden For Sale?

The hot rumor of the day, fanned by a post at Bloomberg, is that CCP is looking to sell out, having a couple of potential bidders lined up, with the value of the deal being rumored at near one billion dollars.

CCPlogo

What does CCP have that is worth a billion dollars?  Let’s see…

  • EVE Online, along with all the hardware to run it in a server farm in England.
  • A contract with a Chinese firm to run EVE Online in China
  • EVE Valkyrie and EVE Gunjack, which run on a variety of devices in the fragmented, kiddie-pool sized market that is VR today
  • The source code for Dust 514
  • A monument by the sea in Reykjavik
  • A bunch of copies of Hættuspil
  • Hilmar’s collection of Lazy Town video tapes
  • The largest stash of Quafe in the known universe
  • Something else?
Hat tip to Rhavas...

An untapped resource?

Basically, EVE Online and the VR titles… and word is that there isn’t much money in making VR titles currently, so unless CCP has some real special tech in that regard, New Eden is the biggest asset.

Meanwhile, CCP also has a couple investors in the form of Novator Partners and General Catalyst Partners.  CCP isn’t in the Daybreak situation of being wholly owned and bent over by an investor, but those two companies aren’t in because they like video games.  They are both invested in order to get paid.  And selling CCP is a way to get paid.

While there is nothing concrete so far… the initial report says that a sale isn’t the only option being explored… there is enough out there to make you believe it could be true.  For example, CCP has been moving operations to the UK.  That makes a bit of sense for an Icelandic company due to logistics.  But if you want to sell a company, it makes a lot more sense for it to be in an international market hub like the UK than the economic backwater that is Iceland.

And then there is the rumor itself, which got floated somewhere for some reason.  Is it a trial balloon to see how the Icelandic government reacts?  An attempt to get a few more bidders primed?  Or did somebody leak that to put pressure on CCP to close a deal?

Of course, in all of this, the big question is about the buyer.  Who is going to put out a billion dollars for CCP and its rather slim list of assets?

My money is on China, and specifically Tencent Holdings Limited, the firm that owns Riot Games.  They have the money for it and the stomach to buy a game like EVE Online.  After all, only League of Legends has a reputation for players worse than EVE Online.  Also, Riot has been the destination for a number of former CCP employees, why shouldn’t the company follow them?

I cannot see a US company like EA or Activision-Blizzard having any interest in CCP, if only because of the reputation EVE Online has.  Maybe some European company like CodeMasters might have some interest, but I don’t think they have the cash laying about.

It could be some other Chinese company.  I could see Perfect World Entertainment showing some interest.  But my knowledge of Chinese companies is sparse enough that I cannot come up with another option that clearly has the money and isn’t tied into some other deal that might make the acquisition awkward.

So that is the hot item of the day.  Who do you think wants to buy CCP, if anybody?

Others covering this topic (to be updated as posts show up):

Top Five Problems with EVE Online

It is like New Eden editorial week here at TAGN.

With Wednesday’s rambling rant I foolishly used EVE Online as an example of focus.  It was foolish because any mention of EVE Online will seem like an invite for somebody to come and hijack the comment thread and to complain that the game is dying because CCP is neglecting their little corner of space.

Revelations - November 2006

My first EVE Online expansion

“EVE is Dying” is a favorite topic in the community, and the reason is usually, as noted above, because CCP is neglecting some corner of the current user base.  But it is a long running MMORPG and one of the ways to keep an MMO from dying is to attract new players.  CCP has launched into that with Alpha clones and a revamped new player experience.  But there are still things standing in the way of new players joining the game.

The Name

It sounds like a porn site, or maybe something to promote feminine hygiene products.  What it doesn’t sound like is an internet spaceship MMORPG.

Yes, you and I know it is a biblical reference and that is used to include “the second genesis” in the title just to make that clear.  But absent that insight, if you were looking at a list of MMORPGs and wanted to play something in outer space, which are you going to look at first, something named after a popular science fiction franchise (SWTOR or STO maybe) or something that shares a name with one of the co-defendants in Apple-gate?

2003

That was the year that EVE Online launched.  Consoles of the time were the PlayStation 2, the original XBox, the GameCube, and the GameBoy Advance.  That was back when the first Call of Duty was launched, when Toontown Online kicked off, when EverQuest only have five expansions, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a big deal.

That make EVE Online pretty old in gaming years.  And while it has been pretty much constantly updated over its life, the years still weigh on the game.  An outside may dismiss it because of its age.  Some players like the game but simply wear out over time.  Bitter vets hang on, looking for one more high point, another good fight or memorable event that will make a story.  The rich get richer in ISK and skill points and new players can feel daunted entering a universe with a hierarchy often dictated by age time with the game, where corps and alliances can easily have a decade of history under their belt.

Oh That Reputation

Where to even start on this?  Be the villain?

EVE Online is a PvP MMORPG.  There is no flagging, no care bear server, no safety once you undock your ship.  PvP games have a reputation for attracting the worst people to start with.  The joke back in early EverQuest was that SOE rolled out PvP servers to concentrate all the assholes in their own corner and away from the rest of the player base.

Of course, CCP didn’t stop at simply making their game PvP  They allow things that would get you banned in WoW, all in furtherance of the sandbox.  They push that ideal so far that they can seem unsure as to whether or not you can cross a line, as we saw with the bonus room scandal or, more recently, anti-Semitic symbolism in the alliance tournament.

So the game has a reputation built on some bad events and enhanced by a legion of people who hate the game… or who hate the idea of the game, because they’ve clearly never logged in… and who clog up comment threads on gaming sites whenever a story about the game runs.

I was in a Facebook group for old Air Warrior players and at one point somebody put up a post asking what games everybody was playing currently.  I put EVE Online on my response, and another guy in the group just lost his head about it being a horrible game where people swat you to steal your stuff.  Now, granted, this guy was a Star Citizen fan boy who was dedicated destroying all other space sims to further the cause of his God, Chris Roberts (he eventually killed the group by spamming it with Star Citizen posts), but he wasn’t going on about how horrible Elite: Dangerous players were, just that it was a shadow of what Star Citizen would eventually be.  But he knew that hitting EVE with its reputation was an easy shot, something that would scare people away from this threat to his precious.

There are a lot of people out there eager to say bad things about New Eden, and a number of them are people paying to play the game.

The User Interface

The EVE Online store features a T-shirt that says, “How do I warp to something?” that would be very funny were it not so true.

I will grant that CCP had a serious problem in trying to represent three dimensional space travel on a 2D screen where there can be dozens to hundreds to thousands of things in space and around you.  The camera, brackets, the tactical overlay, and the overview work together to try and get you what you need to know.  And sometimes it is just the right balance and it works.

And then you hit bracket overflow and it is killing your performance so you have to turn them off, which makes the camera just a source of pretty pictures.  Meanwhile the overview has 50 pages of information in it so you sort by distance, but the FC wants you to sort by name and target somebody with a name close to yours alphabetically, only your name starts with “W” so you’re trying to find that and then another hostile fleet warps in range and now you aren’t sure who to target then the FC, realizing this, tells everybody to go to a destroyer only overview, but you scroll down the long list of overviews and find you don’t have one, but you have a frigate overview which includes destroyers so you select that and the enemy completely disappears because it is an old overview and doesn’t have T3 or command destroyers selected because when CCP adds new stuff it is off by default in overviews so you’re digging in the settings trying to find the right boxes to check and the FC tells the fleet to align but you’re almost there and you check them and suddenly the overview is populated by hostiles yellow boxing you and then the FC warps you off but you’re not aligned yet and are dead before you get off grid and the FC wants to know what they hell you were doing and you say, “Sorry, phone rang” and slink off because the real story is too much to say over coms and finally somebody pods you so you can log off.

True story.  And I had been playing the game for about 8 years when that happened so I was able to tell what was wrong and try to fix it on the fly.  To paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw “The overview is like the working class, if you cannot control it, it will seek to destroy you.”

And the overview is just one part of a UI that is often very unhelpful about telling you what you need to know to do what you want to do.  And not being able to do what you want to do because the UI isn’t helping can be hugely frustrating.

Ship and Module Complexity

I would love CCP to give us a count of how many people have that damage table about what damage type to use against which NPCs.  That so many people feel the need to put that there to remember what sort of ammo to load is a pretty clear sign of something.

As with the UI, CCP has a problem in that equipment in the game doesn’t map to most other entries in the MMORPG space.  Medieval fantasy is so popular in part because the gear is easy.  A helmet protects your head.  Some number shows you how well, and you can compare that to other helmets to see which one to wear.  A sword does damage.  Another number tells you how much and you can compare your sword against new ones.

Spaceships and the equipment for them though… a little more complex.

I consider myself lucky in that I started as Caldari back in 2006.  Missiles were a weapons option and missiles are easy.  I tinkered with rail guns, the other Caldari weapon system of, but went back to missiles.  There are only four basic flavors of missiles, one for each damage type, heat, explosive, kinetic, and electro-magnetic.

Missiles have flight time, so they do not apply damage immediately like the other options, but they don’t miss due to transverse movement.  No tracking worries, just get something in range, have the right flavor loaded, and shoot.

Of course, a new player picking ammo still have a slew of choices if they look up light missiles on the market.

Not shows, defender light missiles

Not shown, defender light missiles

Then there are rockets, which are the shorter ranger but higher damage alternative to light missiles which have their own parallel ammo selection.  And then there are the various flavors of launchers, modules which can enhance missile damage, hulls with bonuses to missiles, and even implants to improve missile performance.

Such variety exists for all the basic weapon systems for each empire, and that is just offense.  There is also defense, how to beef up your ships defenses or keep them repaired as well as mobility and targeting and stealth and scanning and probing and fleet boosts and probably a few more things I am forgetting.  The idea of giving Alpha clones access only to their own empire’s ships makes more sense when you look at all of this.  At least your Gallente pilot is just going to have to learn about drones and hybrid weapons, since lasers and projectiles won’t be an option.

Now, such complexity isn’t a bad thing from one angle.  There is enough rock-paper-scissors going on that there isn’t one absolute winning doctrine we all fly.  Theory crafting fits is a viable pastime in New Eden.  But for the new player… or the player that just wants to undock and shoot something without learning the fine craft of fitting… it is a serious issue.

Bonus Item: Terminology

POS, station, starbase, outpost, citadel, complex, depot, welp, gate, jump, cyno, beacon, bridge, bomb, smart bomb, hictor, dictor, tank, alpha, Alpha, point, web, scram, tackle, bubble, drag bubble, camp, gank, FC, anchor, logi, perch, scan, probe, and so on and so on and so on.

When EVE Online players speak or write about the game, we often drop into the jargon of the game, made more dense by our own shorthand for in-game concepts, that makes understanding what is going difficult for the outsider.

And sometimes it is difficult for the insider as well.  Earlier this week CCP announced that after next week’s patch players would no longer be able to deploy outposts.  I was pretty sure that meant the deployment of what we generally call “stations” in null sec, but I went and read it carefully to be sure.  But that didn’t stop people in the forums from jumping on this announcement thinking that CCP meant Player Owned Starbases, those structures built around a tower that have been, among other things, the only way to mine moons and build capital ships up until now.

Problems versus Problems

Having removed the barrier to entry that was the subscription (sort of) and assuming that the updated new player experience is no longer going to drive people away, those are what I see as the top five problems with EVE Online because they are barriers to getting new people to try the game and to help replace the attrition that any MMORPG faces over time.  To me that trumps most bitter vet complaints that are generally balance and mechanics issues.

Some of my list can’t be fixed.  The game will always be from 2003, and changing the name would cause more problems than it would solve at this point.  Other items on my list are double edge swords.  The reputation does bring some people to the game, as a challenge if nothing else, while the complexity of ship fitting gives the game depth and does lead to interesting choices. As for the UI… well, that has been a work in progress for 13 years.  It is better now that it was when I showed up in 2006.

But the fact that you can’t fix a problem, or can’t fix it easily, or can’t fix it today, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

Anyway, those are my picks.  I am sure you have your own ideas about what is wrong with EVE Online.  I won’t even argue with you in the comments.

Addendum: Or maybe some new masters will change some of these points.

The Pokemon 20th Anniversary Finishes Up with a Meloetta Event and More

As the end of 2016 looms, the final download event for the Pokemon 20th Anniversary celebration is at hand.  The last mythical/legendary Pokemon on the list is Meloetta.

The last anniversary download

The last anniversary download

Meloetta was introduced as a special event Pokemon in the generation V games, Pokemon Black & White and Pokemon Black Version 2 & White Version 2.  Since then, the only way to get it into the generation VI games was via the Poke Transporter part of Pokemon Bank.  So if you missed it back then, now is your chance to get one.

This is another direct download event, so there is no need to visit GameStop for a card.  The instructions for downloading Meloetta are on the Pokemon site.  As usual, the event is for Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS or 3DS XL.  I thought it *might* work on Pokemon Sun & Moon this month, but no such luck.

Still, there are things to get in Pokemon Sun & Moon.  There is a level 5 Munchlax still available for download until January 11, 2017 and the special Ash-Greninja that you get at the end of the demo version of the games that you can then transfer over to either Sun or Moon.  And just this past week they announced that the mythical Pokemon Magearna is available.

Magearna in Sun & Moon

Magearna in Sun & Moon

Magearna is not a download however.  Instead, once you finish the main storyline and defeat the usual champions at the end, you can scan a QA Code to get Magearna.  The details are available here.

I haven’t finished the story yet in Pokemon Sun & Moon yet.  I have been moving at a slow to moderate pace, trying to get to the next waypoint each evening.  But there are all sorts of side tasks to do as well, so I have been taking my time.

And then there is Pokemon Go, where the news has been leaked that the game will be teaming up with Starbucks for a promotional event starting today, with what sounds like a special Pokestop or Gym in every Starbucks location.  There is also a rumor that we may soon get an update that will add second generation Pokemon to those in the wild, giving people another 100 to catch.  I’ve only caught 100 out of the first batch of 150.

In Which I Ramble About Being All Things to All People

Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man

-The Dude

If you asked me what the most egregious flaw in MMORPG development has been over the history of the genre, I would say it was a “lack of focus.”

All together now, "Stay on target!"

All together now, “Stay on target!”

Overreach, trying to have too many features, trying to appeal to too many different audiences, listening to too many voices saying that they will give you money if only you support their pet feature, has ended up with a lot of time wasted on features that did not enhance a given game over time.

Vanguard is probably the poster child for this, a game that launched with too much breadth and not enough depth. (Star Citizen could claim that crown from Vanguard, save for the “we’re still in Alpha” loophole that will be going on for the foreseeable future.)  All those races, all those starting zones, PvP and different types of PvP servers, huge landscapes devoid of content, all running on server code not ready for prime time.

The game wanted to leap past day one EverQuest and be EverQuest five expansions into its life.  Instead it jumped down a well and was on life support for the next seven and a half years, finally being let go when even a free to play conversion couldn’t make it economically viable.

That trajectory might have been different had the vision for launch not been so grandiose.  A few races, one continent, and a focus on content around that might have led to a different outcome.  Maybe.  They still would have needed more time on server code, but maybe with less emphasis on a huge world they could have spent some money on the underlying mechanics.

When Brad McQuaid showed up again with his Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign three years back, I was happy with his vision… back to the core of what made EverQuest a success… and doubly so at him saying that the plan was to keep things small and focused.  And then people started pestering him about features they wanted to see in his new game and vision creep seemed to have returned.  When he caved in to a loud corner of players and said PvP would be a thing, I gave up on following the game.  What attracted me to it was his statement about focus, and once that was gone the project ceased to be special to me.

Not that I am anti-PvP.  I have enough posts about EVE Online here to show a commitment to that as a play style.  But I am not convinced that PvP needs to be a feature in every single MMORPG.  It needs to be an integrated, core feature and not something tacked on in the hope of a few more box sales.  That is where it works, where it is good.  However, there is a loud group of players who will show up and rant about any game that dares not have PvP on its feature list.

EverQuest II is my favorite example of time wasted on PvP.  It is a game where the core feature set and audience is PvE that spent way, way too much time trying to make PvP viable by tacking it on to the game in all sorts of ways.  There battles with avatars, and arena battles, and battle grounds, and different servers with different rule sets over time, and eventually there was a point where they redid all the gear so that it have both PvE and PvP stats.  And, in the end, after attempt after attempt to make PvP a thing, they finally gave up and went back to focus on the core game play, the PvE questing and dungeons and raiding, that keeps its main audience going.

Of course, I have a flip side example for EQ2 in EVE Online.  There has always been a persistent rumbling from people about making New Eden more PvE friendly or making high sec completely safe from non-consensual PvP.  CCP has admirably stuck to its vision of the game on that front, but they nearly slipped at one point.

When we speak of the Incarna release, a lot of people jump straight to cash shops and monocles and the insider talk of selling “gold” ships or ammo ala World of Tanks.  But the cash shop still exists and monocles are just as expensive today as they were five years back.

That was all fluff.

The main issue was the captain’s quarters and the diversion from flying in space to avatar based game play.  That was what was rejected after Incarna, but only after a dismissive attitude from CCP about ship spinning… something that was even in their CSM summit statement…  and the like.

But results trump attitude, and after Incarna we got a renewed focus on flying in space with the Crucible expansion that started a long series of reworks of broken or ignored features that were part of the core game play, after which the game reached its subscriber peak.  They seem to get that they have a core they need to maintain. (Which they even mentioned in an interview today.)

And yet there remains a loudly vocal group of players who insist that EVE Online needs avatar based game play, the dreaded “walking in stations” crowd, despite it being such a non-core feature that to make it viable CCP would have to essentially develop another game within EVE Online in order to make it any sort of real attraction.  And to do that it would need to shift resources away from space, which is where everybody who plays the game today is invested.

Arguments about avatars attracting new players are all pie in the sky wishful thinking, while ignoring core game play and the primary audience for the game simply cannot be justified.  But still somebody brings up “walking in stations” every time the future of the game is discussed.

Straying from your core audience can be a win, but only if you know the demand is there, and there is no evidence that an investment in avatar based game play would add a single player to New Eden.

You can point your finger at me and rightly say that I am not a game developer, so how would I know.  And it is true, I work in a different segment of the tech industry, enterprise software.  It pays better and is much more stable.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sack full of stories about companies with solid products that bring in 99% of the revenue ignoring them to chase some pie in the sky vision because the VP of sales heard some analyst at Gartner say that the future was in “nano-plastic biometric IPv6 reporting schemas” or some other nonsense feature.

And let me tell you, the urge to stray from your focus is tested a lot more by a fortune 50 retailer telling you that they will only consider your product for their seven figure RFP if you support crazy feature X than by any number of gamers grumbling in your forums.

So I certainly have a sense of what happens when you lose focus along with a series of “no customer ever used” features I on which I worked for my resume.

All of which makes me a bit more optimistic about the MMORPG market these days.  WoW clones attempting to appeal to all demographics are dead for now.  Even WoW has felt the pinch for being too much of a bland reflection of early versions of the game.

Instead we have a range of “niche” titles in development, games that set out to be smaller and so can focus on what makes them what them special rather than feeling the have to have every feature ever present in any MMORPG ever shipped.  We wait upon Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained, Project: Gorgon, Crowfall, and probably a bunch more to validate once again that an MMO can be small and focused and successful.

But if you’re still out there shouting that every game needs to support your pet feature, you’re might want to reflect on whether you’re actually part of the problem that got us to the grim state of big MMORPGs in the first place.

Losing 600 Billion ISK on Your Own Cyno Beacon

I have to laugh at us in the Imperium.  The past weekend’s big story was the huge, hours long time dilation Keepstar battle in M-OEE8 that had over 4,400 people in system at one time and where an estimated 266 billion ISK in ships were destroyed.  That was Sunday.

And then on Monday the Imperium lost ~600 billion ISK in ships destroyed in its own staging system on its cyno beacon, including a Revenant super carrier, the second one we’ve lost in a week. (The first one.)  Remember when losing a Revenant was a rare and newsworthy event?

Sir Edmund's Revenant on the field in happier times

Sir Edmund’s Revenant on the field in happier times

I was at work when all of this went down, and I haven’t seen anybody try to sum things up in a single post anywhere yet, but the story on comms seemed to run liked this:

-There was a known hot dropper in the system watching the cyno beacon (a POS module that allows jump drive capital ships to jump to it, which makes it an obvious spot to watch) waiting for some unsuspecting capital to jump in, at which point he would light a cyno and his buddies would drop in and kill it.

-Knowing this, somebody decided to bait the hot dropper with an empty industrial of some sort.  I saw a jump freighter mentioned, but am not sure if that was true or not.

-The camper took the bait and cyno’d in his team.

-We responded with a huge overkill force including titan pilots looking for kills.

-Pandemic Legion, which had bought a pile of dreads that TEST left behind after Progodlegend’s  ill fated “let’s attack Delve” campaign earlier this year, dropped the whole lot, with some support (e.g. faxes and tackle Rorquals), on the fight.

While PL lost their entire force, which was expected, they managed to take out 3 titans, 4 super carriers, 2 carriers, a fax machine, and some small stuff including a number of fighter squadrons, which count as kills.  That left a battle report which summed up as:

D-WF70 - Dec. 5, 2016

D-WF70 – Dec. 5, 2016

My summary is probably off.  There was something about how the forces were positioned that helped out PL, but nobody has written up yet that goes through the battle in detail.  Reddit is just full of well earned smugness at the moment.  I’ll update this with links should somebody break the situation down.

But the net result is that the Imperium lost a lot of ISK in the form of supers yesterday.  We would own the whole “most valuable kills in the last seven days” banner on ZKill if it hadn’t been for Wolverine007Miner’s Viator.  Meanwhile, most of the initial hot droppers got away.

So that was a moment worth noting.

The Mittani has been saying that since Ascension and the update to Rorquals, we have been mining the shit out of Delve, an assertion supported by the November economic report, which shows over 2 trillion ISK in value having been mined out of the region.  The next closest region was The Forge, in high sec and close to Jita, which saw 1.35 trillion ISK in mining.

With all those minerals, and the new engineering complexes, which let you queue up many super caps for production, it seems like super proliferation is going to be a worse issue than ever.  I am sure we will be adding to the problem.

Other posts about the battle:

Addendum: Jay Amazingness (Sir Edmund) and the video of his Revenant loss.

Targets of Opportunity in Tribute

As I noted the other week, the once simmering war in Tribute came to something of a boil recently as Circle-of-Two saw themselves driven out of system after system as NCdot, Pandemic Legion, and assorted allies marched towards their capital in M-OEE8.

Tribute - December 5, 2016

Tribute – December 5, 2016

CO2 lost their capital on Friday, leaving them with only a couple of systems in the region, plus their holdings in Vale of the Silent, where they have the constellation DMXN-3.

There was some war news the week before last on the Meta Show when guests revealed that Pandemic Legion had decided they did not want to move to M-OEE8 any more, the ostensible reason for the whole conflict.  Back in October they were saying how great M-OEE8 would be, now they are not interested.

However, despite that news, NCDot, Pandemic Legion, and their allies planned to continue to prosecute the war, including taking down the Keepstar that CO2 had raised in M-OEE8.  CO2 moved their capitals to low sec, within jump range of their Keepstar and the fight for the massive citadel was on.

Killing a citadel takes three attempts.  There is the shield timer, the armor timer, and then the final battle to kill the structure.  If the attackers fail at any step, it is back to the start again.  The attackers did the shield round successfully, and it was time for the armor timer yesterday.

Yesterday was round two

The system after yesterday’s fun

The armor timer was nicely timed as it was set to come out around 19:00, putting it in the Sunday sweet spot between Euro and US time zones, allowing the maximum number of players to pile in on the fight. Of course the Imperium wanted to drop in on the action as well, so an op was set to form up at 17:00 to take the trip north to shoot all the things.

Asher had warned the jacket pals to have Cerberus fleet ships ready to go for the expedition, and when the ping for the fleet finally went out it filled up fast… so fast that a second frigate fleet had to go up to take the overflow.  There was a bit of wrangling to get the right people into the fleet, but fleet formation has simplified somewhat since boosting was separated from the fleet hierarchy, rendering the roles of squad commander and wing commander superfluous. (But they are still there just to confuse people.)

Form up actually went smoothly.  The Cerberus doctrine ships on contract ran out quickly, but the fleet was not lacking for number.  There were a couple of special items we were asked to carry, and a few of us X’d up to fit remote sensor boosters to enhance the targeting abilities of Asher’s Loki FC ship, but nothing big got in our way and we were soon out and in range to the titan atop our own Keepstar and bridging out to the first leg of our journey north.

Bridge up, everybody jump

Bridge up, everybody jump

From the cyno, we had a free burn for a few jumps and then held to group back up again, at which point we were guided to a wormhole.

Waiting to go through

Waiting to go through the wormhole

Boosters and logi went through first, then the ships of the line.  But we need not have worried, as the hole was fresh and still looked good after we passed through.

The hole put us in Daras, a low sec system not too far from M-OEE8.  We moved along together, then held up at the station in Taisy, the low sec connection to M-OEE8, and docked up for a final set of bio breaks and drink refills.

Once set there, we undocked and warped to the gate.  From there we had only to jump to enter the fray.  The fray and time dilation and lag and all the issues of a big fight.  You could see the point at which you ceased to be in Taisy on the jump and were part of the load on M-OEE8.  The warp tunnel itself slowed dramatically as we passed through into the maelstrom.

On the plus side, CCP had clearly been notified that the fight was pending and had reinforced the system.  It appeared to be on its own node and not bringing down the surrounding systems.  If you were in Taisy, for example, you might not know what was going on next door, aside from the high amount of traffic passing through the system.

On the other side however, the time dilation began.

It actually wasn’t so bad when we landed in the system, hovering in the teens.  But the timer hadn’t run down yet, so the shooting had yet to begin, and there were still people piling into the system.  Asher warped us to a perch on the Keepstar grid and we could see the forces arrayed about the citadel.  And the time came and the universe went to hell.  More people piled in.  I saw Local go above 4,400, though I tried to keep that window closed as it was both full of the usual spam and processing that text was causing a noticeable drag on frame rate.

4,400 and 10% TiDi

4,401 in system and 10% TiDi

The thing with time dilation is that it can slow actions down to as low as 10% of normal speed, but sometimes that is not enough.  This was one of those times.  When you go beyond that, the system load manifests itself in other fun ways.

Modules fail to activate or deactivate.  One of our problems was simply being able to get the fleet to activate missile launchers, launch a volley or two at a target, and then deactivate them in order to switch targets.  The launcher modules would site there blinking red at us for ages.

Sometimes user input would just be missed or ignored.  At one point I was trying to put missiles on a target but the launcher activated on Asher, who I had locked up in order to use the remote sensor booster on him.  I turned them off after one volley, but this is why I ended up on his kill mail. (Along with a couple of other members of fleet running remote sensor boosters on him.)

At one point Asher asked on coms why I was broadcasting “Enemy Spotted!”  That is one of the least useful fleet broadcasts, which I turned off ages ago.  The default key for that is “Z” in the settings.  I have the toggle UI option set to Alt-Z.  However, the systems was losing my keyboard inputs (I had to make several attempts each time I toggled the UI) and it was sometimes just catching the “Z” causing me to broadcast.  I went and turned that off, but for a bit I was “that guy” in fleet again.

Then there was the UI, which has a good chance of drawing incorrectly in such situations.  I totally lost the Route view in the upper left of the screen, which I only noticed when we were leaving.  My overview ended up with a couple of ships stuck on it at 0m that simply were not there.  And when warping the UI didn’t always match up.

Warp drive active at

Warp drive active at 2,382 m/s?  It said that for most of my failed warp.

And sometimes the client would just give up.  There was a moment when the point defense system on the Keepstar was activated and it was reported that a couple hundred people were knocked offline.  I was knocked offline a few times during the fight, including at the point defense activation.  The first time it took me 15 minutes to get back into the game.  My ship had been warped off to a safe, so I had to wait while it slowly warped back.  Fortunately our fleet hadn’t moved too far so I was close enough to catch Asher’s next warp, which got me back in the ball of Cerbs again.

The next time the client gave up, I was back into the game in about five minutes, as I was still in formation, targets still locked, and providing remote sensor booster support to Asher.  Great!  And then a bit later the ship did its disconnect routine and warped off the a safe and then back to the grid, leaving me off on my own again.  Fortunately Asher would slow down every once in a while to let people catch up.

But for all of that, it was an epic battle with sights you do not see every day as multiple fleets of sub caps flew around the grid, dreadnoughts dropped on the citadel, and the defense batteries blazing away.

Somebody even grabbed some video of us swooping through the fight with the Keepstar in the background.

We were there for targets of opportunity, willing to shoot either side in the conflict as they came into range.  The only thing we were not there to shoot was the Keepstar itself.  Since it was just the armor timer, there would be no kill mail, so we were not inclined to waste missiles helping the attackers.  They had plenty of firepower on hand, once they brought it to bear.  There was a gap when the repair timer started its 15 minute count down and when the attackers got enough damage onto the citadel to halt it.

Timer past half way and still running

Timer at the half way point and still running

But at just shy of the four minutes left mark the damage stopped the clock and there it stayed until the armor was slowly stripped away.

There is a conspiracy theory going about that the Imperium was there to support CO2 and TEST, but it has no basis in reality.  Apparently somebody in CO2 temp blued us, which makes sense, because we were not there to shoot the Keepstar, so why bother with us?  And still, that didn’t keep them from killing Xenuria.

Our first target was a CO2 machariel, after which we took shots at a PL Typhoon fleet, various bombers that landed in the vicinity, and then a fleet of dreads that dropped on grid for the fight.  As it happened, our targets tended to be the attackers, as the defenders were sticking close to the Keepstar while we were hunting out along the periphery.

Then, after the fight had dragged on, the defenders started pulling back, the armor layer looked to be well on its way destruction, Asher had been alpha’d off the field, and it looked like time for us to head home.  Corbzilla took over the FC position and tried to get us to the Taisy gate.  This ended up taking about half an hour, and not merely because the warp was 104 AU.  Several of us had problems just getting the ourselves into warp.  I ended up in the strange warping but not warping state which actually moved be about 30 AU and then stopped.  Eventually I was disconnected and then had to warp away, then back to the Keepstar (at which point my overview was totally hosed, as it showed nobody on grid with me besides the citadel), and then off to the Taisy gate.

And still I was not the last fleet member through the gate.  The fleet was holding on the far side and there was a rush of joy as the slow warp tunnel suddenly sped up and spat me out into low sec.  In some ways it was like being able to breathe again.

Corbzilla moved us back to Daras and the wormhole back south.  It was still there, so he had the boosters and logi move through first, then gave the word for the rest of jump, but the wormhole collapsed before the whole fleet got through, so some of us had to move through high sec while others had a much shorter ride home.  I lucked out and got through the hole.

Of course, nothing is ever easy.  An incursion had dropped in the constellation where our wormhole put us, so Plaid Rabbit shepherded us through that until we were clear to fly freely back to our staging.

Approximately six hours after we undocked to get on the titan I docked back up in our Keepstar.  It was a long day, though I still had time to put the Christmas lights up on the house afterwards.

I don’t mind a long op like that for an epic fight, but it isn’t something I can do every day.  Still,  the draw of the fight helped boost the player count past the 50K mark again, though we didn’t pass the high water mark of two weeks ago.

Still, not bad for a Sunday

Not bad for a Sunday, but not quite 50,958

And now we have a six day wait for the final timer on the Keepstar in M-OEE8, which comes out on Saturday.  I suspect that the system will see even more people in local as they try to get in, shoot some people, and get on the Keepstar kill mail.  We shall see if I can make that.  Not sure I have another all day fleet op in me this week though.

For a timeline of events, there is a post up over at Imperium News that has you covered.  I haven’t seen any battle reports yet, as zkillboard seems to still be digesting the battle and trying to handle all the people hitting it looking for a battle report.  I’ll link whatever else shows up here later.

And, finally, I have a series of screen shots from the battle.

A New Broom at Daybreak?

This past weekend I started the process of building up the usual end of year posts.  Those are less like the random creative writing assignments I churn out daily as they require some data collection.  The easiest of the lot is the review of my annual predictions.  You can find the 2016 batch here.

I was going down the list zeroing out the ones that were clearly wrong… start with the easy stuff… which included the fifth entry on the list.

5 – Daybreak will get a new head honcho who will be selected from another company and will have little or no experience with the fantasy MMORPG genre that has kept the team in San Diego funded for most of its existence.  Expect this person’s past experience to be the hammer and any Daybreak problem to be a nail.  They’ll be just like that VP we once hired from Oracle, for whom every solution required a database.  So if, for example, they have a history with first person shooters on the XBox, you’ll know what to expect.

I marked that as a miss.  I hadn’t seen any news pop up to indicate that long time SOE/Daybreak guy Russell Shanks wasn’t still running the show.  I mean, when Smed “left” there were stories everywhere.  No change meant no points for that prediction.  Daybreak abides.

It follows you as you move about the room!

The angry eye of Daybreak Game Company

A bit later I was looking for something else and hit the Wikipedia page for Daybreak and noticed that the summary side bar did not list Mr. Shanks as a key person.  So I ran down the article and found this buried in the lower text:

In October 2016, Russell Shanks left Daybreak. Ji Ham is the current acting president.

Oh ho, there was a change!  Maybe I was right in that prediction after all?

It also seemed I didn’t miss any headline articles about it in the gaming press as the supporting attribution for this was Russell Shank’s profile on LinkedIn.  You can go find it if you like, but this is the key item.

Long time COO of SOE and Daybreak

Long time COO of SOE and Daybreak

So Mr. Shanks was out in October, which leads us to the next question; who the hell is Ji Ham and where did he come from?  Well, I was already on LinkedIn for the first bit, might as well continue there.

As it turns out, Ji Ham is a Columbus Nova Prime operative and his profile lists him as being “Co-President” of Daybreak since the date of Smed’s departure.  From his profile.

Principal and Co-President

Principal and Co-President

Odd that we haven’t heard of him before.  Did I miss that somewhere along the line?  Has he been actively involved with Daybreak up to this point or has he been more behind the scenes?

And, of course, the bigger question is, what does it mean now that Russell Shanks is out and Ji Ham is in?  The Wikipedia article says he is the “current acting president,” which sounds temporary, but the article also has no source to back that up.  And given that Ji Ham is listed as having been Co-President since July 2015, it would not be a stretch to assume he has simply taken over the role rather than keeping the seat warm for some new hire.

So what does it mean to have Ji Ham in charge?  Googling him puts him with the Special Opportunities fund at Columbus Nova.  His Bloomberg profile says that he was head of Columbus Nova’s renewable fuels group at one point, which seems to connect into the Russian Renova Group.  Is Columbus Nova Prime now poised to frack Daybreak hard?

Or is Ji Ham just the watcher for Columbus Nova Prime, the on site enforcer, there to keep an eye on whoever they put in charge?  And, if so, can we expect a new leader with video game industry experience?

And, finally, how do I score my prediction?  Russell Shanks is out, so I don’t feel this is a complete miss, but is Ji Ham really a new head honcho?  He is certainly from a company different that Daybreak.  I’m allowed partial credit, so what should it be?  8 points?  2 points?

You can probably expect the prediction scoring post next week.

Addendum: And naturally the edits over a Wikipedia that I saw were done by Feldon of EQ2Wire.  It is a small world.

Addendum: Daybreak confirmed the essential elements of this post without adding any additional details.