Category Archives: YouTube

Honest Game Trailers does Diablo II Resurrected

By about the 30 second mark of this video I felt very seen.

 

I mean, I don’t play with random people online and I haven’t had much problem with the servers being offline… I play on BNet, but being in Pacific time zone has been good to me… but I am definitely ignoring a lot of newer and arguably better games to play something that’s mechanics are past the 20 year mark.

Also, I am pretty sure I have paid for Diablo II at least three times.  I kept a copy at work and another at home back in the day.  And, frankly, I am kind of interested in how it plays on console.  Is the Switch Lite screen too small for that to be a realistic option?

And while I am somewhat numb already to the sheer quantity of loot that drops, I do get kind of a surge when I get something like this out of the blue.

Just a chest in a building, maybe I should skip it…

That was in Act I on Normal mode.  The RNG hates me most days, then suddenly goes soft and throws me four rares out of left field that I will probably end up wearing through Act V because nothing else good will drop for the next month.

Anyway, there will probably be more posts about Diablo II Resurrected here because I post about what I play.

Ji Ham Speaks about Enad Global 7

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

Enad Global 7

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

So I finally sat down and watched the video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carbot’s Diablo II Lord of Destruction Trailer

Carbot Animations has been a bit down on World of Warcraft lately, even following the trend into Final Fantasy XIV, but the Diablo II series carries on.

Having covered the defeat of Diablo and the cow level, it was time to move on to the Lord of Destruction expansion and the Act V content.  Bring on LOD!

Make way for LOD

All of which is summed up in this trailer set to a tune you may recognize.

My memories of the Lord of Destruction expansion mostly revolve around two new classes and an upgrade in video resolution from 640×480 to 800×600, the latter being the more important of the two.

But the pile of other things added to the game… charms, gems, runes, the ability to ad sockets, and all the gear… had a huge impact on the game as well.  And it all gets summed up pretty well in this video.  LOD was kind of a big deal.

EVE Online Gets Another New Player Experience and Skill Training Updates as a New Quadrant Arrives

The summer vacations are over and CCP is back with a new Quadrant.  The Foundation Quadrant is over and the Gateway Quadrant has arrived.

Didn’t we all get stuck out here after that gateway closed?

And with that CCP is focused again on its favorite obsession of the last few years, the new player experience.  This time the NPE has been rebuilt around a new NPC faction, the Association for Interdisciplinary Research which will introduce new players to EVE Online.   The highlights from the dev blog are:

  • More immersive experiences and faster iteration
  • More dynamic visuals
  • Gradual UI reveal
  • Improved UI highlighting
  • An integrated intro video
  • Beautiful visuals

To the cynic in me that works out to “pretty,” “pretty,” “working with the UI we already have,” “working with the UI we already have,” “pretty,” and “pretty.”

I mean, there is room in there for real improvements, and maybe it is a better NPE, but CCP has chosen to emphasize the superficial and that the UI is too much for new players in its own description.  What is that supposed to tell me?

The new NPE is also said to be story driven, but so was the NPE two iterations ago, which was going to be a big new thing until they quietly ditched it, because everything PvE had to go into The Agency…. and probably also because once you got done with the story the actual game is nothing like that, bait and switch not being a great idea for player retention.  I hope CCP learned something since last time and aren’t just jumping back on the same idea they previously axed.

Though the NPE has been through the wringer more than a few times, CCP has been especially adamant about new player retention being an issue since EVE North back in 2019 when they gave us this chart.

How many new players log back in as time passes

As I noted at the time, that seems pretty dismal without any context.  But the one publicly available study on the topic I found seemed to indicate that those retention numbers are pretty close to the industry average for MMORPGs with a free to play option.  Given EVE Online’s legendary difficulty, obtuse UI, and open world PvP, that CCP does so well is probably an achievement.

So while I get that CCP likes to keep reminding us that new players are the lifeblood of the game… and I hope this next revision of the NPE helps on that front… farming the installed player base, the lapsed veterans and such, is how games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft have revitalized their bottom lines.  Here is hoping that another investment in another new NPE pays off.

The NPE is also emphasized in the trailer for the new quadrant.

I feel like I saw that launch sequence in the EVE Valkyrie opening… but I guess all tube launches feel kind of the same.  I’ll have to find some time to give it a try.

So that is the first thing on the list.

Next on the update front is skill training with the introduction of skill plans and a revamp of the training system UI.  This feels like a feature that benefits both new and old players alike.  Players will be able to create plans for specific goals, with milestones to mark improvements for specific configurations, and even certified skill plans aimed at new players to help them decide what to train.

There is also a revamp of the skill training UI.  Being an old fart that has finally gotten used to the current setup, I immediately wondered how badly could they screw it up? This morning already saw calls for the old UI on r/eve, but they hate everything there.  But here is the new UI on day one.

The New Skill Window – The red arrow thing is not part of the UI

For openers, skills now have their own window, no doubt because the game UI doesn’t have enough independent windows floating around, and it defaults to the new training plan UI, which I won’t even delve into right now, but it feels too big and not all that helpful.

For those of us who just want to see our current skills and queue together, the second tab has that, with all the skill groups now in alphabetical order finally.  I know, there is outrage that Spaceship Command isn’t in the upper left, but whatever, and my brain wants to read left to right along rows first, then down columns, and the sorting is by columns, but I’ll get used to all of that.

The window seems bigger than it needs to be.  It defaults to full screen, which is obnoxiously large on my 34″ monitor, but even when I make it a window it remains too wide for my taste largely due to the black dead zone between skills and queue (marked with the red arrow in the screen show above) that cannot be sized down by itself. (The gap between skill names and their states seems pretty wide as well.)

Anyway, there is always EVE Mon still if I need a more compact view.  Oh, and your character sheet is different now, lacking all those skills… and I hope you remembered to put pants on your avatar.

A fuller body view now

All of this comes with a couple of big changes to skills queues:

  • The current limit of 50 skill entries in the queue will be increased to 150 for both Alpha and Omega clones.
  • The current restriction of the Alpha clone training queue allowing only the skills that would start training within the next 24h will also be removed.

As somebody who came from the “one skill at a time and make sure you start a long skill the night before the next patch update” era, these seem huge.  150 skills in the queue will let you build up a might skill plan… I’ve bumped into the 50 skill limit a few times since it became a thing… and the removal of the 24 hour queue limit will be huge for new players.

And old players.  I can even now see people rolling up a new alpha, sending it the ISK for skills, setting up the desired queue, then letting it run for however long it takes until that suicide gank character or whatever is on the shelf and ready to use.  There is no improvement that EVE players will fail to exploit.

There are a few other items with today’s update.  A new skill points for sale pack is in the store.  EVE Online will be available in the Epic Store come September 23rd.  And, in a nod to the promise to relax the economic starvation plan (now planned for November), there was this tidbit slipped in at the bottom of the announcement:

More ice has been brought back into New Eden with its availability having doubled, and the availability of Mercoxit has also increased.

I wonder if the ice availability got boosted due to the jump drive fuel crisis that hit the game when World War Bee ended and PAPI had to move home?  Anyway, there is alleged to be more ice now.

So that is the what has come with the launch of the new quadrant.  Here are the related dev posts for today’s update:

Honest Game Trailers does Burning Crusade Classic

One of the problems with playing mostly old games is that Honest Game Trailers is mostly videos of games I probably won’t ever play.   But not this time.  This time they had Burning Crusade Classic.

Before the Dark Portal

And their assessment all feels pretty true to me.

 

I have a a few posts already from WoW Classic in the Burning Crusade era that have us still back in Azeroth taking care of unfinished business, including getting our epic mounts.  But I also leveled up my druid from 36 to 60 and, that done, started in on my level 21 rogue rather than spend my free time playing my mains.

Some of that was, in part, because of the instance group taking a bit of a summer hiatus.  We do go places now then.  But some of it is just reminding me that, over the years, I have said that I wasn’t too keen on the overland questing in Outland and that I might not have been mis-remembering how I felt at the time.

Still, I am not getting on the refugee boat to FFXIV.

Nope, not going there.  I can hold out for Wrath of the Lich King.  I swear.  I’ll level up in Outland eventually.

Operations in Delve as World War Bee Continues

The announcement of the PAPI withdrawal from Delve following Monday’s final drive against 1DQ1-A has led to an upsurge in activity in the region.

Some of that is to be expected.  PAPI will have move ops running and the Imperium has a few regions of space to reclaim.  We were certainly wasting little time in Delve, lighting up ihubs and TCUs with enotsis ops the next day.

Delve – Aug 4, 2021

The systems highlighted with the orange aura have been targeted by the Imperium. (Some of which have already been taken since I took that screen shot.)

Some of those systems likely don’t concern PAPI very much, but they can’t let them all go because the Imperium has a plan.

After committing to more than half a year of stubborn defense in an attempt to convince PAPI that they should pack up and go home, we’re now trying to make that evacuation as costly as possible.  We aspire to turn an orderly withdrawal into Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow if we can.

Around Delve, Querious, and Period Basis the Imperium has been dispatching fleets to destroy Anisblex jump bridges belonging to PAPI in order to hinder their movement.

A reinforced Ansiblex waiting to be destroyed

More than 20 have been destroyed since the end of the big battle.

Some kills from yesterday… I am on a couple of those

And if the Imperium succeeds in taking the ihubs in key systems, PAPI won’t be able to simply throw up a replacement Ansiblex, so they have to form up and defend some systems rather than just moving home.

This was the case in 1-SMEB, a key system in Delve as it is the gateway to Aridia, a low sec region that is also the shortest route home for many of the PAPI alliances.  The Imperium being able to block that system would me at least some hazard getting through or a need to re-route moves through Fountain or Querious, extending the route home and leaving more opportunity for mishap.

When the Imperium started hitting the 1-SMEB ihub, PAPI had to respond.  And when they started spinning up fleets we responded in kind.  Once again we had more than 2,000 people in a system battling over an ihub.

A HAC Fleet in the bubbles, their logi in the foreground

That kicked off when I was busy with work, but carried on long enough that I could jump in to the fight.  When I was ready there was a call for interdictors to hold down the hostiles, so I jumped into a Sabre I had in my hangar, insured it because I was sure it would get blown up, and headed to the fleet titan to get bridged in.

The instructions for dictors were pretty simple; get on the enemy fleets and bubble them so that couldn’t leave.  In I went.

Flying my Sabre into the thick of things

I managed to deploy a few bubbles and take a few potshots with my gun, but the node was not reinforced, or so I guess, and the fight degraded performance beyond what the 10% tidi number indicates.  Lots of people were having problems with modules not cycling down.  My interdiction sphere launcher went to reload after the first three bubbles and never finished.

PAPI’s guns managed to cycle on me however, and I lost my Sabre as expected.  I had plenty of time to file for reimbursement while waiting for my ship to finally explode.  I got paid before the animation finished.  Then I waited for my self-destruct… 2 minutes in 10% tidi is 20 minutes in real time… which let me watch the battle for a while.

Ishtars from The Initiative flying past as I wait

Then I reshipped back in 1DQ.  But I didn’t get back in the fight.  The results had been decided and there was no reason to throw more people at the node.

We won.  We reinforced the ihub and killed a lot of PAPI ships to according to the battle report.  Objective and ISK war.

Battle Report Header

There is also a John Hartley video of the battle, if you enjoy those.  I like the music choice.

Losing that ihub match means PAPI is going to need to take a break from packing and come back to contest that ihub today at 19:52 UTC, or about two and a half hours after this post goes live.  We shall see how that turns out.

Meanwhile, along with ihubs and Ansiblex jump gates, fleets have also been setting timers on structures that TEST has been trying to unanchor.  Setting a timer makes them start the unanchoring timer from scratch again, even if we don’t contest the timer.

The reason for this is pretty obvious.  PAPI’s biggest claim to victory is the amount of destruction they imposed on the Imperium.  We want to hold those structures in place to give us a chance to even up that score a bit.

So the war is not over.  There is still a lot of work to be done on both sides.

Addendum: The 1-SMEB ihub fell to the Imperium.

Related:

Exploring This is World of Warcraft

I always enjoy the Carbot Animations videos about Blizzard products.  The ability to capture what is often the essence of something like Diablo with some simple animations, an absurdly familiar situation, and a few of the in-game sounds is amazing.

And the quality of the work has made the channel a success, leading to items in the official Blizzard store based off of the videos including the StarCraft Cartooned graphics pack for the remastered game.

But the most recent video… This is World of Warcraft… it is a bit of a punch in the gut.  It captures in its way the nostalgic experience of World of Warcraft and its move from early innocence to the state of the game today in a way that managed to make even me a bit misty eyed.

Back when I was much younger

This could be the Sayonara Norrath for WoW.  So take three minutes to watch it.

Did you watch it?  Because I am going to write about it.

The first cut response is how well it captures the arc of the game for many people, the early joy, making friends, conquering raids, and all the things we’ve heard.  The expansions come, and they’re good too, mostly, as they pile up.

The expansion pile

And Blizzard starts introducing new things like paid mounts, which are accepted enthusiastically by the fans.  But as time goes on and the game seems less unique and less special.  Our protagonist feels the world emptying out.  The magic is gone, sunk by Blizzard’s hamfisted handling of the game.

And then WoW Classic comes along and the world is special again.  But monetization creeps in and seeing the special packs and mounts in Burning Crusade Classic our protagonist feels lost and cheated by Blizzard again

Money invades the classic experience

They exit the game, ending the video.  The magic is dead.  Fade to black.

That is a pretty much on-point story that a lot of people tell, and such a punch in the gut that I have to wonder where the channel is headed.  It almost felt like a sign off.

So many feels.

But it really isn’t comparable to Sayonara Norrath.  That video, which pre-dates the launch of World of Warcraft, is about the memories of a guild that has decided to move on.  They have changed, the world has changed, and while they have many memories, those are in the past.

This is World of Warcraft is what you would get if the Mirage guild of Sayonara Norrath hung on for another fifteen years, trying to live EverQuest as it was back in the day, forever comparing the good old days to whatever expansion or update or free to play scheme or company change or special server Daybreak came up with.

So This is World of Warcraft feels like it heaps blame on Blizzard for wrecking what was once a happy and formative experience for many gamers… millions of gamers.  And I get that.  But I also question it.

I have been on about the static nature or subscription pricing lately… it was $15 a month back in 2004, it is still $15 a month here in 2021… and the unrealistic expectations of players.  The response to paying more is almost always negative.  The companies themselves are viewed as greedy and unresponsive… something that Activision Blizzard hasn’t helped with given the obscene compensation some of their senior execs get… and are often blamed for ruining our gaming experience through monetization.   Over in EVE Online players are up in arms… again… about CCP doing that as well.  We want our peak enjoyment at all times at the price we were paying back when my college age daughter was still in diapers.

How realistic is the expectation that World of Warcraft should feel as fresh and new now as it did back in 2004?  How, with eight expansions in the can now, was Blizz supposed to maintain that sense of simplicity and innocence while cranking out a full fledged expansion every other year?  And how, with subscriptions down and the cost of everything going up, were they supposed to be a viable business without finding another revenue stream?

How much of the fact that we don’t think WoW now feels like WoW of old is grounded in unrealistic expectations that a party should remain fun for fifteen years running?  Blizzard gave us something amazing in 2004 and we’re all kind of pissed off that it isn’t as amazing and as fun in 2021.  Is that realistic?  WoW is practically The Simpsons when it was 15; still something good there, but nothing like the first half a dozen seasons.

I can sit back and objectively dissect the faulty logic of our expectations, and yet I too feel them.  I just want the game to be as fun as it was back… whenever… and to feel that joy.  I am part of the problem too.  I see Sayonara Norrath and my first thought is always “Hey, I should go play that again!” and not “What a special time that was.”

So bravo to Carbot Animations for stirring up all these conflicting feelings.

I’m still playing Burning Crusade Classic.  I want to play it because it was, and still is, a good game. (And hey, it is only $15 a month!)  But part of me does want it to be 2007 or whenever, to feel like I did when I was that much younger.  It is a flaw in me, a flaw in many of us.  Letting go is hard and some of us won’t do it until we’re forced to.  It is complicated.

Related:

Diablo II Resurrected is coming September 23

Blizzard announced at E3 this past weekend that Diablo II Resurrected will launch on September 23, 2021.

Just a few months away

I have been a little concerned that the only two new titles… both of which are remakes/remasters… that I am interested in so far this year, Diablo II Resurrected and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl were both looking to collide somewhere in Q4 when it came to release dates.

We heard at the end of May that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl had launch date of November 19th.

Now we have the Diablo II Resurrected date, which is almost two months earlier.  That seems like a pretty decent gap.  And, if you pre-order, you can get in a few weeks early with the late beta… so, of course I pre-ordered like an idiot.  They are singing my song here, or promising me I can relive my relative youth, or something.  Just take my money already!  Yes, I know I already own two copies of the old game, give me the remaster!

I am clearly still pretty excited about this title four months down the line since it was announced at BlizzConline.  I would have been happy for old graphics that just scaled up to modern monitor sizes, but to get a full graphical remaster… with the ability to toggle to the old graphics… plus a lot of nice quality of life changes like a shard stash, that is killing it.

There is, of course, a new trailer up that shows some of the new graphics (and a bit of the old as well).

The launch date is also far enough out that it might be time for a break from Burning Crusade Classic.

So mark me down for this come September.

Zombies Eleven

When I saw trailer for the Netflix movie Army of the Dead I knew we had to watch it… and not just as revenge for my wife making us watch all of season six of Fear the Walking Dead.  This looked like what I refer to as a “Friday night movie,” which in another era might have been a drive-in movie special, a title you watch expecting it to bad and silly and are ready to embrace it as such.  This is Job Bob Briggs territory, not Siskel and Ebert.

Army of the Dead

I’ve seen a number of people online complaining about this movie, saying it is bad, confused, lacks a coherent plot, among other things.  And, to me, that just means they came in with the wrong set of expectations.  I am more than willing to allow for a lot of unforced errors in pursuit of a great goal.

Which isn’t to say the film lacks for problems.  It is a Zack Snyder movie, which means that it probably spends way too much time building back story and character motivation than it really needs to.  Being a Snyder cut, the film weighs in at 148 minutes in a genre where two hours generally pushes a story well beyond anybody’s ability to care.

I will say that, were Warner Bros. left alone with the print, they could (and probably would) trim out a good 45 minutes of the run time and end up with something arguably as good, if less coherent, but the run time didn’t really weigh on me all that much.

The premise, which plays out in the intro scene and opening credits, if that a zombie being transported by the military in a secure container escapes just outside of Vegas.  It immediately heads to the Las Vegas strip, biting as it goes, turning people into zombies.  The military, which includes Dave Bautista and some companions, including his wife, manage to contain the zombie outbreak, walling in Las Vegas with shipping containers.

The George Romero rules of zombies apply.  If you get bit, you get the zombie fever, die, and become a zombie.  Bautista’s wife gets bit and turns after they get out and he has to kill her.

Then we skip forward a bit and Bautista is working at a fry cook at a roadside greasy spoon where he is approached by a casino owner who wants him to go in and retrieve $200 million that is still in the vault.  The US government is going to nuke Vegas to “solve” the zombie problem due to public pressure, so the idea is that Bautista and team can slip in, steal the money, get out, and any evidence will be vaporized.  For this Bautista and his team will get 25% of the take.

So it is really a heist movie.  A Vegas, zombie apocalypse, casino heist movie.  You have to respect that.  Also, that explains the title of the post, if you didn’t make that leap already.

So Bautista has to go assemble a team, make a plan, get the access codes from the casino owner, reconcile with his estranged daughter, and deal with the “totally not the Carter Burke role from Aliens” observer the casino owner sends along as a technical advisor (who is played by the same actor who played John Dorie in Fear the Walking Dead), get into Vegas, grab the money, and get out.

Bonds are forged, betrayals are acted out, dear friends die, guns are fired at full auto, things explode, a father daughter relationship is restored, zombies bite people, and a nuclear weapons destroys Las Vegas.

I will say that I kind of like the Army of the Dead zombies better than The Walking Dead zombies.  They have more depth, they dry out in the sun, come back in the rain, hibernate when bored, can zombify animals, and have a zombie hierarchy.  Yes, a shot to the brain kills them, but these zombies would own the zombies from TWD.  These zombies are also more contained, there being no “everybody who dies for any reason becomes a zombie” virus going around.

In the end, the cast and the special effects sell a movie like this.

The cast was very solid.  Dave Bautista, and I say this in the most respectful way possible, is where you go when you can’t get Dwayne Johnson, does not disappoint.  He is the anchor, and the rest of the ensemble falls into some of the heist movie roles, from flamboyant to world weary to suspicious to the clearly going to die in the first big fight.  And you barely even notice that Tig Notaro was digitally injected in post production to replace Chris D’Elia, which probably made the whole thing just a bit better on all fronts.  She is much better at being world weary and cynical.

And the special effects worked well.  There were a couple of things I expected to see that didn’t come to pass including on that was technically not real “Checkov’s pistol” error because they ended up using it, but when you show a daydream sequence of somebody churning a zombie with a big power tool, you kind of expect it to happen, so a spiritual violation of the rule at least.  If you show a pistol on the wall in the first act I don’t think you’re excused if somebody uses it to open a beer in the third act.

Overall, I had a good time.  It is a dumb movie and easily could have been a bit stronger or a bit tighter or maybe had a good memorable catch phrase of three.  But, as I said above, I came in with my expectations set correctly and was thus not disappointed.  That, as far as I can tell, is the secret of life.  This is a silly, dumb, Vegas, zombie, heist movie.  If you’re expecting zombie Casino or some other Scorsese level effort, pick up the remote down and press “stop.”

I probably wouldn’t watch it again outside of a group drinking movie night, but it was still more fun and excitement than any four TWD or FTWD episodes.

Of course, if you’re not keep to spend the time… and I can’t really blame you… then Honest Trailers has you covered on the picking the movie apart front.

Also, Screen Rant’s Pitch Meeting is on the job as well.

Through the Dark Portal at Last

All the tension and the build-up and what not over the last two weeks since the pre-patch came to a head yesterday at 3pm my time.

The date finally arrived

I had logged in earlier in the day and set my hunter Tistann up on the rim of the vale where the Dark Portal lay.  About ten minutes before “go time” I logged back in to see the crowd assembled.  It honestly didn’t seem that bad.

The portal awaits

What that picture doesn’t really show is the size of the scrum down in the vale, clustered around where the quest giver with the intro quest would show up.  But all I had to do was get closer to see how dense the throng was.

Nobody was wearing a mask either

There were still technically a couple minutes to go before the 3pm start time, but people were already running towards the portal.  The quest giver was apparently up somewhere in the scrum of people.

There is a quest giver in there somewhere

I am not sure how I managed to click on the quest giver… I certainly couldn’t pick him out of the crush of players, but I managed it and got the quest.

I’ve got a golden ticket!

After that if was time to head through the portal.  I didn’t even get back on my mount.  I started to click it but I couldn’t see myself in the mass and started to move too soon, so I just turned on Aspect of the Cheetah and hoofed it through the portal.  My screen shot time stamp says I made it into Outland at 2:58:41pm Pacific Time.

On the far side there was an almost comic stream of characters running through the portal, pooling up at each quest giver, then moving on to the next.  The last step there was the flight master who was launching gryphons like a machine gun, sending people off to Honor Hold.

Fly my pretties! Off to Honor Hold

At the far end I was in the stream of flights dropping people in Honor Hold.  The stream was non-stop for a while.  I wish I had setup to record a video of it, as it was just one of those things that you only ever seen at moments like this.

Coming in to Honor Hold

Once there I found the quest giver, once again buried in a mass of players, then went around and found the skinning trainer, the leatherworking trainer, and the cooking trainer.  The latter confused me for a moment.  You don’t get trained, you buy a training book from him.

And then I went back to the inn and logged off for a while.  Having refreshed my memory of the starting quests in the beta, I knew there was going to be a huge competition for mobs as the “bowling ball through a python” mass of players tried to move in parallel into the expansion.  As fun as the first night of WoW Classic was, I wasn’t up for standing in line or fighting over spawns.  I went off to do other things.

When I logged back in a couple hours later things had calmed down.  Blizzard had reported a DDoS attack about 45 minutes after the launch, but it appeared to have been cleared up by then.

Honor Hold had calmed down considerably… which is to say it was still full of people and when I went out to do a couple of the initial quests there were still a lot of people out in the field with me, but it wasn’t completely crazy.

As far as I could tell our server, Bloodsail Buccaneers, didn’t have a queue and wasn’t showing any lag, but it is also the RP-PvE server, so not the most popular in the batch.

It will no doubt remain busy for a while though and I expect that we might see queues come the weekend as those without a lot of free time during the week get stuck into the expansion.

Meanwhile, back on Azeroth, Ironforge was deserted.  I literally saw zero players in the usually active area between the bank and the auction house.

They’ve all gone off

Stormwind was likewise feeling like a ghost town, though its proximity to the Dark Portal meant a few people could be spotted now and then.

Burning Crusade Classic has landed at last.  Outland lays before us, and everybody who could get through the portal last night apparently went.

Addendum:  I didn’t have the foresight to record video, but Ula did.

Some nice images of the opening moments in that video. (Also a blog post about it.)

Meanwhile, there are already players at level cap.  I think my hunter ended up 10% into level 60.