Reflecting After Round One of Pokemon Sun

After ignoring the game for a stretch in January, I finally got back on the horse and finished up Pokemon Sun.

Coming in Q4 2016

Sun and Moon

Of course, by “finished” I merely mean that I wrapped up the main story line, thwarted the evil does, picked up the prescribed legendary Pokemon, defeated the newly constituted Alola Pokemon League final four, and then bested the champion to take the title for myself.

Professor Kukui says that it is so!

Professor Kukui says that it is so!

As I have noted before, that level of being finished is the same as saying you’re finished with the current WoW expansion because you wrapped up the main quest lines in all the zones and hit level cap.  As with WoW, there is always a lot of things to do once the primary story is complete.  A good Pokemon title comes with a lot of end game options.

I have enjoyed Pokemon Sun so far.  Something else I have said in the past is that every Pokemon game, if you pull back far enough, is essentially the same.  A kid with a neglectful parent is allowed to wander the countryside engaging in the local pet-based blood sport until they are crowned champion of the local area.

To a fan of the series though, despite the similarities between titles, each generation of the game is different in enough details to make them unique.  There are, of course, new locations and new bad guys to thwart, along with new Pokemon to catch.  But there is also an evolution of the game mechanics over time as well as gimmicks that often show up for a generation only to fade with the next.

Pokewalker on my Belt

Once they gave us a pedometer

The problem is discerning which are features that are likely to stick around and what is a gimmick that you’ll never see again.  Having experience share that covers your whole party or getting experience for catching Pokemon as well as for defeating them are things that came in with previous games, so those will remain go forward.

On the flip side, as an example, the quirks of the Alola region such as not having a Pokemon League initially are one-time events used to promote the story.  That won’t be a thing next time around… especially since, if we follow the usual pattern, next time around should be a remake of a previous Pokemon game/region.

Z-Crystals, the special items that boost a once-per-fight Pokemon attack, are likely out for the next title as well.  That has the hallmark of a one-time feature. (Though I thought the same thing about mega evolutions, and they are still a thing in the Pokemon Sun & Moon end game.)

In the middle though, there are some features I wonder about.

Pokemon refresh… a feature by which you feed, groom, and otherwise improve the spirits of your party… that I think is likely out next time around.  It was one of those features that seemed neat when I started out in Alola, but after a while it turns into another bit of overhead you have to attend to after battles.  If A Pokemon gets wet you have to blow dry it… seriously… or it won’t be as happy.  But you want them happy, because when they are all spiffed up they can dodge attacks or get extra crits when fighting… plus it can cure status conditions after a battle… so you dare not ignore it.

Removing a static charge from Eevee

Removing a static charge from Eevee

Pokemon calling for help in the wild… I think that is out for the next title as well… or maybe I just hope it is.  That got a bit annoying after the first few fights where call for help extended a battle through half a dozen Pokemon.

The Poke Pelago, the special island you can develop also feels like a one time feature.  I have mixed feelings about that.  On the one hand, having to show up and collect Poke beans daily starts to feel like a chore, and the interface for some operations is a bit clunky.

You must tap on every bean

You must tap on every bean

On the other hand, the fact that you can level up Pokemon (slowly) on the island or hatch eggs rather than hauling them around with your party for thousands of steps, was a big boon.  Eggs are still a bit or work, but we no longer have to pace back and forth over a set track to hatch them.  So I will miss that part.

Rotom as your Pokedex worked out well, especially for me since it keeps track of where you need to go next.  That kept me from totally losing my way when I took a break from the game.  But then again, Pokedex updates and changes are pretty standard between releases.  I expect some of the features might stick, but the Pokedex itself will be different next time.

And then there were the travel move changes.  Gone were the dreaded Hidden Machine moves that you had to hobble your group with and in were special mounts you could summon on demand… if the situation was right.

Summoned mount AND safety gear

Summoned mount AND safety gear

I’m all for not crudding up your Pokemon with sub-par moves, moves that keep them from being transferred to boot.  On the flip side, this change does make travel very convenient and removes the hard choice about which Pokemon you’re are going to inflict HMs upon.  I will be interested to see if this feature carries on to the next generation.

As for the game itself, I am chasing the Alola Pokedex currently.  I am 41% of the way in currently.  The Pokemon Sun & Moon Pokemon are a mix of old versions (some of which have acquired local color) and new ones fresh with this release.

With the Pokemon Bank update I could dump a bunch of the previous ones into the game, but that feels like a bit of a cheat.  I will save that for the National Pokedex task.  For the Alola Pokedex I want to go out and get what I can first and trade for what I have to before I resort to Pokemon Bank as a resource.  Of course, it would help if my daughter would link trade with me.  You need to do that to evolve some Pokemon.

Anyway, that is where I stand.  Still plugging away at Pokemon Sun.

Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number

CCP Quant put up the monthly economic report for January 2017 yesterday.  I always go peruse the numbers and to see what has changed.  Cobalt Edge, for example, passed Delve as the regional mining champion.  Who is mining away up there?  Anyway, it is a treasure and not the sort of thing other MMO devs put out there.  EVE is its own special thing.

At the end of the report there was a bonus graph tracking the growth and changes of the “top 25” corporations, so ranked due to their peak membership.  It is a nice chart to look at:

Development of the top 25 corporations in EVE Online since 2012

Development of the top 25 corporations in EVE Online since 2012

It shows the ebb and flow of some of the long standing corporations as well as the rise of the new player friendly corporations in Null sec, starting with Brave Newbies Inc. then followed by KarmaFleet and Pandemic Horde Inc.

However, the chart was missing one detail in my opinion.  The left edge of the chart indicates the starting scale indicating how wide the flow would be at 8,000 members.  However, there is no gradation and no further measure, so it is hard to tell how big the combined mass of capsuleers in these corps really is.  So I went to DOTLAN and searched up each of the corporations and added up their current membership to get a number.

The right side of the graph represents about 45,000 pilots spread across 21 corporations, with the individual counts as follows, listed out top to bottom as they appear on the graph:

  1. Pandemic Horde – 12,054
  2. KarmaFleet – 4,848
  3. Red Federation – 2,312
  4. Blue Republic – 3,580
  5. EVE University – 1,944
  6. Fusion Enterprises Ltd. – 488
  7. Ascendance – 1,130
  8. Imperial Guardians – 530
  9. Sniggerdly – 477
  10. health clinic – 523
  11. Wildly Inappropriate – 1,052
  12. The Graduates – 416
  13. Conoco. – 1,187
  14. Mission Ready Mining – 1,735
  15. Peoples Liberation Army – 894
  16. 30plus – 374
  17. Signal Cartel – 822
  18. BOVRIL bOREers Mining CO-OP – 221
  19. GoonWaffe – 3,349
  20. Dreddit – 4,026
  21. Brave Newbies Inc. – 3,123

That is a snapshot of course, the count for a brief  moment in time as the numbers are constantly changing.  But it helps set the scale of the change over the time frame of the graph.

Trying to Find Data in the Activision Blizzard 2016 Financials

The final Activision Blizzard financial results for 2016 were announced yesterday.


You can find all that was said and posted over at the company investor relations site.

Gone are the days of straightforward information when they used to tell you the World of Warcraft subscriber numbers and listed out revenue from those subscriptions as a separate line item.  You knew how the game was doing in straight up, hard numbers.

Now though, now the finance team has done all they can to declare everything is wonderful without really telling you where the money is coming from.  Now it is mostly bullshit like Monthly Active Users, as with this slide:

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation - Slide 7

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

I mean, when the division that brings in the least revenue, King, has almost an order of magnitude higher MAUs, you’ve pretty much proven that MAUs are divorced from financial reality.  That is playing, not paying.

And then there are the oddly specific brags as we see on the next slide.

 Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation - Slide 8

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 8

I like this particular quote about WoW:

World of Warcraft time spent grew Q/Q, surpassing Legion’s launch quarter and all non launch quarters in the last 4 years

Time spent playing went up in Q4 compared to Q3.  That makes sense, really, since WoW Legion launched at the back half of Q3, so play time was probably going to ramp up after that.  But then things sort of fall apart as the quote goes on.  It surpassed all “non launch” quarters in the last four years.

So it isn’t doing as well as Warlords of Draenor or Mists of Pandaria launches I guess.  Seems like an odd thing to bring up.  And pining it down to just four years means… that things were better before that?  There was a quote previously about concurrency hitting a post Cataclysm high previously along with first day sales numbers.  So they are being cagey about anything that might allude to actual subscribers.

Still, it isn’t like Blizzard isn’t making money.  According to slide 10 of the presentation, Blizz is no slouch in net revenues and is the champ of operating income.

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation - Slide 10

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 10

Activision topped Q4, but they released a Call of Duty title, so their previous quarters were not so hot.  Blizzard was a little more consistent over the last three quarters, if you dig into the financial model spreadsheet from the investor relations site.

But it is the highlights part under Blizzard that caught my eye.  Specifically, it says:

In 2016, >60% of segment revenue from non-World of Warcraft franchises…

That seemed like something from which I could get a hard number.  I decided to take a strict reading of that sentence and declare that it just mean WoW and not Hearthstone or any part of Heroes of the Storm.  Elsewhere in the presentation it was stated that Blizzard revenue was driven by WoW and Overwatch, so I don’t think assuming WoW-only for that statement is way off base.

Also, I chose to take 60% as a hard number, since if it was much more than that, they would have said so, since declaring that Blizzard isn’t totally dependent on WoW appeared to be part of the exercise.  It it had been 65% or 70%, they probably would have said that instead.

Given that, we can see right there on the slide that Blizzard’s revenue was $2,428 million, which indicates that WoW revenue for 2016 might be as high as $970 million.  Not bad for a twelve year old game.   Not as much as League of Legends in 2016 no doubt, but a bit more than Pokemon Go made in its first six months, if the number is correct.  Even if it is off by… say… 100 million… that is still a lot of income.  (That margin of error is more than GuildWars 2 made in 2016, as an example.)  The billion plus earning years might be behind the game, but it is still a money printing machine unlike any competing MMORPG.

As noted, Overwatch also got special mention in the presentation, so it must be doing well.  And even Hearthstone got a mention, having boosted its MAUs year over year, for whatever that is worth.

That leaves two of the Blizzard properties unaccounted for.  Diablo III didn’t have anything new to sell, so there was no real reason to expect that to show up for a special mention.  And then there is Heroes of the Storm, which has already been called out for problems that keep it from being a contender in its segment.  No mention gives that credence.

Overall though, Blizzard continues to make bank and WoW can support its 300 member development team (according to a GameSpot interview) and still turn a profit.  But with that many people working on the game, there isn’t any excuse for another long content drought.  We shall see if they can manage to avoid that before the next expansions.

Setbacks on the Road South in Minecraft

Work on the long road southward continues.

In the last post I had reached a village out in the plains that I planned to make a new base/waypoint on the road.  I was already well beyond a day’s ride on a fast horse from my previous such base, so it seemed about right.

Village on the plains

Village on the plains

Setting up a base, including a nether portal to serve as a link back to our main transport hub to allow access to supplies I might not otherwise find easily, was going to take some time of course.  However, I ended up spending quite a bit more time there than I thought I might.

One of the first things I wanted to do was setup a mining operation, which generally involves digging down to level 12 in the world to give myself a chance of finding some diamonds along the way.  In an attempt to shorten the digging down process, I decided to check out the cave close by the village, which is the dark half-circle just above it on the map.  It certainly had potential to save me time getting to a lower level… as I walked in to a dark section I fell right through a hole in the floor… a hole that was positioned right over a pool of lava.

Lined up just right

Lined up just right

Walking up to it, it just looked to be a step down, with the floor continuing on, but then I was falling and in the lava, where I died of course.

Swimming in lava

Swimming in lava

I tried to make it to the edge of the lava pool, but the game clearly had it in for me.  You can see, in the background of the death screen, there are two creepers sitting at the edge of the lava pool just waiting for me to get in range so they can explode, killing me, should the lava fail.

That is enough to induce some paranoia.  Later on, when I was digging a path for the road, I fell through into another underground cavern.  Only I missed the pool that time… and it was a pool of water… which would have saved me… but I was literally one block off from hitting it.

At least I got all my stuff back that time.  Swimming in lava solves all of your immediate inventory management issues because everything in your inventory is gone.

I had started to setup shop in the village, so there were some things stowed away there, including a stack of iron ingots, so I could at least make some tools.  But going back to plain iron when you’ve been playing with enchanted diamond stuff for a while can be a bit of a drag.  Time to resupply indeed.

I had some diamonds stored away up the road, so it was back on the horse and back north to collect things.  Once there, I decided to head to the nearest nether portal so I could ride the rails a ways and setup a new one close to my new supply base.  So off I went to dig some netherrack and setup a new portal.

Unfortunately, in my calculation of coordinates, I transposed a digit (my 10-key skills have atrophied over the years) and rather than ending up with a portal just outside of the village, I ended up with one at the top of a tree in the jungle a ways off.

You can see it from quite a ways away

You can see it from quite a ways away

Once I got back in the nether from the jungle canopy and checked my math, I moved along and setup a portal in the RIGHT location, which popped it up right outside of town as planned.  I then pulled in some supplied dug myself a mine from the surface on the other side of the village from my previous lava experience, setup an auto-furnace, and cleaned up the paths in town because when they’re messed up they bug me and I am like that.

The village, some time later

The village, some time later

I even found out that the mine was in a chunk that occasionally spawns slimes, so I was able to make another lead for me horse… Minecraft logic is apparently that a lead is a rope with sticky on each end so you can stick your mount to something to make it stay, something my horse seeks to disprove rather regularly… as I lost the one I had been using as part of the lava incident.

Slime peek-a-boo

Slime peek-a-boo

Eventually I was well supplied and ready to strike southward again.

Along the way I ran into a lone wolf intent on slaughtering the local sheep population, a population I had been encouraging and breeding because it is nice to have a wool supply handy.  However, I happened to have some bones with me, so I managed to tame the wolf.  Tamed wolves become dogs, because of course they do.

Me and my new pet

Me and my new pet… and dressed in diamond gear again

Having the dog with me was a bit of a boon at times.  As I started building the road south again, I moved quickly along the plains and ended up spending time out in the dark, during which the dog would help defend my work site from encroaching skeletons and zombies.

While he seemed to have a knack for getting in the way, he traveled with me for quite a stretch as I scouted ahead, looking for the best path.  I found he would even get in a boat with me when I was scouting.

Me and the dog go boating

Me and the dog go boating

Since the update that fixed boats they also have two passenger spots.

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that if you shoot a bow and arrow in a boat, it hits your passenger.  As I was approaching shore one evening a skeleton loomed out at the spot I was going to land so I opened up on him with the bow and killed the dog.  It was a sad moment.

I suppose at least he isn’t standing where I want to put a block any more.

Anyway, the road continues to move southward.  By the next update I will have probably passed the half way point to hooking up to out main settlement rail system.

Moving Day Again

If there is one bad habit I have had in New Eden, it is my propensity to collect crap.  The “All Items” tab in the Assets window is a scary place for me.  Once it took so long to load I thought I had crashed the server by opening it.

Just a snippet out of the long, long list of places

Just a snippet out of the long, long list of places

I have a recurring nightmare about having to go out in a ship and haul everything back to Jita or Amarr.  Some of that stuff has been out there for a long time too.  I don’t think I have spent time in Hageken for nearly a decade.  And then there was that unfortunate region-wide buy order in Domain.

So when it was announced yesterday that the coalition was moving to a new staging system, I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of moving my stuff yet again.  We were not moving too far, just a couple gates, but there was still the prospect of a lot of hauling in my future.

Dead pods mark move ops

Dead pods mark move ops

However, things didn’t turn out as bad as I thought they might.  I managed to stuff my Mastadon full of stuff and moved most of the loose modules and other items in three runs under the protective eyes of the local standing fleet.

After that, it was time to move all the ships I had stored up.  That is usually the tough part.  But as it so happens, I haven’t been collecting quite so many ships lately.  I used to buy a couple ships for every doctrine, but the coalition has been trying to keep logi stable between doctrines, so I have been able to re-use the same ships.  That, plus the fact that I now have an Archon and an Apostle, both of which have hangars capable of hauling assembled ships, meant I was able to carry almost everything over to the new staging rather than flying each ship.

Apostle ready to jump

Apostle ready to jump

So having two capital ships finally pays off.

The only downside to the whole thing is that the ships you are carrying in the hangar can only have ammunition and other charges for modules in their cargo.  So I had to pull out all the refits and mobile depots and nanite repair paste and what not and shove them in the cargo hold to be sorted out later.

So move op completed for me more quickly than usual.  Everything I had in the old staging Keepstar is now in the new one.  However, it still feels like I have a ton of stuff rolling around in my inventory bin.  Also, I have to go through all the fits and figure out which ships need modules in their holds.  I might save that task for the start of an actual op.  There is always some lag time while we assemble.

Kickstarter MMO Metaphor

There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little we went insane.

Francis Ford Coppola, not at all describing Star Citizen

There is, even as I write this, a Kickstarer campaign running for a video game based on the movie Apocalypse Now.


I have no real opinion when it comes to the game itself.  It might be the best game ever or allow one unique depth and perspective into the movie.  It might be all they promise and more.  I just know that it looks pretty sure that the campaign is not going to make its $900,000 funding goal.

Wilhelm’s Rule of Kickstarter campaigns is that if you don’t make 20% of your funding goal in the first 24 hours, you might as well go home.  You haven’t rallied your base or given enough notice or come up with the right pitch or simply just don’t have the draw to get there.

The campaign sits at 18% and is at day 14 of 30.  The prospects look grim.  They even have a backer in at the $10,000 mark, but not nearly enough backers in at the sane funding levels.

I didn’t even hear about the title through the gaming news media.  I stumbled on it by mistake on the Kickstarter site, and I was only there because I saw Bob Cringley had time to do another post on his blog so was wondering if he might have also found time to update people on when the hell their Mineservers might be showing up. (If ever.)

Still, when I found the campaign I had to laugh.

I wasn’t laughing at the campaign or what it was trying to accomplish.  Like I said, the intent there might be pure.

Rather, I was laughing at what a perfect metaphor the movie was for the big ticket, grandiose plans, uncontrolled feature creeping, perennially behind schedule, and always over budget crowdfunded MMORPG market.

And lets face it, the grand champion poster child for all of that is Star Citizen. You could make this it several others, but Star Citizen is the big fish, so let’s just go straight for the jugular on that one.

Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man...

Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man…

How can you have this thought… this mixing of media minds… and not put Chris Roberts up there in the role of Colonel Kurtz?  Surrounded by loyal followers who continue to give him money to driving a project that seems to have gone beyond being a viable venture.

I suppose if he could keep his posts a little more terse I might have to cast Derek Smart as Captain Willard.

They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.

-Capt. Willard, on meeting Col. Kurtz

That is a fun mental image to play with, but it is too much.  The movie is too large, too dramatic, too bloody, too wrought with peril to really be a metaphor for Star Citizen.  The real metaphor requires you to pull back a level, to consider the making of Apocalypse Now.

There is a great documentary about the making of the movie, Hearts of Darkness.  It illustrates the parallel between the theme of the movie and the reality of making the movie, with Coppola himself taking on the Kurtzian role, out in the jungle, making a movie that nearly grew beyond his ability to shape.

I can picture Chris Roberts in that situation as well.  He had a vision, but the scope may well have grown beyond his ability to shape and bring to fruition.  Some of the problem is letting things grow because the wider scope is what he really wants.  But not every problem is of his making.  Coppola in the jungle face expensive problems with sets, actors unprepared (Brando) or ill (Sheen had a heart attack) and a range of studio execs back in the states wondering what he was doing with all the money and reminding him that he was past his deadline.

For Chris Roberts you can substitute in technology not up to his vision, the need to build some things from scratch, the need to change engines, and of course a whole range of people wondering what he is doing with the money and pointing out that the promised November 2014 ship date disappeared in the rear view mirror quite a ways back.

Coppola got an enduring classic for all his problems, explosions, and a million feet of film.  We are still waiting to see what Chris Roberts will deliver.

And the irony is that the game that inspired this metaphor in my head, it isn’t going anywhere if it is depending on its crowdfunding run.  But it has been a down time for video game crowdfunding, so they might have to go back to more traditional methods.