Diablo II Act Four

Having made it through the long and linear third act of the game, I was deposited in the Pandemonium Fortress, the base for the fourth act.

Tyreal is there to greet you

I tend to think of this as “the short act” as well.  There are only three quests, two of which are optional, and three waypoints, including the one you start with.  Feeling a bit of completionist drive, and knowing the act to be short, I took the time to take on all three quests.

The act itself takes starts in a gray hellscape as you follow the path to the final confrontation.  Along the way I found Izual and confronted him.

Izual speaks

Finding him is worth it as the quest reward is two more points for your skill tree.

After that, you keep moving forward… though I ran into a problem in getting to the next zone, The City of the Damned.  The path there are some stairs that are on the edge of the zone and, after having circled the perimeter of the entire zone, I realized that there was one tiny bit off on one side that I had not gotten close enough to, so of course that was where the stairs were.  But I fully explored that zone.

In the city you run into Hephasto the Armorer, who works at the Hellforge.  Fighting him is a bit of a battle, and he drops some gems and runes when you defeat him.

Hephasto the Armorer

But what you really need is the Hellforge on which you destroy Mephisto’s soul stone, which you have left over after defeating him at the end of Act III.  That knocks out the second quest for the act.

From there you hit another NPC who gives you a pep talk about moving forward.

On the path forward

Tyreal has your final goal to hand as well.

The final mission

From The City of the Damned you enter the River of Flame.

That is a lot of flame

From that point you are on the route straight to Diablo.

This is where I started having some problems.  I managed to fight my way through to the five seals that you need to unlock in order to release Diablo, but forgot that clicking them spawns a boss and some minions, so clicking two in quick succession got me in over my head and I died in an awkward spot.

Also, I had not thrown up a town portal.  So it was back to the way point for a naked run to my corpse, where I put up a portal, then started kiting mobs away from my corpse.  Of course, I died a few times doing that… and blew a bunch of gold reviving my mercenary each time as well.

Eventually I got things under control, but it was one of those situations where, after I had several corpses on the floor and my gear as yet not recovered, that I started thinking about calling and end to the run.  I pressed on though, got my stuff and then, carefully, cleared out the area and clicked on the final seals.

And then Diablo himself shows up and the fight is on.

A wild Diablo appears!

And then things were slow going.  I am honestly surprised that my “seemed like a good idea at the moment” spec actually lasted this far into the game.  But here, at the final fight, it was not cutting it.  I wasn’t doing enough damage and was having to jump out through a portal for more heal potions (and to revive my eternally dead merc) way too often.

But I had planned for this.  Not too long after launch Blizzard added a reward to one of the Act I quests that let you re-spec just once.  I had been waiting until I hit a wall, so I decided now was the time.  If not on the Diablo stage, then when?

Googling paladin builds, I came across the Hammerdin spec, where you go all in on Blessed Hammer, and skills that boost its damage.  Once I had that set, I went back to Act IV and jumped back in to face Diablo.

It took me a bit to figure out how to use the spec… maybe I should have read that bit before jumping in… but I got it down after not too long and managed to bring Diablo down.  Victory was mine.

I went back to the Pandemonium Fortress and got the pat on the back from everybody.  I had defeated Diablo, something I probably last did more than 15 years ago.  But I was not done yet.  I had created my paladin as an expansion character, so there was another portal go jump through, to get to Act V, and another prime evil to slay, Baal

Deckard Cain is always there waiting for me

The first two acts I remember very well.  I’ve gone back and run them many times.  The third act was a bit hazy, while the fourth act is so short that there is little really to forget, save a few details that might get you killed.

But the fifth act, the expansion act… I was having trouble recalling anything at all about that except for being in a frozen tunnel at some point.  So I pressed on.

Two Hundred and Twenty Million Skill Points

Didn’t I say I was done with these posts back at 200 million?  See how much you can trust me.

This time around the milestone sort of crept up on me by surprise.  I had diverted training on my main account to an alt for a stretch, but then a few things showed up that I wanted to train and I put the queue back on Wilhelm.  That was a ways back, but I swear that the total count was only about 218 million when I last looked.  Suddenly, yesterday, it was past 220 million and time for a post. (This does not count the ~3 million unused skill points I have waiting for some urgent need.)

My skill point history so far:

That is pretty much my career in New Eden.  This time around  a couple of the usual suspects saw most of the skill points.  My standings:

Spaceship Cmd   75,646,193 (68 of 85)*
Gunnery         21,207,181 (46 of 63)*
Drones          17,036,708 (22 of 26)
Fleet Support   13,351,107 (14 of 15)
Missiles        11,954,833 (22 of 26)*
Navigation       9,660,314 (13 of 13)
Engineering      8,939,855 (15 of 15)
Electronic Sys   8,159,689 (15 of 15)
Scanning         7,168,000 (7 of 7)
Armor            6,131,137 (13 of 13)
Shields          6,074,039 (12 of 13)
Science          5,714,282 (21 of 39)
Resc Processing  4,756,183 (22 of 37)
Subsystems       4,096,000 (16 of 16)
Trade            3,994,040 (11 of 14)*
Neural Enhance   3,810,275 (7 of 8)
Targeting        3,207,765 (8 of 8)
Planet Mgmt      2,983,941 (5 of 5)*
Rigging          2,576,865 (10 of 10)*
Structure Mgmt   1,446,824 (6 of 6)
Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12)
Social           1,130,040 (5 of 9)
Corp Mgmt           24,000 (2 of 5)

Total         ~220,227,747

Values that changed are marked with an asterisk.

As usual, Spaceship Command say the bulk of the skill point gain, going up by about 5 million, or half the total since the last checkup.  This started when the EDECOM ships showed up back in June and Asher suggested that we might try doing something with them in Reavers.  So I can fly them all now, and have most of them to level V.

EDENCOM Skybreaker

I have not, in fact, flown any of the EDENCOM ships.  I have not even SEEN one of them in space.  Asher said that sourcing them would be a pain, and that they were not very good in any case, so it fell off the Reavers plan.  But should that change, I am ready!  Maybe next week’s update will make them more viable.

That plan also explains the pop in the Gunnery number, since the Vorton Projector that goes with the EDECOM ships falls under the Gunnery category, as do the supplementary skills.  That ate up a good two million more of the points trained.

Missiles got a small jump, shy of a million, but I honestly cannot recall what I trained there.  Probably one of the advanced skills to boost Tech II damage.

Trade saw some training, this time for the Advanced Broker Relations skill that came in with the March update.  And Planetary Management went up when I decided it was time to earn some ISK and I thought maybe PI would be a plan.  But I am bad, I forget to check on it for weeks at a stretch, so it probably hasn’t even paid back what I have invested in it.

As for Rigging, I know exactly where that went.  Or I thought I did.  I remember putting some skill points into Armor Rigging V when I figured out it would give me just a little bit more speed when flying and armor rigged ship.  But I wrote about that last time.  So my guess is that Launcher Rigging got the points this time around, since that is the only other Rigging skill at level V.

And that covers my last ten million skill points.  My level distribution is currently:

Level 1 -   1
Level 2 -   3
Level 3 -  37
Level 4 -  89
Level 5 - 235

As for where to go next… it looks like Black Ops V is the current skill being trained, another one for Spaceship Command… and a lot more level Vs after that.  Maybe I should swap back over to my alt again.  I can fly all the subcaps on my main again, so until CCP adds some more I’m probably good.

EVE Online Expands Abyssal Sites with Depths of the Abyss

Abyssal Deadspace was introduced a little over two years ago with the Into The Abyss expansion.  This gave players a new PvE experience with five levels of difficulty, random-ish enemies, and a 20 minute hard timer that meant you had to exit by then or lose your ship and your pod when the pocket collapsed.

There were also blueprint copies for Triglavian ships, weapon systems, and ammo to be found, as well as mutaplasmids, which would mutate modules to change their states, possibly making them better, but sometimes making them much worse.

All of which became very popular very quickly, as CCP explained in a presentation at EVE Down Under just a couple of weeks after the expansion launched.

Abyssal Deadspace has continued to be expanded, with more blueprints showing up, different mutaplasmids becoming available, and even an option to run them as a team in three frigates rather than just solo in a cruiser.  And yesterday saw perhaps the biggest boost yet to Abyssal Deadspace content with the Depths of the Abyss update.

Now Live

The details, straight from the updated patch notes:

  • New Tranquil (Tier 0) Abyssal Deadspace is now available to provide an easier introduction to Abyssal Deadspace. Whether you’re a new player, or an experienced player looking to try out Abyssal Deadspace for the first time, Tranquil runs are a great way to learn the mechanics of Abyssal Deadspace in a low-pressure environment that can be completed by very inexpensive ships. Tranquil Abyssal Filaments can be obtained through the new player gifts, exploration sites, and in Tier 0 and Tier 1 Abyssal Deadspace.
  • New Cataclysmic (Tier 6) Abyssal Deadspace is now available to provide an extreme challenge for elite pilots! Cataclysmic Abyssal Deadspace is perfect for pilots who have mastered all other tiers of the Abyss and are looking for a new challenge to overcome. Cataclysmic Abyssal Deadspace provides even greater rewards than Chaotic Abyssal Deadspace, including being the exclusive source for the new capital module mutaplasmids. Cataclysmic Abyssal Filaments can be obtained from Tier 5 Abyssal Deadspace.
  • A new two pilot Destroyer mode is now available for all tiers of Abyssal Deadspace. This mode allows entry by up to two pilots flying Tech 1, Tech 2, and/or Tech 3 Destroyers and requires two Abyssal Filaments for entry.
  • New groups of enemies can be found in all tiers of Abyssal Deadspace. These new opponents include new varieties of Triglavians, pirate faction expeditions into the Abyss, and even shadowy CONCORD strike teams who will attack any intruders on sight!
  • A new environmental cloud can be found within Abyssal Deadspace: the Tachyon Cloud. This cloud dramatically improves the velocity and maneuverability of ships within its area of effect, but beware the dangers of unexpected high speeds if your ships leaves the cloud pointed in the wrong direction!

Two new tiers, destroyer mode, new enemies, and new space weather is quite a bit.

In addition, there are new capital sized mutaplasmid drops available from Tier 6 Cataclysmic space:

  • Warp Scramblers
  • Warp Disruptors
  • Afterburners
  • Microwarpdrives
  • Local Armor Repairers
  • Local Shield Boosters
  • Neutralizers
  • Nosferatu
  • Siege Modules

So those will be the next hot thing for cap pilots.  I can foresee many officer mods being wrecked in the hope of getting a big bonus on the right stat.

And, finally, some of the standard drops have been reduced in size so you can fit them all in your cargo hold.

  • Crystalline Isogen-10: Volume reduced from 0.35m3 to 0.3m3
  • Zero-Point Condensate: Volume reduced from 0.25m3 to 0.2m3
  • Triglavian Survey Database: Volume reduced from 0.1m3 to 0.01m3

There we go.  CCP has expanded the Abyssal Deadspace content.  We shall see how many dead ships the new tier will create.

New Eden Bot Bash in Yulai

It is currently GM Week in EVE Online, where some of the staff come out and mix with the players and run special events.  There is a list of things going on this week.

GM Week 2020 – Times are in UTC… and should be 17:00 if we’re going to be EVE Online

The best item on the list… my opinion… is the whack-a-bot.  It takes place in Yulai at the graveyard beacon… you can read about the Yulai Graveyard here… where CCP teleports in ships of people they have confirmed are botting, flag them as suspects, and lets everybody shoot them.

This has become a popular event since it started, so when I took a break from work to slip over in an interceptor to take a peek, I wasn’t surprised to find a crowd in system and time dilation kicking in.

Ships hanging out waiting

In the middle of all of that were several Praxis battleships… there is one in the top middle of the screen shot above… and they started using smart bombs… area of effect weapons… in the crowd.  Smaller ships started blowing up right away.

The scene now lit by explosions

I was in the midst of this and was taking a bunch of damage.  Looking at what I had fit, I decided to set off the burst jammer just to hit back and maybe get on their kill mails.

Being in high sec space, this was a bad idea.  I was now a suspect as well.  And, while one of the Praxis pilots got the kill mail, 40% of the damage to me was done by CONCORD.

Somehow I managed to get my pod out of the scrum and docked up in the nearest station.  I clicked the “Board my Corvette” button… I still don’t like it, but I know what it does… and undocked, ignoring the warning… the warning that I still had a timer and would be shot if I undocked… which promptly happened.

I had that and a bunch of kill rights on my character.  It was time to log them off and try somebody else.

I grabbed an Alpha Clone character I had in Jita who happened to be in a Tristan.  That seemed good enough, so I took the direct route to Yulai, eleven jumps including a few through low sec, and made it to my destination.

Along the way I set up an overview for just capital ships.  Being in high sec meant that my usual settings, which show everybody not blue, meant that the overview was pages long since most everybody on grid was neutral.  People from null sec often get a little freaked out when they wind up in high sec space again.

Being a little more wary on my arrival, I warped to the graveyard beacon at 30km.

I had missed the early bots, the carriers and the rorquals, but I was there in time for a pair of super carriers, a Nyx and a Hel.  The Nyx was the closer of the two, those still outside of my 48km lock range, so I started to motor in that direction to join in on the kill.

Nyx under fire

Fortunately my Tristan has an eclectic fit.  Generally a drone boat, I had fit guns and a target painter to it at some point.  The target painter was key.  The guns were short range and drones can be slow and vulnerable to smart bombs… you can see a Praxis still in the Nyx screen shot… but a target painter can reach out as far as you can lock a target and counts and ewar, so gets you on the kill mail.

So I happily painted the Nyx as I turned to get in range of the Hel.  The Nyx was not long for this world.

The Nyx begins to brew up

I got within range of the Hel and put my target painted on it, then decided I could spare a drone, so sent one of mine out to do some damage as well.

The Hel getting Hell

The Hel was not long for this world either, but even as it started to come apart, the grand finale appeared on grid with us, to Avatar titans.

Hel in the center, flanked by Avatars

This was what everybody wanted, to be on a titan kill.  After nearly nine years in null sec I have only been on 11 titan kills, seven of them at B-R5RB and another four at Asher’s trap in Okegaiken during the Casino War.  That is just two opportunities over all that time.  So everybody was keen to get on these two.

A sky full of beams

And the show go even better.  They may have both been botters, but one of the Avatar pilots was at least close by his keyboard and realized what was going on.  If he was going to lose his Avatar, he was at least going to get on a titan kill mail while he was there, so he unleashed his doomsday on his fellow victim.

The doomsday hits!

You have to give them points for style and putting on a show as everybody got to see the new Avatar doomsday effect.  (I got to see it on the test server back in April, but it is still pretty cool.)

But the masses were wearing them both down.  First one Avatar exploded. (The doomsday got the other one top damage.)

End of a titan

Then the other one gave up and started to explode as well.

My Tristan flies by as somebody shoots fireworks

And that was the end of the show.  It was some fun, and I am sure some people got to see a few ships they hadn’t run into before… on the field as well as among the botters.

While I had the UI off for a lot of the time, I spotted local getting into the 1,800 player range, which meant that time dilation was in effect for much of the event.  The game slowing down drew a lot of complaints in local chat, which I found pretty amusing.  CCP even posted the CPU usage chart for the event.

A lot of load there

For a big null sec battle, like the fleet fight we had on Sunday or any of the contested Keepstar timers in Fountain, this was nothing.  A mere slow down of the game.  The UI was still responsive and I didn’t feel the need to open up the command queue to see how long it was taking for things to get through.  So my own reaction to local was:

Time dilation is around our necks in every fight in null sec

But if you’ve never been in a null sec fight, I guess this might have seemed pretty bad.

So now I have an Alpha Clone character that I almost never use with two titan kills under their belt.  Oh, and my first alt, the one who got smart bombed and then set off the ECM burst, they will have to stay docked up for a while.  That burst jammer lit up enough people that my alt earned a page full of kill rights against them.  I’ll just have to wait the 30 days for those to expire.

Others at the event:

Ten Weeks of World War Bee

Here we are at the ten week mark and the war carries on.

On the Imperium side, the news of the week was probably the sounding of the Horn of Goondor, the email out to all of the lapsed members of the coalition top tell them that was is upon us and now is the time to come back and join the war.  The text of the email was posted over at INN because it isn’t something you keep secret if you want it to work.  I’m just surprised I haven’t seen the Goondor Calling video linked yet… so I guess I’ll link it.

There were a few immediate responses, like Mynnna donating a couple trillion ISK in cash and goods to the cause.  Of course, since the email went far and wide, those attacking us have declared that the Imperium is now desperate, on its last legs, or whatever.  Maybe they’ll attack Delve now.  Because the real risk of sounding the horn is that the attackers will continue to dither and people who came back for a war won’t get one.

Another items that has been discussed as part of the war is the Tranquility Trading Tower, part of the Tranquility Trading Consortium, a joint enterprise involving the Imperium, Legacy, and Pandemic Horde, who all get a cut of the profits, a total said to run north of a trillion ISK each month.

TTC Alliance Info… join their Discord server!

People have been wondering whether that deal will get broken, as both sides staying in business together seems more than a bit hypocritical given some of the rhetoric being tossed about.

However, all sides like ISK and nobody seems to want to interrupt the flow right now.

But some people like ISK more than others.  While the Imperium distributes the proceeds from the TTC agreement across alliances based on the number of members they have, word leaked that when it comes to Legacy coalition TEST keeps all of the proceeds.  When The Mittani brought this up on the Meta Show on Saturday, Vily explained in the chat that this covers the value that the other alliances in the coalition receive for being a member.  So there you have it.  Vily graciously uses the TTC  revenues to pay the membership dues of other members of Legacy coalition, to TEST.  Memes quickly followed.

So much for trivia from the field.

Northern Front

Fountain isn’t much of a front anymore.

With PandaFam moving out of Fountain, The Initiative took it upon themselves to reinforce every ihub in the region, even those in the metaliminal storm systems.  Then they won the timers and even started planting their own ihubs back in the region again.

Fountain ihub owership – Sept 13, 2020

They have also been doing the TCUs as well, so the whole region will soon look like it once did, at least on DOTLAN.

Of course, that isn’t going to replace all the structures that were lost, which by one count, tallied up to:

6 Keepstars
7 Sotiyos
15 Faction Forts
41 Fortizars
32 Tataras
14 Azbels
263 Athanors
18 Astras
41 Raitarus
25 Jump Gates
38 Cyno Beacons
108 TCUs
108 IHUBs

The is a lot of losses.  But INIT has also been out shooting the structures left behind by PandaFam, which have mostly been left to die.  They did make an exception for the Fortizar in I-CUVX, which they rushed back to save.  No doubt they have a lot of stuff still left to be moved there, and having a bunch of stuff go into asset safety would be a bit of a blow.

Southern Front

Having left Fountain, PandaFam has taken up position to begin attacking through Querious.  They now have a staging Fortizar in Kaira, in the Khanid region, to act as their base.

I went over to take a peek

After weeks where Legacy made a big show, holding as many as 56 ihubs at one point, then losing almost all of them, PandaFam’s arrival has given them some backbone and the attackers are actually attacking in Querious again.  As of this writing, the attackers hold 51 of the ihubs in the region, though several are in play right this moment.

Skirmishes over ihubs are happening all over the eastern half of the region, often over systems that have traded hands multiple times at this point.  Both sides have racked up losses and kills over the week, leading Imperium FC John Hartley to post this picture of the expected arc of Jackdaw pricing.

The market looks bullish

PandaFam, however, has been more focused, driving along the series of systems that lead to NPC Delve.

Querious – Sep 13, 2020

NPC Delve, a cluster of 11 systems owned by the Blood Raiders NPC faction, each of which has an NPC station.  NPC Delve is one of the traditional invasion points, as you can dock up in an unassailable NPC station as a base.  The stations can also hold carriers and dreadnoughts and from 1DH-SX capitals are in jump range of most of Delve.  If they can get into that system and setup a Fortizar for tethering, or a Keepstar for docking, supers and titans can range across much of the region as well.

Systems with titan range of 1DH-SX

That still keeps them just out of super and titan range of our main staging in 1DQ1-A and all the Keepstars and Fortizars that I drew circles around last week.  They will have to get a foothold further into the region for that.

Meanwhile, getting a Fortizar or Keepstar set up in 1DH-SX is easier said that done.  Any attempt would no doubt lead to both sides swarming on the system.  And, while NPC Delve is known as an invasion route into the region, it has also been witness to ignominious defeats, with groups being camped into stations by fleets running from downtime to downtime.  I’ve been on some of those ops before.

319 Station, where Nulli Secunda was camped back in 2012

Still, with the likely invasion vector being set, the Imperium spent some time over the weekend consolidating its capital force, which had previously been scattered across four different staging locations.

Everybody landing at the new staging Keepstar

The war now seems to be headed towards a possible clash of titans as both sides get in position.  If the invaders come into NPC Delve a host of our capitals, supers, and titans are in range.

My Participation

I went on a few ops, though not so many as I would have liked.  A lot of the war has been taking place in Euro time, with things tapering off as the day rolls into my own prime time on the US west coast.  Still, I did get one kill mail when we shot yet another POS tower that the hostiles dropped.  This one was in 1DH-SX, which makes sense given the path the war has been taking.

Shooting another POS tower

I was also in a big fight yesterday, in both the Muninn fleet and driving my Apostle in the capital fleet.

My Scimi out in the fight

The caps were there to counter dread the hostiles were threatening to drop on the subcaps.  Along the way my Scimi got primaried off the field, so that is one more loss to add to my war total so far.

  • Ares interceptor – 9
  • Atron entosis frigate – 5
  • Drake entosis battle cruiser – 3
  • Guardian logi – 2
  • Malediction interceptor – 2
  • Scalpel logi frigate – 2
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 2
  • Scimitar logi – 1
  • Bifrost entosis command destroyer – 1
  • Cormorant destroyer – 1
  • Purifier stealth bomber – 1
  • Hurricane battle cruiser – 1
  • Sigil entosis industrial – 1

Coming Up

I suspect that the fighting will continue to be focused on Querious, with perhaps an attempt to setup a staging point within titan bridge range of NPC Delve.  At least a Fortizar would need to be anchored for that.  One set up in GOP-GE would give the attackers the ability to cover their route into Delve and set them up to project force in order to move into NPC Delve.

How quickly that will come to pass remains to be seen.  PandaFam, deployed far from home, seems to be focused on getting stuff done while TEST and their Legacy allies, who all still live at home… in game at least… seem in less of a hurry.  Vily has been talking about getting to 1DQ1-A by February, which would require keeping the war going for a full seven months.  We will see if things take that long, or if those deployed from the east have the stamina to keep going that long.

Addendum:

Pandemic Binge Watching and the Big Three Channels

Let me just get out the obligatory “TV was a lot different when I was young” before we move on.  I tell my daughter about the days before DVRs or VCRs, when you had to be there and ready to watch at a specific time in order to see a show or movie.  A whole weekly magazine was devoted to the TV schedule, which was kind of amazing logistically because the channels were different in every major media market.  The LA TV Guide was useless in Chicago or New York.

And don’t even get me started on the pre-cable days and fiddling with an antenna to get the TV signal.  And I am just old enough to remember pre-solid state TVs, where you had to turn them on and allow a couple of minutes for them to warm up before a clear picture would resolve itself on the screen.  Or a fuzzy picture, if the antenna wasn’t just right.  It was a different time.

Today we have a Roku Stick that juts out from the side of our 46″ LCD TV.  I bought that back in December because there was demand in our house for the Disney+ channel and the PlayStation 3, our streaming device up until that moment, was just seconds from being completely out of support, so no new apps were being made for it.  And, when I looked at it a couple month later, all the old apps were dead too.  So it was just in time.

And, as the pandemic has gone on, we have spent more and more time streaming content over the Roku and very little time watching traditional commercial television.  I’d cancel the cable TV service, but Comcast would raise my monthly charge to just have internet.  So we just leave it there, idle, though I may go in and trim some features, like the extra we pay for HD channels.  The Comcast Xfinity HD compression algorithm was changed a couple years back and what you get now looks pretty bad.  If it even qualified as 720p I’d be surprised.  Maybe sports will come back and we’ll want to watch something like that.

Anyway, this will be a few posts running down of the channels in order of length and depth of investment in each, and I will start with the big three staples of our house currently.

HBO, or Home Box Office back in the day, is probably the first premium channel I ever ran into.  Our friend Gary had a bootleg HBO receiver on their antenna mast back in the day when it was broadcast via line-of-sight transmission from Mount Umunhum into the valley.  It was just movies back then, and the occasional filler 30 minutes of Video Jukebox, which might have pre-dated MTV.

I have subscribed to HBO as part of cable or satellite or streaming a number of times over the years, and I always end up cancelling it after a while.  They never have many movies that interest me, and for a long time they only had a few shows, and none of this was on demand.  But that has changed.

Upside:

Usually has a couple of recent release movies we might want to watch.

Has a deep field of good TV series that they have produced on which to binge like The Wire, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Succession, Generation Kill, and a few others.  I could watch the first two seasons of The Wire on repeat.

Downside:

Priced at a premium tier.

Like a lot of movie channels, there are a bunch of movies you’ll skip right past because you’ve seen them or know you’ll never watch them.  Oh, and they come and go monthly, so you have to keep an eye on that.

Has some series that are decent but which got cancelled quickly, so you have a few episodes and a longing for more.

The UI of the app is not very sophisticated, though I will admit that the UI of none of the streaming apps are ideal.  We are once again up against the limitations of screen real estate and exactly how big things need to be to be able to see/read them from the couch.  But HBO, for all its prestige of being one of the elder services, is behind the pack when it comes to features, at least when compared to the two services below.

Has clung to the old school “episode every week” format for new show content.  This works for topical shows, like Last Week Tonight, and worked during Game of Thrones, when everybody was talking about that at the water cooler on Monday, but that was an exception, not the rule.  Most of the time it feels like they drag shows out week by week because they have nothing else new coming and just want to keep you subscribed.  Our general house rule is to let a series get at least six episodes in so we can watch them in pairs, though it is better still if we just wait until the season is over and watch at our own pace.

I also remain confused as to their branding.  I have HBO Now, or I did, but there is now HBO Max, which I cannot have because they are in a fight with Roku, though I can get HBO Max if I cancel HBO Now and subscribe to HBO via Hulu.  Or something like that.  I am not sure what I am missing by not having HBO Max.  Also, wasn’t there HBO Go for a while?

Current Status: Still subscribed.  Waiting for Lovecraft County to get further along.

Our original stop for binge watching, back when Netflix used to just send disks through the mail.  We burned through seasons of the show 24 three disks at a time.  With no commercials and using the chapter advance to get past the “previously” and the credits, each hour long episode boiled down to under 30 minutes, so we would watch a disk a night.

Eventually Netflix managed to get to the “net” part of its name and started streaming back before that was much of a thing.

Anyway, fast forward to today where Netflix is your prime location for streaming old episodes of Friends, a show we only used to watch because it was adjacent to Seinfeld at one point and the once place where you can watch Tiger King.

Upside:

Overall, lots of stuff available.

Lots of new and original content showing up all the time.  When they drop a new series, it is all episodes on the table, ready to binge.  And they have hit the mark multiple times with shows like Stranger Things and Tiger King.

Top of the class when it comes to features like “skip the ‘previously’ segment” at the start of a series show and “skip credits” so you can get straight into the content.

Tries really hard to flag content you might like based on your viewing, and isn’t that bad at it.  And it allows you to make profiles so when your daughter binges anime on her profile you don’t end up with the weeabo selection on your own recommendations.

Downside:

Has, over time, dramatically decreased the amount of third party content they have licensed.  There are still some good third party items in the mix, and of course Friends, but they are more about their own stuff these days.

A lot of their own content isn’t that great.  Some of it is okay.  I was good with a pass through once on things that otherwise got mixed reviews, but it can be really hit and miss.  A bunch of it is foreign television that has been dubbed in English and branded as “Netflix Original” and dumped into the listings.  Some dubbed stuff is okay, though a dubbed show really has to have a strong underlying plot for that not to become a distraction.

Really wants stuff playing on your screen.  The only service where I will leave something selected, walk away to do something, and come back to find myself starting episode three already.  You can tone that down some in the settings, but they don’t make it easy.

Current Status: Still subscribed, waiting for the next bit of binge fodder to drop while I get through Parks & Recreation.

Amazon Prime is the streaming service we sort of backed into because we had Amazon Prime for free delivery and suddenly it included a video service.

Upside:

Has content for Prime members, which occasionally has a movie I want to watch when I want to watch it.  I caught The Battle of Britain the other day.

Continues to ramp up some decent original content like The Man in the High Castle, The Boys, and Hanna.  If you’re going to dub something, Comrade Detective is how you do it.

Has caught up to Netflix on the “skip this” features without trying to start playing video at you every time you pause the cursor for a moment.  Also, just added profiles.

Can subscribe to a variety of other services like Showtime or Starz in their interface.  Also has a huge library of pay per view titles in its catalog.

Downside:

Not a lot of selection when compared to Netflix when you consider the price differential.  But maybe the free shipping takes a bite out of the content options.

Not as easy to navigate as Netflix.  Not that Netflix is great, but on Prime everything is smaller and less intrusive and feels like they are not trying as hard.  Prime also lists out each season of a show as its own entry, which feels like they are trying to look like they have more content than they actually do.

Searching for titles will lead you to a lot of things that are pay per view.  This sets it apart from the other two where everything you find on the service you can watch without additional payment.

The last time I tried a pay per view movie I had to get up from the TV and go into my office to order it on my computer before I could watch it on the TV.  I guess that keeps down the accidental purchases.

Some spotty or indifferent shows.  Also clings to the “one episode a week” idea of content deliver, except when it gets impatient and suddenly releases half a season, the doles out the rest more slowly.

Status: Still subscribed for free shipping, Twitch games, and other stuff, while finishing up Counterpart and waiting for all the episodes of The Boys season two to become available.

Next time I’ll look at Hulu, Disney+, and Starz.

Condition Report for the Fourteenth Interval

Conditions were superior during that interval

-Corr, speaking of some past period of time

It is that time again.  Another blog anniversary has rolled around.  I have now been doing this for fourteen years.

WordPress.com says hi

Fourteen seems like a long time.  It is about a quarter of my life at this point.  But, then again, beyond a certain age you find a lot of things that have hung around for significant fractions of your life.  I’ve been driving my current car for 17 years, I’ve been married for 21 years, I have shirts in my closet that still fit that pre-date the blog even.  And don’t get me started on the little things that collect around the house, items that do not have any real value but which I hang on to for whatever reason, like the front license plate to my first car, which was towed off to the junk yard back in 1986.

So, in a way, fourteen years doesn’t seem like all that long ago.  Also, the number fourteen doesn’t strike me with much in the way of inspiration.  Sure, it is the sum of two prime numbers and the age I was when I started high school.  I’ve also had a job pretty much continuously since I was 14.  But nothing really struck me for a post title besides Wilson’s fourteen points.  Me and history.

I’m also a bit lost for a graphic representing that number.  Thirteen had the whole bad luck superstition around it, and fifteen at least has a Taylor Swift song going for it, but fourteen… I suppose there is a state highway 14.  Whatever.

California State Highway 14

Past efforts, with better titles, if you are interested.

Like so many things on this site, there is now a set pattern of items I share annually, so we might as well get on with it.

Base Statistics

The same thing every year, looking at how the various needled moved over the last dozen months.

Days since launch: 5,114 (+366)
Posts total: 5,609 (+394)
Total Words: 4,378,757 (+411,478 words, not including this post)
Average words per post: 781 (+20)
Post Likes: 12,090 (+2,578)
Average posts per day: 1.097 (-0.01)
Comments: 33,780 (+1,329)
Average comments per post: 6.03 (-0.19)
Average comments per day: 6.61 (-0.23)
Spam comments: 1,482,548 (+18,381)
Average spam comments per day: 289.90 (-23.1)
Comment signal to noise ratio: 1 to 43.8 (-1.8)
Comments written by me: 6,857 or 20.3%
Images uploaded: 16,210 (+1,635)
Space used by images: 1.5 GB of my 3 GB allocation (49%)
Blog Followers: 1,888 (-40)
Twitter Followers: 775 (-1)
Tumblr Followers: 34 (+0)
US Presidents since launch: 3
British Monarchs since launch: 1
Prime Ministers of Italy since launch: 7

For some of you that will be enough stats.  Others will want to dive deeper, which you can do after the cut.

Continue reading

Diablo II Act Three

My 20th anniversary replay of Diablo II has reached Act III, which is beyond where I expected to get.

It has been a long time

I have picked up Diablo II again a number of times over the years.  I always play through Act I, which I said is very much the Diablo memory act.  And I always get well into Act II, though the the Duriel fight is probably the first real check in the game to see whether you are geared and spec’d usefully.  I save that one respec that you get until that fight at least, because that is usually the point where I have to get serious.  You can get that far in the game with a strategy of “I’ll just carry more health potions!”  Duriel is the first place that tends to fall apart for me.

But Act III… that doesn’t have any strong memories for me.  Sure, I recognized it when I got there.

On the dock in Kurast

But in the first two acts I know what the quest are by heart.  In Kurast I am just the new guy in town.  Fortunately, Deckard Cain is there to keep me on track.

Stay on target!

Part of the reason I forget Act III no doubt relates to its design, which isn’t all that exciting.  It is very gray in tone, which is odd for a jungle I suppose, and lacks much in the way of interesting visuals.

A village in the jungle

It is also a very linear.  Not the way that the Diablo III story zones are tightly linear, but there is basically one path forward.  Kurast is at one end, Mephisto is at the other, and you just walk straight towards him, stopping occasionally for a dungeon along the way.

In the Flayer Dungeon

No portals, no change of scenery, no doubling back, just walk the jungle, clear the dungeons, find the waypoints, check in with Cain whenever the quest log says.  It makes you wish for a bit of the Arcane Sanctuary again, just for a change up.

In that Diablo II way, you have to go collect some bits and pieces again, delving into one dungeon for a brain, another for a heart.  They are always in the big shiny chests.

A likely place

And all the while Cain and his pals back in Kurast are pushing you on with a false sense of urgency.  You have to get moving, danger is at hand.

Look, the game will wait for me, there is no need to hurry. I’ve seen the script.

At the far end of the jungle is Travincal, a town clearly in a red district as everybody there is open carrying and the city council is very much anti immigrant… or at least anti me.

And they are not just all talk either

The council is kind of a tough fight.  They are all mini bosses so I had to run in and out of the fight a few time.  You can see I have a portal up in the fight for a quick exit.  Also, my mercenary is down again.

The council defeated, you end up with the last drop you need, Khalim’s Flail, which you combine with his hear, brain, and eye in the Horodric Cube.

The cube works some magic

That assembled, it is back to Travincal to break the magic orb that opens up access to the final dungeon area, Mephisto’s lair, the Durance of Hate.

Time for Mephisto

The Durance of Hate has a few mini bosses in the way, some of the alternate members of the council I think.  This was the first time I ran into a mini boss with a serious defense buff, being immune to physical damage.

Steel Grumble indeed

Fortunately my weapon does other types of damage as well, so he took a while, but we eventually knocked him down.  Then there was some more clearing to do, but it wasn’t long before we were facing Mephisto.

Mephisto speaks!

He has some more of the council with him, and he delivers his big line, which is that we are too late, his brothers Diablo and Baal have already been and gone.  The fight was tough, though not too bad.  My merc died, as usual, but I was able to take him down without having to jump out of the fight more than a couple of times.

When he dies, you get his soul stone and return to town.  From there you get the wrap up narrative and passage to the Pandemonium Fortress and the start of Act IV.

Tyreal is there to greet you

Act III did not feel as long as the previous two acts, though that may be more due to the lack of distinctive areas of dungeons.  But when we talk about short, Act IV brings it.  More on that in another post.

Metaliminal Storm Locations and Movement

It has been three weeks since CCP unleashed metaliminal storms on null sec space and… well… there they are.

They’re a few places now

I still haven’t come up with an answer as to who this feature was aimed at.  I remain convinced that the upside of any of the four storm flavors are so tepid that avoidance will be the primary response to them.

And if you open up the in game map… new or old… and set it for storm tracking, you can see seven storm blotches hanging about in New Eden.  The current locations and storm types are, going clockwise from the top:

  1. North Fountain (Exotic)
  2. Cloud Ring (Electrical)
  3. Tribute (Gamma)
  4. Vale of the Silent (Plasma)
  5. Geminate (Exotic)
  6. Providence (Electrical)
  7. Providence (Plasma)

Storms on Sep 9, 2020

If that storm in Tribute were over in Pure Blind I might guess that storms are attracted to null sec regions that kind of suck.  I am not sure what Providence did to deserve two storms… I mean, aside from being Provi I guess.  And the storms in Fountain and Cloud Ring are close enough that they overlap in a system, so you can get both exotic and electrical effects in one system for now.

Dual effects, some cropping to show them both, in QXW-PV

As I went to check on each of the storms… I flew to the eye of each one… I did notice that there were very few players hanging about.  North Fountain was an exception, as I think some of the new neighbors were trying to move in.  But for the most part, the systems where there were storm effects were pretty empty.

That, however, doesn’t really prove my hypothesis, as most of the systems I flew through in between the storms were also pretty empty.  Tribute and Vale have a lot of very low ADM systems.  So, I suspect I’ll have to wait until a storm brews up some place more populated if I want to test the avoidance theory.

One of my other worries does seem to be confirmed.  A few people dismissed the idea of the storms because CCP said they would move a gate at random every 24-48 hours.  So, in theory, three weeks down the line, that first storm that started in KBP7-G in Providence could be as many as 21 gates away by now.

However, as I figured, random movement, especially in pipe systems, might also end up just moving back and forth over the same stretch of space for an extended period of time.

So that first storm has made it all the way to YWS0-Z, just two gates from where it started three weeks ago.  This does not surprise me at all.  But it does indicate that you cannot count on a storm moving away on its own.  It might just linger for weeks at a stretch.

CCP did not mention whether or not storms would have a specific duration, if they would die out on their own of just persist for all time, like a Triglavian system in its final liminality.  One might imagine that storms would brew up and fade away over time.  But one might also imagine that CCP could create a usable in-game map after 17 years and we know how that one has played out.

At least, for now, the storms are stuck in place few people care about at the moment.

Facing the Avatar of Hakkar

It was time for another trip to Sunken Temple.  It was time to try the Avatar of Hakkar, the one part of the instance we had yet to attempt.  We got on together and flew down to Nethergarde Keep once more to join up.  Our group was:

  • Viniki – level 53 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 53 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 53 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 53 gnome mage

And we started running into problems pretty quickly.  As we were riding towards the Swamp of Sorrows and the instance, I noticed that Moronae had stopped following.  We circled back and found him riding in place, as one does in Classic, though apparently still online.  He was on Discord as well, and told us later that he could still hear us talking.  We could not hear him however.

Moronae was moving yet standing still

He texted to say that it was a Comcast Xfinity outage and that there was not yet an estimate as to when service should return.  What to do?

We decided to take some alts out for a spin while we waited, so for a bit our group was:

  • Denogh – Level 42 Dwarf Hunter
  • Scscla – Level 42 Gnome Warrior
  • Wilhelm – Level 44 Human Paladin

We decided to hit Booty Bay as that seemed a likely spot for us to find some quests to do together.

Flying in to Booty Bay, there seemed to be something going on.  There were a lot of level 60s Alliance players hanging out around the flight point.

Crowd when I arrived

Down below there was a crowd of high level Horde players as well.  We stood to the side and shared quests and came up with a plan.  As we were headed out, we got a zone buff.

When the spirit hits you

We guessed that somebody must have finished up Zul’Gurub and was turning in the quest, which was why everybody was hanging around.  They knew the buff was coming.

We decided to head out to the beach where there were the quests for Captain Smott’s chest and the three pirate ship captains.  Gorlash, the holder of Smott’s chest was on the way, so we went after him first.  We were, perhaps, not an ideal group to take on a level 47 elite, but we managed it, though the ride was not exactly smooth.  I did not have to use Lay Hands though, so it wasn’t that bad either.

Gorlash down

From there we went after the first of the pirate captains, where we got in over our heads pretty quickly by rushing in too far too fast, with Wilhelm and Scscla going down.  Denogh was saved by feign death.  By the time we got back and were setting up for another run, Moronae was logging back in, his internet restored.  We camped on a nearby island to resume the main group.

Camping Out

Back together, we rode out from Nethergarde Keep once more for the instance.  We did not have the luck of last week, where somebody had cleared the path to the instance for us.

Trash to clear on the way in

But, by this point, we knew the way in and were more than capable of clearing a bit of trash.  Once into the instance, we took the stairs to the left and headed up to the fourth floor, or the main floor, of the instance.  There we only had to clear our way out and to the right to slip into the room where the Avatar of Hakkar would be found.

In the room where it happens

The Avatar of Hakkar is an event.  You have to click on the egg from the quest to kick it off, after which you are locked into the room by gates dropping at either end of the room and have to clear mobs, waiting for a Hakkari Bloodkeeper spawn.  You need four of those.  Each one drops Hakkari Blood, which may be used to extinguish one of the braziers in the corners.  Once all four have been put out, Hakkar shows up and the big fight begins.

We had a bit of trouble with the event, largely because it involves a bunch of non-elite mobs roaming the room, so keeping aggro off the casters is a chore.  This is one of the pains of having just a four person group.  One more person would take a lot of pressure off.  But with four we dance around a lot.  I hold aggro on elites and sometimes we try to freeze and burn the non-elites, but they don’t die quickly enough and end up chasing Ula around as we try to save her.

Still, we muddled through.  We got the fourth Hakkari Bloodkeeper down and Ula, the designated collector, looted it and extinguished the final brazier.  The Avatar of Hakkar spawned.

And then the power went out at my house.

This was perhaps not unexpected.  It was a hot day all along the west coast and power draw was very high, straining the power grid.

Local temp while we were playing

Fortunately it was just a blip.  I had hooked up a UPS to my computer, so it stayed up, and the power came back on in about 20 seconds, so everything else was coming back up in the house pretty quickly.  I thought I could get back in for the fight.  However, I had not plugged the cable modem into the UPS, and it took several minutes for it to come back up and establish a connection to Comcast Xfinity internet.  (Like a lot of places in the US, there is only one high speed internet service provider in our area, so we are at their mercy.)

Eventually though the connection was re-established and I got connected back to Discord and WoW, where I found myself still in the group and in the instance, but at the instance zone line.  I ran back to where the Avatar of Hakkar was as the group told me how they had just managed to squeak out a win without me, with a combat ress and some luck.

When I got back to them… no respawns thankfully… I found that the corpse was not sparkling for me.

The Avatar of Hakkar down

I had missed the fight.  I did not get credit so could not loot.  My quest was incomplete still and, to add some sting, the Avatar of Hakkar dropped the one plate item he can carry.

The plate chest was not for me

That would have been a nice upgrade for me, but I couldn’t have it.  Such is life in Azeroth.

However, since the whole thing hadn’t taken that long, everybody agreed to go back and do it again so I could at least get my quest update.  We ran back to the instance line, stepped out, and reset the instance.

Restart the whole thing

We made our way back in short order.  Some of the groups change up with every run, others are fixtures with the same mix every time.  We got into the room and I kicked off the event once more, being the only one in possession of an egg still.

Round Two begins

This time around we tried to single target, if only to keep mobs from chasing the casters as much, but to keep up with the pace we ended up having to do some freeze and burn all the same.  We managed, extinguished the braziers, and summoned the Avatar of Hakkar again, then slew him in rather short order.

Naturally, the plate chest piece did not drop again.  So it goes.  We took our victory shot.

The winning team

From there we wanted to turn in the last quest for the instance.  That mean going back to Steamwheedle in Tanaris.  We asked Ula to open a portal to Ironforge, but it turns out she forgot to buy that spell, so we took a portal to Stormwind and flew up to Menethil Harbor from there.

Next stop Stormwind

Then there was a boat ride, another flight, and some more riding before Steamwheedle was in sight.

Quest turn-in ahead

There we turned in the quest.  Done with that.

Now the question is what to do next.  We did not defeat the Shade or Eranikus, but a quick glance at the guide and it seems that we have to do the whole mini-boss routine on the fifth floor again and kill Jamal’an the Prophet before we can take another run at the fight.  We could do that, but I am not sure there is a lot of enthusiasm for that.

Or we can move on to Blackrock Depths, which will open up a new multi-week effort.  We shall see how the group feels, but I’ll probably go look into what we ought to get lined up before we go into BRD.

So this might be it for Sunken Temple in 2020.  Our history with the instance: