SuperData and the Opening of the Coronavirus

March has become the “stay at home” month for many of us, even in jurisdictions where there has been no official order to do so.  Events have been cancelled, movie theaters shut down (drive-ins are back in vogue though), and we are not going out to do many things we might have otherwise.

And so home activities have gone up.  Netflix and other streaming services are seeing a boost in activity as are video game platforms.  Video game usage is up, Steam has seen a record number of people connected, and XBox Live has fallen over a couple of times due to the sudden surge.

And into this comes the SuperData Research digital revenue chart for February 2020.

SuperData Research Top 10 – February 2020

In February things were starting up around Covid-19.  I was in Portland, Oregon in the middle of the month and once we got back events were starting to get cancelled and the movie box office was already starting to tank.

Unfortunately, we cannot tell much from the main SuperData chart, as it is just a ranking without numbers.  The gaps between games as well as any change for a particular game, is unknown and unmarked unless titles change positions or falls off the list.

So we see the usual suspects on the chart.  At the PC end, the same top four remain in the same order.  CD:GO made it to fifth as Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot had its debut month on the chart then fell off.  World of Tanks surged a bit with some updates and events in February.  World of Warcraft stayed on the list despite troubles reported last month.

And Fortnite returned to the PC end of the chart.  Last month, as Bhagpuss pointed out, Epic Games was bitching to anybody who would listen that the SuperData numbers had to be wrong, though they declined to supply their own numbers and wouldn’t tell us where they thought they should be on the chart or even if they had the data to make that assessment.  Basically Tim Sweeney being Tim Sweeney.

As with the PC end of things, the console and mobile columns of the chart, aside from some jockeying for position, remained mostly made up of the same players, with the same titles topping the lists.  Jedi: Fallen Order and Pokemon Go both made their way back on to their respective charts.

So it will be interesting to see if, come the March numbers, if any of those mostly static lists change any.  Will something new take the public by storm?  Animal Crossing: New Horizons maybe?  Or will people remain set with their old standbys and just spend more time and money there?  Word is that Pokemon Go is already making bank.

The only detail we get is in the bullet points that SuperData provides with their posting.  The opening one did say that digital revenue was up:

  • Digital games spending totaled $9.2B in February, up 4% year-over-year. Much like in recent months, mobile revenue (up 16% year-over-year) made up for lower console and PC revenue (down 22% and 6%, respectively). A release schedule largely devoid of AAA games resulted in limited spending on console games. In comparison, February 2019 featured the launches of major titles like Anthem and Apex Legends, which contributed to the year-over-year revenue drop across the free-to-play (down 49%) and premium console segments (down 17%).

But that was a small bump and mostly in mobile, while the PC and console were down.  But SuperData is not unaware of what is going on in the world and the next three bullet points were related to, or might be related to, the current world situation.

  • The spread of COVID-19 had a limited impact on gaming habits in North America and Europe in February, but this is changing. The most significant containment efforts like business shutdowns and travel restrictions did not ramp up until March. Many titles have since had an influx of players and spending as consumers have turned to games as one of the few entertainment options available.
  • There are signs Japanese consumers gravitated to games over other activities in February. The Japanese versions of Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle and Monster Strike both saw jumps in revenue and user numbers. Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle in particular had its Japanese revenue more than triple from $24.8M in January to $78.0M in February.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive monthly active user numbers climbed to 24.0M, their highest levels ever. Player counts for the nearly eight-year-old title have trended upward consistently since the switch to a free-to-play business model in December 2018. An update to the game in late November 2019, which featured a battle pass and cosmetic character skins, has resulted in monthly revenue that is approaching the game’s previous all-time peak in July 2017. Despite the renewed interest in the title, its surge in player count may not be sustainable given the runaway success of Call of Duty: Warzone and the pending release of Valorant, an upcoming free-to-play shooter from Riot Games.

I expect that next month their analysis will include their own interpretation as to how COVID-19 has impacted the market.

As has become the custom for this post, I will add the NPD February video games chart.  As always, NPD is US only, combines PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019 (2)
  2. NBA 2K20 (6)
  3. Grand Theft Auto V (5)
  4. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (1)
  5. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (75)
  6. Mario Kart 8* (8)
  7. Ring Fit Adventure (9)
  8. Madden NFL 20 (3)
  9. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate* (7)
  10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (4)

* Digital sales not included

The following number is the position the game was in last month.  I have tended to ignore that number, but this month I saw that Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 had jumped up from 75th on their list, implying that NPD keeps much more detail than they share.

I will be interested to see how this chart changes next month.  If it were physical sales only, it might go completely weird, but as it combines some digital with physical, we might just see Nintendo titles disappear from the mix even as Animal Crossing jumps up onto the SuperData chart.

The remaining bullet points from SuperData:

  • A free giveaway of The Sims 4 for PlayStation Plus users led to the title’s console players outnumbering PC users for the first time (2.5M vs. 2.2M). The title has long earned the lion’s share of its revenue from the sale of in-game content, so the giveaway presented a low-risk way to attract new audience members and potentially convert them to spenders down the road.
  • The social casino title Coin Master achieved its highest earnings ever ($87.1M) as it rose to eighth place in the mobile revenue charts. The game from publisher Moon Active combines slots gameplay with town-building elements. It now vastly out-earns other mobile social casino titles like Slotomania and DoubleDown Casino and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez have appeared in ads for the title.

And so it goes.  We shall see what the March numbers bring and if certain incentives… Blizzard has a 100% xp bonus going for retail WoW right now for example… change anything.

Archaedas in the Foyer

The past weekend found us all at home.  Since we all live in locales that were under community lockdown guidelines… “shelter in place” they call it… thanks to COVID-19, we seemed to have ample opportunity to play.  Nobody had any reservations for dinner, a show to see, or a sporting event to attend certainly.

So we got together on Saturday afternoon to take another run at Uldaman and met up again in the Badlands.  If nothing else, we still had quests to finish up.  Uldaman is good at keeping your quest log supplied.  Our party for the afternoon was:

  • Viniki – level 44 gnome warrior
  • Ula – level 43 gnome mage
  • Skronk – level 43 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 42 night elf druid

The still seemed shy of what we might need for Archaedas… but, quests!

Before we went in though, we had to get out quests aligned.  Viniki had gotten ahead with one in the Badlands, so we spent a little bit of time getting everybody back on the same page.  That meant finding a dead dwarf then slaying some troggs.

The troggs are over there

The annoying bit was having to run back to Loch Modan to get the quest update, but three out of four of us have mounts now while the hold out, Moronae, is a druid, which means he has a travel form, so it didn’t take as long as it might of to get the quests set.

Another week in Uldaman

The missing one was Agmond’s Fate, and it was another “collect a few things” quests, in this case it was four urns.  But like the power stone drops and the fungus, there didn’t seem to be many urns about.

It didn’t help that, once again, things were a bit busy outside of Uldaman.  We were not the only ones sheltering at home.  We did find out way to one quest objective outside the instance, a large stone chest.

Well, we got this at least

But otherwise we were in competition with other groups for mobs and drops and harvestables and whatever.  The place was stripped clean, like the paper goods aisle at the store.  So the instance seemed to be our best bet.

So dramatically lit too

Inside we followed what has become the usual path.  We cleared through the troggs, met up with the lost vikings, got the bits for the Staff of Prehistoria, slew Revelosh, and set up to fight Ironaya again, just because.  Seriously, we could just bypass her, but calling her out doesn’t take much extra time and we all live in hope of a nice blue drop.

Fighting Ironaya again

I like that screen shot because Ula’s spell is in flight and because I got off a disarm on Ironaya, which always pleases me for some reason.  Ironaya’s revenge was to drop some mail bracers, and nobody in our group needs that.  Her chamber was, as usual, empty.

Again, the paper goods aisle at the store…

I like that they went so far as to put cobwebs on the shelf to emphasize their emptiness.  I was hoping they might at least have an urn.  But we were denied.

We carried on, following the left wall mostly, taking down Galgann and Grimlok in their turns.  We bypassed the Ancient Stone Keeper and went from Grimlok straight to the Hall of Crafters.  It was time to get things cleared for the big fight.

All those groups in there again

Here is where a couple weeks of practice began to pay off.  After all of the fights… and a few deaths… last week, we had finally settled on a routine that worked for us.  The rhythm for these groups was for Viniki to engage and get aggro and Moronae to call the target marker color the the current DPS focus.  Previously we had tried targeting off of Viniki or having me call the target, both of which have problems.  I use push to talk on coms, and mid-fight my fingers are sometimes too busy to get that extra key, while targeting off of Viniki can fall apart because he has to change targets to hold aggro on whole bunch.  But Moronae taking the lead on that made everything much smoother.

So we plowed through the three groups in the first room, did the golem event easily enough, then did the next set of groups, all without any major issues.  That brought us to Archaedas again.

There he is

On last week’s post Rebeard left a comment suggesting a different strategy for fighting Archaedas.  This involved starting the fight and then running back up to the room with the golem event and fighting Archaedas there.  That was supposed to slow down the arrival of the adds so that, towards the end, when he summons the his final minions you can kill him before they show up and ruin the party.  So we set up to give it a try.

Ready to start Archaedas

The whole thing nearly fell apart seconds into the event.  We started the event and then paused to make sure Archaedas would follow.  As it turns out, the doors to the chamber close and we just barely managed to squeeze out through them.  I believe you can open them up again, but I didn’t stick around to check and even if you can, doing so with Archaedas beating on your seemed like a bad plan.

And then, with Archaedas hot on our heels up the stairs to the golem room, he began beating on Skronk.  Skronk was losing a lot of health and Archaedas seemed to be able to shrug off my taunts.  Somehow we managed to get up to the top of the stairs and into the golem room and get things sorted.  The fight began.

On the plus side Ula, Skonk, and Moronae all leveled up along the way before we started this fight, so we were better equipped.  But being away from Archaedas’ room only slowed down the arrival of the first add.  After that it was the same routine, hitting Archaedas, swapping to burn down the latest add, then on to Archaedas again.  There was a question as to if we would know when we should go all out on him, but his shout of “To my side, brothers! For the Makers!” seemed to be the hint we were looking for.  We focused on Archaedas and were so very close as the big golems arrived and started pounding on me.

Getting so very close

And then he collapsed and the fight was over.

Almost over, one non-elite arrived late

Strewn about us were the corpses of many adds… though they seemed to fade quickly even as the fight was going on.  During the fight we pulled out all the stops.  Moronae hit Skronk with innervate part way through the fight and I managed to consume three superior health potions along the way.  Not a short fight.  So we lined up to take our screen shot by the fallen Archaedas.

Victory in Uldaman

That accomplished, it was time to run back down stairs to the treasure room.

The treasure room has opened

I have to say, the treasure room in Uldaman is one of the biggest teases in the game.  You run into that room and see a giant chest and piles of gold and gems and what not, but what you walk out of there with is… not much.  You go through the final quest bit, get a bit of lore

Ding! Your discs are ready!

The chest contained a couple of leather items, and Moronae only wanted one of them.  Our loot drops for the run were not great.  But we finished the instance, killed the boss, and got into his vault.  One last screen shot there, then it was back to Ironforge.

The treasure is so bright we have a backlighting problem

Back in Ironforge, after a bit of run around, we got the real prize for the whole venture… a 14 slot bag! (Plus some potions to replace the ones from that last fight.)

The best quest reward

And so we were done.  Viniki still has two unfinished Uldaman quests in his log.

Urns and fungus

But I am not sure either is worth finishing up.  After three weeks there it might be time to move on.  Next on the list is Zul’Farrak, home of the famed Carrot on a Stick trinket.  I think I still had that and the Argent Commission in my trinket slots well into The Burning Crusade.

And, as I have done with past instances, here is a replay of the group’s experiences from both the distant and the recent past:

Oddly, February and March seem to be when we visit Uldaman.  No other months will do I guess.

EVE Online gets Low Sec Love and the Frigate Escape Bay

A week back CCP announced that today they would unleash a load of changes and updates to help out arguably the most neglected region of New Eden, low security space.

Feeling the low sec love

The premier event of this update is likely the Champions of Low Sec contest that CCP announced this past Friday.

Who will be the banner bearer

The event runs for five days, starting as of downtime today and running until downtime on the 31st.  The rules are:

  • The winner will be the alliance or independent corporation that accrues the highest ISK value of ship & pod kills during that period. Structure kills will not be counted.
  • The alliance or independent corporation of whoever receives the final blow on the killmail will be credited with the full value of the kill.
  • The ISK value credited will be equivalent to value of the hull and items destroyed on the killmail. Dropped items won’t be counted.
  • Only kills made in low security space (0.1 to 0.4 systems) will count.
  • Only kills of other players will count. NPC, CCP, ISD or GM kills will not be counted.
  • All kills which adhere to these guidelines will count, regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.

The winning corporation or alliance will be declared the Champions of Lows Sec and   There will be medals and a tribute video to play on the in-game billboards and the alliance’s logo flag will be displayed at CCP’s new HQ. (CCP will help a winning group without a logo create one.)

So that is off and running.  I know nobody will try to cheese through to win.  That would never happen in New Eden.

In order to help that along and make things go in low sec, warp speed for all ships in Low Security system by 2AU/s through April 6th.  So your travel ‘ceptors will really zip through low.  Also, the Loot drop chance has been increased to 90% in Low Security space until April 6th as well, so wrecks will be a bounty.

More substantial are the changes to the long neglected Faction Warfare aspect of the game.  These include:

  • Faction Warfare complex Acceleration Gate will give a Suspect Flag if activated by non-Faction Warfare Capsuleer.
    • In such cases, the Safety setting must be to Partial or No Safety (orange or red) to activate the gate. When safety is Full (green) the gate cannot be activated.
    • FW participants will be able to activate the acceleration gates without penalty.
  • Faction Warfare Acceleration Gates have an increased activation range allowing for activation at 90km radius
  • Adding a new 5th tier of Faction Warfare sites, and renaming the ‘Large’ tier:
    • Large Compounds are now (Faction) Open Compounds
    • Large Strongholds are now (Faction) Open Strongholds
    • Added a new tier of sites. These sites have gate restrictions that allow only Battleship sized and smaller ships
    • The new Battleship Complexes are named (Faction) Large Outpost
    • The progression in tiers is now:
      • Novice (unchanged)
      • Small (unchanged)
      • Medium (unchanged)
      • Large (new Battleship tier)
      • Open (formerly “Large”)
  • Loyalty Point payouts for Faction Warfare PVP kills have been given a fixed increase, and no longer linked to the warzone tier multiplier. The LP payout rate is now fixed at approximately the same level as it previously was when the attacker held tier 5 warzone control.
  • Loyalty Point payouts for Faction Warfare missions have been reduced by approximately 30%

I am sure all of this means something… good or ill… but I haven’t touched Faction Warfare since it launched, so couldn’t tell you what.

Closer to home… for me at least… CCP is also launching the frigate escape bay feature.  This allows you to put a frigate of any time in a bay in your battleship, so if your battleship explodes, you will be ejected in the frigate rather than your pod.

I tinkered with this a bit on Singularity, the test server, and you do indeed get a bay with the capacity of one unit of frigate.  Size of frigate does not matter.

One frigate will fit nicely

Some experimentation showed that if you simply eject from your battleship you will end up in your frigate.  You do not even need to get all blown up.

Leaving the battleship behind

However, I couldn’t recommend that as once it is ejected you cannot stuff the frigate back in the battleship.  I wonder if we can get a “scoop frigate to frigate bay” option?  I am sure that would never be abused.

I am interested to see how doctrines out in null sec will evolve around this feature.

Also on the list were a couple of war dec changes:

  • If a war ends because the attacking Corporation/Alliance fails to pay their War Declaration bill, a forced peace treaty for 14 days is triggered. This will prevent the attackers from re-declaring another war against the same target.
  • Hull Reinforcement Duration for War Headquarters structures reduced to 24 hours (down from 4.5 days). This is intended to give defenders a realistic chance of taking down the HQ within 7 days.

Those seem non-controversial.

Anyway, the word is that the update has been deployed.  The March patch notes have been updated to include the new changes.  The servers are up and it is time to start blowing people up.

Seeking the Hydrocane

We returned to Gnomeregan few times, back when we were doing Gnomeregan, in search of a couple of specific drops.  Moronae, for example, wanted the Manual Crowd Pummeler drop from the Crowd Pummeler 9-60.

Moronae with the Manual Crowd Pummeler

Having moved some levels beyond Gnomer, I figured I wouldn’t be going back.  But then I wanted to wrap up some of the Mirage Raceway and Stranglethorn Vale quests, which include a couple of underwater runs in the Vile Reef off the coast.

I gave it a try with Tistann, but the time limit for being under water was pretty restrictive.  WoW Classic is hard mode these days when compared to retail.  I thought, perhaps, I could work around the underwater issue with water breathing.  Warlocks have the spell, but I didn’t have one handy to keep it on me.  Water breathing potions are a thing, but I was not inclined to waste cash at the auction house buying them.  But I remembered that the first real boss in Gnomeregan dropped the Hyrdrocane, a staff with water breathing as an attribute.

The Hydrocane

All I would have to do is run into Gnomeregan, get to the Viscous Fallout, that first real boss, slay it, and loot.  The odds were not bad for the drop and Skronk had been talking about rogues sneaking in to farm the Viscous Fallout for the dagger drop.  So in I went.

It isn’t too far into the instance even.  You just zone in and run to the edge of the of the pit in the Hall of Crafters.  It is visible from the entrance.  Just watch for the mob that runs past that spot… though he is non-elite… and even if he was elite, you’re here to kill a boss so you had better be able to take on a single elite.

Gnomeregan Map segment from Retail WoW

From there you just jump from the ledge onto a big gear down below.  The fall knocks you down to about half health, but that isn’t so bad.

You can see the top of the gear from here

The Viscous Fallout wanders around down there.

A picture from later in the story, but you get the idea

You just get him alone, easy enough, and take him down.  My first run in went very smoothly.

Unfortunately, he dropped the Acidic Walkers instead of the Hydrocane.  And then I had to get back out.

I could, of course, stone out.  But that is a once-per-hour thing.  I decided to see if I could just blast my way out.  Rogues have stealth to solve this problem, but a hunter with a pet… you are not very stealthy and your pet is bouncing around a bit so you cannot slip past mobs.

So I tried to do a runner and died.  Even gray elite can bring you down if there are enough of them.  So I ran back to the instance, revived, then stepped out again to reset the instance.  Once reset, I ran back in and did it again.

With the same result.  Acidic Walkers.

So I fought my way out more slowly this time.  It took a bit, but I got out safely, reset the instance, and did it again.  Acidic Walkers again.

Finally, on the sixth try I got the Hydrocane.  I had already trained staves on Tistann, so I could wield it, I just needed to run on back to the Vile Reef to finish things off.  Worked like a champ, especially since I didn’t have to fight with it, taking on the murlocs at range with my gun.

Later I had Viniki with the same set of quests.  Again, I figured the Hydrocane would be a good choice.  I had even learned a thing or two from my first runs.  Also, being small and without a pet wandering around him, he was able to bypass a lot of the mobs, and simply absorb hits from others being a warrior and all.

Viniki slips past the troggs with ease

It was a good thing that I learned a few thing, as it took even more tries this time around.  Viniki had four Acidic Walkers and two daggers drop before he got the Hydrocane.

Hydrocane in the loot finally

From that set of runs I learned that if you try to reset an instance more than instances more than five times in an hour the game will stop you and make you wait for a while.  Ah well.

And then he had to go train staves and skill it up because to use it under water he would have to equip it as his weapon.  There was some work in that, but it ended up doing the job.

So when Wilhelm, my paladin was at level 38 and looking at the Vile Reef quests my mind immediately went to the Hydrocane.  I figured he could manage getting in at level 38, so I flew him to Ironforge and ran out to Gnomer for another run.

Like Viniki, he was able to slip past the troggs on the way in by running up the rail outside the instance.  Once in, he went to the edge of the pit and jumped in.  The Viscous Fallout rolled by him and he took it down and, on the first try, he got the Hydrocane!  Mission accomplished.  No need to worry about sneaking out, he could just stone home.

Once he recalled back to Stromwind I ran over to the weapon trainer.  I needed to train up staves and get Wil working on skilling that up, when I tumbled over a fact I should have remembered.  Paladins cannot train staves.

I don’t know why.

As I complained to Skronk in chat, a paladin can train polearms.  Those are pretty much sticks with a blade attached to the end.  Wil’s weapon even then was a polearm.  And a stave is pretty much a stick without the blade bit.  But I guess paladins need that sharp bit to get things done.

So he ran out to Vile Reef and did the quests the hard way, holding his breath, diving down, then rushing back up to the surface.  It didn’t take too long.  Less time that it would have taken to do eight runs at the Viscous Fallout most likely, as I had done with Viniki.  But it is still nice to have the water breathing on hand, just in case.

And I was able to stop Skronk from wasting his time trying to get the Hydrocane with his pally.  Or anymore time.  He’s already gone zero for four trying to get it as a drop.  Lessons learned.

I was thinking about Alioto, my druid, who might be doing those quests some day soon.  With cat form he could stealth on out of Gnomer.  But druids also have aquatic form, so maybe he won’t need it.

Using My EverQuest Heroic Upgrade

With the 21st anniversary event offer of a free heroic character upgrade available for a limited time, I decided I should take advantage of the offer while it was around.  I might scoff a bit at the boost only being to level 85, but it is better than no boost at all I suppose.  And you need to be that level to use the Overseer feature.

And I wanted to use the Overseer with a character I had some connection to, which at this late date in the history of the game, is a very rare situation.  I have a couple dozen characters floating around over a range of servers, but I am hard pressed to name them or when I created them.

But there was one I recalled.  Dolenz, my cleric, who I rolled up last year in anticipation of the 20th anniversary.  I started him fresh, went through the tutorial, and got him all the way to level 50.

Dolenz at 50 about one year ago

It wasn’t like I got him to level 50 back at launch.  The xp curve is much lighter and there was bonus xp for much of the anniversary event.  But I still played him through those levels, light though they might have been, and explored a range of Norrath both familiar and not.

So I pressed the button on at the character select screen and applied the upgrade to him.

Dolenz at 85 this week

The good from the upgrade is that the game does hand you a lot of stuff.  You get a set of gear… in green, so it matches the cosmetic hat I got last year, as you can see above… and a couple of 24 slot bags, which are always handy, as well as some cash, a pile of AA points, and all the spell upgrades for the intervening levels you have skipped.

The downside is… well… dealing with all of that largess is, as always, a bit cumbersome in the EverQuest UI.  You have to find all the gear in your bags… you have to find those new bags in your bags, assuming you had space for all of that… and dole it out to the right spots.  You get a series of packages assigned to you through the rewards interface, which always looks like you only get one of the items, since you can only highlight one, even though it says you get them all.  And you do get them all.  It is just awkwardly presented.

Worst of all though are the spells.  The EverQuest team has always been big on handing out new and improved spells with every expansion, no matter how many levels the cap was raised, so there are a lot of choices.  And this isn’t WoW, where the spells have the same name and you just get a new rank level of it.  So when you are sitting there trying to figure out which spells to assign to your nine spell slots… again, the word “awkward” springs to mind.

The heals available

Those are just the heals which, as a cleric, make for the longest list.  And they are all at least flagged by level.  And you can at least see a pattern, with “light,” “renewal,” and “word” heals being the three main flavors.  But I don’t know what the difference is off hand today.  And those are just the main heals, not the delayed, duration, or quick heals, much less the cures.  Then there are the buffs and the damage and the utility spells.

According to my spell book, which is pretty much useless under the weight of that many spells, the total at my disposal is 393.  I guess it could be worse. There are a lot of spells.  Maybe that is why they only boost to level 85, they are afraid that the rain of new spells is already overwhelming enough.  Who knows.

Getting mired in that for a while pretty much put the kibosh on any plans I had to actually go out in the field to fight monsters and run quests.  So he’ll likely become another permanent resident of the Plane of Knowledge.

But I mostly wanted to use him for the Overseer feature.  And he’ll serve for that.  Though in boosting him up I did also discover that your characters, at least on the same server, share the same Overseer setup.  I had a quest going with the pally I boosted years back and after I boosted Dolenz and brought the Overseer up, I found that quest in progress in the UI.

That makes sense.  They have to limit it somehow.  There is already talk of the whole thing being too generous, with changes coming in to keep things under control, even after the very conservative intent the team started with.

But I’ll keep poking at it for a bit.  What happens there will likely be an indicator as to what will happen with the EverQuest II version of the feature, which remains a very poor cousin at the moment.

Fantasy Movie League Paused for Now

Two weeks into the spring Fantasy Movie League season, the whole thing is being suspended.

I suggested in my Awards Season wrap up that there might be issues come the spring because of the Coronavirus.   Me of two weeks ago was somewhat more optimistic than me of today, sitting at home under a three week long “shelter in place order” that covers most of the SF Bay Area.

Because of FML I have a few movie relates feeds in my reader, and come Monday there was a slow drum beat of bad news.  People were rightly afraid of somebody sneezing in a crowded theater, so the industry reported a 20 year low number for the past weekend box office despite having sent out reassuring press releases about sanitizing venues and spacing out patrons to maintain social distancing.

It also seemed clear that local governments might start closing non-essential business, especially those that packed groups of people into confined spaces for extended periods of time.

So the large chains began to announce they were temporarily closing all their venues.  Regal, Landmark, Alamo Drafhouse, and finally AMC all announced they were going to remain closed for at least a few weeks.  At last report it is estimated that 4,000 theaters are shut down across the country, about 80% of the national total.

And without that, there isn’t much of a box office to play against, so late Monday FML announced that the spring season was going to be paused.  The text of the announcement, since I think you need an account to get to that link:

Temporarily Pausing Fantasy Movie League
@fmlqa · FML Quality Assurance
Mar 16, 2020, 4:20pm PDT

Dear FML Community,

Like you, we have been monitoring the changes being put into place to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Given the impact on the movie industry, including changes in premiere dates and movie theater closures, we’re anticipating challenges in being able to provide you with up-to-date box office information in the coming weeks. We also want to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to help our employees stay healthy and safe.

Due to this, we have come to the difficult decision to temporarily pause Fantasy Movie League.

You’ll be able to see the final results for the weekend of March 13-15, and your standings within your leagues will update based on that. That standing will remain until we resume. We don’t know quite yet when we will be able to start up again, but we will let you know as soon as we do.

Thank you for being part of the FML community. During this hiatus, we encourage you to stay connected with others through Chatter and on noovie.com.

Stay safe,
The FML Team

Another sign of the growing crisis here.  And it isn’t clear when things will return to normal or if there will be a new normal.

Visiting Archaedas

As we gathered up again this past weekend, the question was what should we do.  We had taken down almost all of the bosses in Uldaman the week before, but our group, as it stood, seemed a bit wee to challenge Achaedas.  We started out on Sunday as:

  • Viniki – level 43 gnome warrior
  • Ula – level 42 gnome mage
  • Moronae – level 42 night elf druid
  • Skronk – level 42 dwarf priest

My inexpert opinion was that we probably didn’t have much of a hope unless we were all at least level 43.  Archaedas is level 47 and our past experience shows that when you are five levels below a boss they will resist your spells and abilities with alarming regularity.

However, we still had a good number of quests to finish up in Uldaman. As nobody had a better idea when it came to leveling up it seemed like a worthwhile venture to head back in.  We all had the same five on our list this week.

Our quest list

So off we went to the Badlands.  Ula and I got there first.

Waiting for the group

I had sold everything not nailed down and scrounged gold from my alts to get a mount for Viniki, which felt like a necessity after I had run back and forth across the Badlands a few times.

As it turned out, somehow Moronae never obtained the flight point at Thelsamar in Loch Modan, so he had to run out from Ironforge.  I was less concerned about the delay than how he managed to get this far without that flight point.  Anyway, he got it this time and joined us out in the Badlands.

We figured we could work on some of the quests that require drops outside of the instance, but it was a busy Sunday around Uldaman and the mobs were being hunted by several groups besides ours.

Into the tunnels

Even inside the tunnels it was slim pickings.  We did go update one quest and, after a bit more hunting, decided to just head on into the instance and carry on there.

The area around the instance was bare

There we made our way to the dead paladin, which in turn started another quest that required us to pick up three gems.  That required killing a few bosses, so we figured we might as well clean out the ones we did last week one more time.

We did stumble a bit at Ironaya.  We forgot to get the bits to make the staff to unlock her.  We could have just passed on by, but that seemed wrong, so we headed back, got the items, made the staff, and went through the summoning routine again.

Staff in place to call her

The fight went smoothly.  The whole run through the first part of the instance.  The scorpion traps and such did not cause us any real problems.

Scorpions! We’re Back!

We worked our way around and took down Galgann Firehammer hammer again without issue.

Galgann gets it again

For the quest we needed to go take care of Grimlok as well, so we cut our way into the troggs and got set up for that fight.

Eyeing Grimlok

This time around we put Grimlok third on the list, with the basilisk taking second position since it caused some problems last time.  Grimlok went down pretty easy with that ordering and we were able to update the quest.  The update had us pointed at the vault guarded by Archaedas, so it was on the list for later.

That done, we took a side trip over to the Ancient Stone Guardian, managing to keep Ula alive in the trash this time around.  He was another quick fight, after which we still had some time.  So we figured we might as well see how far we could get on the path to Archaedas.

First there are the troggs outside the Hall of Crafters.  They come in groups of four and are a step up from a lot of the earlier trash in the instance.  Early on you run into a range around 38-42 or so.  Now it seemed to be 43-45.  Still, we managed to get them cleared out and made our way to the big door.

The Hall of Crafters door

Past the door we faced a room with three groups each made up of an elite and four or five non-elites.  However, the non-elites were where we had fallen down in the past and they caused us problems again.

Looking into the room with the groups

The opening idea was the old plan of I hold elite and the rest of the group does AOE to burn down the little guys.  Only the little guys were now our level or higher and one or two of them were casters, so tended to stand back out of the AOE and pelt our own casters.  Ula went down with the first group, though we were far enough along that we finished them off.

The second group saw Skronk go down, and from there it was a near run thing to finish off that group.  Also, to get Skronk back Moronae had to use his combat ress, which has a 30 minute cool-down.  So we were a bit on edge and decided to change up out plan.

Instead of me holding the elite, I would grab the group and pick a non-elite to focus on.  Everybody would target off of me and we would quickly burn down all the small guys with single target damage, after which we would take on the elite.

That seemed to go much more smoothly and we cleared the final group in the room.  But now we had an event to pass through, involving the four golems in a circle.  Again, vague memories were with us, but we were not solid on how the event really ran.

In the room with the Golems

You get three people to click on the pedestal in the middle, which starts the event.  That much we remembered.  But how would the fight run?  We decided to press the button and find out.

As it turned out, the golems activate one by one.  You kill one and the next one goes live.  Four single target mini-boss fights was no big deal.  It helped that Skronk leveled part way through the fight, so got a refill of mana, but we were on it either way.  Soon they were all down and the far door had opened up.

Golems down and the door open

On the far side of the door was another group based on an elite.  But he had six non-elites.  Or maybe it was seven.  I know we had to use all of the target markers to mark them.  That proved to be a couple too many mobs for us to handle.  We ran down the little guys like last time, but eventually damage builds up and Skronk has to start laying heals on me, which then pulls aggro.  I have a taunt to get everybody back on me, but it has a ten minute cool down, so it is a once a fight deal, and after I used it the wheels came off anyway and we had a wipe.

We released and decided to try and run back in via the back door, which we managed to find.  I am not sure how.

The cave to the back door as seen in dead-o-vision

Going in via the back door mean we had to kill the Obsidian Sentinal, a boss we bypassed because it only has a drop for the mage quest and we got that last week.  Again, not a tough fight and we were soon back in the Hall of Crafters.  Fortunately we had pared down the group that we wiped on, so were able to finish off the rest.

There were two walkers going up and down the halls, which we managed to get solo.  Then there were more groups, the last of which was another “use all the target markers” in size.  Somehow though, we managed to get through them with a wipe, or even a death.

Which left us standing at the door of Archaedas.

There he is!

We had gone all that way, we were certainly going to give him a shot.  Again, vague memories and the layout of the room suggested how the fight might go, but we were not certain.

Standing in the room

He has a series of inanimate dwarves around the edge of the room, then some bigger ones in the circle around him, and then two more even bigger ones at opposite ends of the room.  We had out theories as to what might get activated when, but decided to figure it out by kicking off the event.  We got three of us on the pedestal to start things going.

Waking Archaedas, or whatever it is we are doing

The basic plan was to tank Archaedas, focus on him when we could, but kill any add as it appeared.  And there are a lot of adds.  Archaedas starts lighting up the outer circle of dwarves one by one.  They are non-elite, so died pretty quickly, but there are a lot of them and they just keep on coming.

That seemed to go okay.  When his health was down by about a third he woke up that inner circle of dwarves, which we managed to get through.  But even as we were working on that, more of the outer ring dwarves were getting lit up.

A lot of animated dwarves down

We were not doing bad, but we were falling behind.  And then a little too much healing landed on me and they began going after Skronk and the wheels started coming off the wagon.  We had Archaedas about half way down at that point.

Last health check on Archaedas

But then we wiped.  If the boss is on Ula it generally means we’re about done.

After the wipe

It wasn’t a horrible wipe.  Three out of four of us were level 43 by that point in the run, Ula having leveled up as well, but Achaedas was still resisting attacks fairly regularly.  And, again, there is a DPS check aspect of this that we, as a group of four, are going to have to work hard to get past.  But I think we might manage it.  We may have to be 44 or even 45 as a group to ensure success, but our one run at him didn’t feel like it had no hope.

Still, we were not going to go again.  It was getting towards dinner time and home life was calling, so we released, ran back into the instance to revive, then recalled back to Ironforge to call it a night.

With all of that, plus the grinding he did to buy that mount, Viniki is close to 44.  Ula shouldn’t be too far back from that and Skronk is at least a ways into 43.  We might need to look into getting the group a level or two next time.  But the best way to do that might just to be to head back into Uldaman.  We still have quests to finish after all.  We all need some more power core drops and nobody is close to done with the fungus harvesting.