Tag Archives: COVID-19

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

Pandemic Binge Watching Part One

The Covid-19 pandemic has kept many of us at home for more than four months now.  All that staying home has led to a demand for entertainment.

Oddly, video games haven’t proven quite the outlet for me that you might imagine.  The problem is that I have also been working from home for more than four months, so I spend 8-10 hours a day sitting at my desk in front of a computer.  When work is over, I often feel strongly that I need to get up and go somewhere else in the house rather than switching over to play a game at that very same desk.

So, for my wife and I, with no movies, no going out to dinner, and not even any sports, the television series has become the entertainment outlet for us.  We are subscribed to a few streaming services which offer us up full seasons of shows, and so we have spent time binging on those.  I’m often tempted to write something up about each as we finish them, but that means going back to my desk again, so I have been slacking on that.

Now, however, I am going to sum up some of what we watched both as a public service as well as a reminder to myself as to what we have watched.  This is in some sort of order close to chronologically related to when we watched them, but there was some overlap.  The bullet points are the title and the service on which they are currently available.

That is a three-fer right there.  Based on the books by Philippa Gregory, they cover the War of the Roses and its aftermath, spanning a time frame that covers a few of Shakespeare plays.  They represent and ongoing story, though each series was filmed independently and is a complete story on its own.

A good set of tales, if not fully historical at times, they point out the key problem of the War of the Roses, which was too damn many people named Henry, Edward, Elizabeth, and Margaret.  Seriously, at one point I think there were four Henrys, three Edwards, two Elizabeths, and two Margarets in play, and more came and went.  We had to pause to establish which Henry or whoever was being referenced at times.

Also, a completely new set of actors takes over for each series, which can be a bit of a test when the same characters can span series.  Still, some good fun, if you like that era.  I enjoyed watching the 1995 film version of Richard III after this to see how many of the same people were treated by the two perspectives. (Also, that movie is a must for the casting alone.)

Starz had a $25 for six months deal on their streaming service, and these three made that worth the money.

Good for: Tolerant history buffs, people named Henry, and people keen for drinking games related to spotting actors from other shows.

More historical tales, this one is a comedic look at Catherine the Great and her early time in the court of the Czar.  I had to double check that this was a US produced series, as we’re not usually that big on European history that doesn’t involve us directly.  Very funny at times, often crude, and feeling no need to adhere to any particular historical accuracy, it can be quite a ride.  The main problem was it felt like about 8 episodes worth of content in a 10 episode series, so it flags a bit towards the end.  Still, I was good with it.  Huzzah!

Good for: Really tolerant history buffs and people who kind of miss Blackadder.

I don’t think I have laughed out loud as much in a long time as I did during the first two seasons of this series.  Hank Azaria’s character is relentless.  This humor is often crude and rarely strays from sex, drugs, alcohol, and his character flaws.  Very much not for children.  Gets serious at the end of season two and into season three, then completely flies off into a bizarro future history in season four, but is still pretty damn funny.

Good for: Hank Azaria fans, baseball fans, and anybody who might like a Filipino knock-off of Hart to Hart.

A solid interpretation of the novel by Nick Hornby, transplanted to New York City in the current era, so mix tapes are out and play lists are in.  Vinyl though, that is eternal.

The cast is very good and the story flows well enough.  My main problem is that this series exists in the same universe as the 2000 film version of the novel which is a favorite of mine.  The series seems tame and a bit flat compared to the manic energy and comedic rhythm of Jack Black and John Cusack in the film.  Also, the characters in the TV series are not even half as obsessed about music as the film cast is, and that obsession really drives the characters at times.

Basically it is the same issued I had with the Catch-22 series; if I already like the existing film version a series really has to work to get away from that comparison.

Good for:  People who haven’t seen the movie… or read the book probably.

I think Hulu is our best value for streaming services at this point.  Also, another series that is based on the same work as an already existing film that I like.  A Terry Gilliam film no less, so you know I have it on DVD on the shelf already.  Oh, and the series is literally based on the film so, while I don’t know how that works legally, it certainly qualifies as a great big “Danger Will Robinson.” (Which reminds me, I need to put Lost in Space on the list for next time.)

That said, the series didn’t just copy the movie.  I suspect the lack of a popular novel as the original source material meant that they didn’t have to go scene for scene to meet expectations and could run with their own plan.  And that plan seemed to be to illustrate that no simple plan ever ends as expected.

The first season is a non-stop roller coaster of “if we just jump somebody back in time to save a person, kill a person, or stop an event, then our problems will be solved.”  That never happens.  I mean, of course it doesn’t or it would be a very short series.  But you do end up with a lot of plans and time spent figuring out what they missed and the jump back in time to fix that only to find there is some other complication.

Season two is a little less jumpy on the timeline, but still full of paradoxes and unanticipated results.  We haven’t started on season three yet.  We’re still a little dizzy and needed a break to watch something else.  The acting is good and I like most of the cast.  It will hold your attention.  Just don’t expect resolution, or even answers half the time.

Good for: People who like their time travel shows to be complicated.

Next time: Maybe something not on Hulu.

CCP Cancelling EVE San Diego and all Physical Events in 2021

CCP announced this morning that it will be cancelling the EVE Online event that was slated to take place down in San Diego in September.  That event was slated to replace EVE Vegas, a disappointment to some, but the situation is such that the event was unlikely to happen in either location this year.

CCP went further and said that all physical, in person events that they may have had planned for 2021 will also be cancelled.  Instead, the company plans to step up online events in the coming year.

We would also like to share that we will not be hosting any physical CCP events in 2021. Instead, we intend to focus more on delivering you amazing digital experiences that everyone can enjoy from the comfort of their home. We have already increased the amount of unique content on our CCP Twitch channel, and are looking forward to bringing all of our crazy ideas to fruition!

So it goes in the age of pandemic.  This was likely a very sensible move.  Certainly staying the hell away from the US is a good idea, as our president has made ignoring the pandemic and not taking physical precautions a tenet of his re-election campaign, and the number of infections and deaths due to this malfeasance should serve as a warning to all.

EVE Online Gets New Ships and COVID-19 Research with the June Update

CCP continued on with the Quadrant 2 of 2020 plan with a content filled patch today.

That somehow translates to June 2020

The big items from this update are three new ships being introduced to the game.  These are three EDENCOM ships.  EDENCOM is a military command setup by CONCORD and the four empires to combat the Triglavian invasion. (See the video from The Scope for the tale.)

Sourced from Upwell, the new ships also feature a new weapon system, the Vorton Projector, similar to the Arcing Vorton Projector that Keepstars can mount, which reaches out to hit multiple targets.

A Keepstar reaching out with its lightning

The first ship is the Skybreaker Frigate.

EDENCOM Skybreaker

Its stats are:

EDENCOM Frigate bonuses (per skill level):

  • 6% bonus to all shield resistances
  • 5% bonus to Small Vorton Projector damage

Slot layout:

  • 1 High Slot
  • 4 Mid Slots
  • 3 Low Slots
  • 1 Turret Hardpoint
  • 0 Launcher Hardpoints
  • 3 Rig Slots
  • 400 Calibration

Fittings:

  • 44 PWG, 235 CPU
  • Defense (Shield / Armor / Structure) : 800 / 210 / 320
  • Base shield resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 20% / 20% / 50% / 50%
  • Base armor resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 50% / 45% / 25% / 10%
  • Base structure resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 33% / 33% / 33% / 33%
  • Capacitor (amount / recharge rate) : 425/ 157.50s
  • Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass): 330 / 3.6 / 967,090
  • Warp Speed: 5 AU/s
  • Drones (bandwidth / bay): 0 / 0
  • Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 55km / 609 / 5
  • Sensor strength: 12 Gravimetric
  • Signature radius: 37m
  • Cargo capacity: 158m3

The second is the Stormbringer Cruiser.

EDENCOM Stormbringer

Its stats are:

EDENCOM Cruiser bonuses (per skill level):

  • 6% bonus to all shield resistances
  • 5% bonus to Medium Vorton Projector optimal range

Slot layout:

  • 1 High Slot
  • 6 Mid Slots
  • 3 Low Slots
  • 1 Turret Hardpoint
  • 0 Launcher Hardpoints
  • 3 Rig Slots
  • 400 Calibration

Fittings:

  • 970 PWG, 390 CPU
  • Defense (Shield / Armor / Structure) : 4,000 / 600 / 1,200
  • Base shield resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 20% / 20% / 50% / 50%
  • Base armor resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 50% / 45% / 25% / 10%
  • Base structure resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 33% / 33% / 33% / 33%
  • Capacitor (amount / recharge rate) : 1,860 / 441s
  • Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass): 200 / 0.52 / 11,640,000
  • Warp Speed: 4 AU/s
  • Drones (bandwidth / bay): 0 / 0
  • Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 75km / 273 / 7
  • Sensor strength: 19 Gravimetric
  • Signature radius: 130m
  • Cargo capacity: 473m3

And, finally, there is the Thunderchild Battleship.

EDENCOM Thunderchild

Its stats are:

EDENCOM Battleship bonuses (per skill level):

  • 5% bonus to Large Vorton Projector damage
  • 5% bonus to Large Vorton Projector rate of fire

Slot layout:

  • 2 High Slots
  • 7 Mid Slots
  • 5 Low Slots
  • 1 Turret Hardpoint
  • 0 Launcher Hardpoints
  • 3 Rig Slots
  • 400 Calibration

Fittings:

  • 16,500 PWG, 880 CPU
  • Defense (Shield / Armor / Structure) : 13,500 / 4,620 / 6,600
  • Base shield resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 20% / 20% / 50% / 50%
  • Base armor resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 50% / 45% / 25% / 10%
  • Base structure resistances (EM/Thermal/Kinetic/Explosive): 33% / 33% / 33% / 33%
  • Capacitor (amount / recharge rate) : 7200 / 1125s
  • Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass): 95 / 0.136 / 102,141,000
  • Warp Speed: 3 AU/s
  • Drones (bandwidth / bay): 25 / 25
  • Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 118km / 103 / 7
  • Sensor strength: 26 Gravimetric
  • Signature radius: 485m
  • Cargo capacity: 861m3
  • Frigate Escape Bay: 1 Unit

As with all battleships now, the Thunderchild has a frigate escape bay, so you can put a Skybreaker frigate in there if you want to keep to the theme.

There are fifteen variations of the Vorton projector weapons being introduced for these ships, five for each of the hull sizes.  So there will be small, medium, and large versions in Tech I, Compact, Scoped, Tech II, and Faction flavors.  The ammunition varies in range and emphasis on kinetic or electromagnetic damage, with tech II versions available as well.

There are also modules to improve rate of fire and damage for the new weapon systems.  They are:

  • Vorton Tuning System I
  • Compact Vorton Tuning System I
  • Vorton Tuning System II

And there are, naturally enough, skills to go with all of this.  The new skill list is:

  • EDENCOM Frigate
  • EDENCOM Cruiser
  • EDENCOM Battleship
  • Vorton Projector Operation
  • Small Vorton Projector
  • Medium Vorton Projector
  • Large Vorton Projector
  • Small Vorton Specialization
  • Medium Vorton Specialization
  • Large Vorton Specialization
  • Vorton Power Amplification
  • Vorton Arc Guidance
  • Upwell Encryption Methods

We got a few of those skills with last week’s Gathering Storm login campaign.  A new event, the Lighning Strikes event, has now gone live.

Lightning Strikes is live

Running from now until June 29th, it allows players to find Upwell Covert Research Facilities in the Anomaly Scanner in Low-Sec and Upwell Connected Null-Sec.  Running those sites will reward players with Skillbooks and Materials for the new EDENCOM ships.

All of which would make for a pretty big patch day, but that is not all we get.

Also coming today is Project Discover Phase 3.

More Project Discover

The new focus for Project Discovery is the coronavirus.

In collaboration with scientists from McGill University, BC Cancer and front-line COVID-19 clinicians including Dr Andrea Cossarizza, a Professor of Immunology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia School of Medicine in Italy, players will be able to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 by analyzing data produced by flow cytometers. Flow cytometry is a technique used to detect and measure physical and chemical characteristics of cells, especially those of the immune system that are important in the body’s response to infection with SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19

That looks huge and there will be an intro stream on Twitch at 19:00 today to help launch the project.

And, in addition to all of that, another round of module tiericide has hit with this patch.  CCP even did a new dev blog about tiericide, just to remind us all what the intent was and how to interpret what they are doing.

This time the pass is for Shield Resistance Amplifiers, the passive shield resist modules.  The list of module changes is quite lengthy.  However, at its roots there is a normalization of names following these rules:

  • EM Ward Amplifier to EM Shield Amplifier
  • Explosive Deflection Amplifier to Explosive Shield Amplifier
  • Kinetic Deflection Amplifier to Kinetic Shield Amplifier
  • Thermal Dissipation Amplifier to Thermal Shield Amplifier

All of which appears to me to be the core of the patch.  There are still the usual fixes and updates, but the above are the big bits.

CCP has announced that the patch has gone live.  The extended downtime was barely that long at all.

For all the details CCP cared to share you can read the patch notes.  In addition there are the usual General Feeback and Known Issue threads in the forums related to the release.

BlizzCon Cancelled for 2020

Blizzard has put out an update to say that there will not be a BlizzCon down in Anaheim this year.  Not an unexpected turn of events given the state of the pandemic, the uncertainty surrounding when things like this will be safe again, and the past statement from Blizz.

BlizzCon in Blue

The statement was short enough to quote here:

Hello Blizzard community,

Several weeks ago, I shared an update about our uncertainty around holding BlizzCon this year. Since then, a lot has changed . . . and a lot also hasn’t changed. During this time, we’ve had many discussions about what holding a convention could look like in light of all the health and safety considerations we’d want to make. We’ve also talked about different paths we could take, and how each one could be complicated by fluctuations in national and local health guidelines in the months ahead. Ultimately, after considering our options, we’ve come to the very difficult decision to not have BlizzCon this year.

We’re feeling deeply disappointed about this decision, and imagine many of you will feel the same. I truly love BlizzCon, and I know that’s a sentiment shared by everyone at Blizzard. We will sorely miss connecting with so many of you at the convention and “recharging our geek batteries” this fall.

But we will meet again!

We’re talking about how we might be able to channel the BlizzCon spirit and connect with you in some way online, far less impacted by the state of health and safety protocols for mass in-person gatherings. We’d want to do this as soon as we could, but given that this is new-ish territory and the different factors involved, it will most likely be sometime early next year. BlizzCon is also a stage for big esports events in Blizzard games each year, so we’re also looking into alternatives for supporting some of the high-level competition that would normally take place at the show.

We’ll tell you more about our plans as they develop—but in the meantime, we hope to see you exploring the Shadowlands, hanging out in the Tavern, pushing the payload (do it!), and wherever else in the Blizzard universes you may roam.

Stay safe and stay well,

Saralyn Smith
Whirlwind Barbarian, Executive Producer of BlizzCon

This does hold out the possibility of some sort of virtual or online event… no doubt Blizzard will have some announcements coming that they will want to highlight… but the press of the big crowd in the Anaheim Convention Center and all that goes with it won’t be happening in 2020.

As for the “early next year” suggestion, I suspect that won’t come to pass unless things take a significant turn for the better and stay that way through the end of the year.

Where is the Scenario Mod for This?

Due to the absolutely staggering lack of leadership currently at the federal level, regional groupings have begun to form in an effort to coordinate responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The internet being what it is, people are tracking and mapping these groupings.

Regional Groupings

There are even people working on flag variations for things like the Western States Pact. (Though, now that there are five states in it, the flag needs a re-think.)

And, because I am what I am, my thoughts immediately go towards a mod or scenario or whatever to reflect this, if not break up, then regional grouping of these re-United States.  Civilization or Crusader Kings or Hearts of Iron or Europa Universalis, in one or all of these somebody has to be brewing up a scenario.   Who has one?

Blapril and Staying Motivated

We are now into week five of Blapril and week seven of staying home in my part of the country.

The Blapril commeth

This week’s topic is about motivation and keeping it going.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

And never was there a more on point topic to my mind.  Motivation is leaking out of me.  I feel tired all the time.  Were it not for some of the structure I have around my writing I might very well be blog fading.

And I feel a bit guilty about feeling like that.  Like a few other bloggers, I feel like I am one of the luckier ones in this season of pandemic.  I still have my job, I can do it from home fairly reliably, nobody in my family has caught the plague so far, and we have a sufficient supply of toilet paper and other essentials to carry on.

So what is the problem?

Even I, a pretty dedicated homebody, am starting to feel a bit of cabin fever.  This is not help by the fact that my wife’s job is essentially on hold, being on commission and all, and the school district is pretending to do “remote learning” which totals up to about 3 hours out of my daughter’s week, so the two of them… the outgoing pair in this house… are really feeling confined by this “stay at home” situation.  My daughter especially, being 18, a senior in high school, with a job, money, and a car at her disposal, she was really on her way to a fantastic senior year.

Now it is all shut down.  Stay at home, no prom, no grad night, no parties, no graduation, and it is feeling really unfair to her.  And that doesn’t even get to college starting.  She is dying to go away to school (and to get away from us, for which I cannot blame her) but, while the school is whistling a happy tune about everything being normal by the end of August, there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to how this will really play out.  So she is on edge and doesn’t have enough meaningful or fun things to occupy her, which also goes for my wife, so they end up clashing.  Even the cats are on edge.  They know something is wrong.

Meanwhile, I am very busy.  My company is very much in demand right now and there is a push to move features along faster to support our customers.  Working from home isn’t new to me, but I spend most of my work time at the office where I have a nice desktop machine with a big monitor.  I generally plan my weeks around getting stuff done at the office and doing follow ups and admin work at home.  But now I am always home, have more work, and everything at home takes me about 20% longer to do because my work laptop is dinky and I am prone to interruptions.

And in the midst of this I keep hearing about all the stuff I should be doing with copious amounts of free time I should have now.  Shakespeare invented calculus and Newton wrote Hamlet during plagues and all that.  Even at work HR has been filling my inbox with all sorts of suggestions about to use all these extra hours I am alleged to have.  So I am starting to feel like I must be missing something as I feel like I have less free time, not more.

So I am at my desk at home from when I get up until the afternoon begins to wane.  It isn’t a lot more time than I would spend normally, if you count the hour round trip that was my commute, but the commute was kind of down time, a step away into my car to listen to an audio book as I rolled home.  And after spending that much time at my desk, the urge to then stay there and play video games or write a blog post is pretty weak.  I want to get up and go somewhere else.

There is a pool of time in my day that goes towards video games and blogging, and that pool has grown more shallow, and mostly at the cost of gaming.  The joy of ManicTime tracking my time is that I see I’ve spent about half of the time playing as I did last month, the March of forever.

That eventually starts to impact my writing.  As I wrote about five years back, the two are intertwined, to the extent that one might speculate as to whether I game to blog or blog to game.  If I game less then there is less to feed my blogging and then I spend more time sifting for topics and putting something together which reinforces the cycle.

Meanwhile time seems to be speeding up.  March seemed to last forever, and we were only stuck at home for half of it, while April seems to have zipped on by.  Or at least the free time I can find seems to be moving at top speed, weekends slipping past in a blink.

This is about the point where I have dug myself deep enough into a hole that I should start telling you about how I got out.  A pity I don’t have a pithy line or easy strategy to share.  In fact, all I’ve got is that I find I have to buckle down and force myself to have some fun to relax.

I can still find a bit of peace, some relaxation, so escape, if I press through and actually play a game for a while.  There is this real reluctance to even both, a barrier of sorts that I have to get around or I’ll just sit there at my computer and look at the launch icons for WoW or EVE Online or Steam and then start reading the news or Twitter or, god forbid, Facebook.

If I can find a reason to log in, a mission, a goal, an op to go on, or something else I can immerse myself in, I can still find that bit of escape, the refreshment of not worrying about the present.  It can be like a splash of cold water on a warm afternoon. But, like everything else these days, it seems to require more effort than it should.

I am not sure that will help motivate anybody, but at least I am able to say that it is possible to find distraction, though you might have to try harder than usual.

Maybe reading another blog will be motivating, so I should link out to the Blapril participant list again.

SuperData Charts Gaming Revenue Highs as We All Stay Home

SuperData Research has their monthly chart out for March 2020.  The results and accompanying data are not all that surprising.  With people all over the world stuck at home digital purchases peaked according to the company.

  • Spending on digital games reached $10.0B in March, the highest monthly total ever. Individuals are turning to games as a reliable entertainment option during the COVID-19 crisis and are using online multiplayer to keep in touch with others. Total digital revenue was up 11% year-over-year from March 2019 ($9.0B).

The charts reflect what was most popular last month.

SuperData Research Top 10 – March 2020

On the PC end of the chart the usual top four held on to the summit for yet another month, though League of Legends fell back to second place behind Dungeon Fighter Online.

The first new entry on the list is Doom Eternal, which has gotten a lot of buzz on both PC and console.  CS:GO, which comes and goes from the bottom of the list saw a nice jump as did Borderlands 3, which made the list when it launched, subsequently falling off as many buy to play titles do.

Half-Life: Alyx came in at number eight, which might seem low for something in the Half-Life series, but as a VR title making the cut is impressive.  VR remains a niche element in the market.

And at the bottom of the list are World of Warcraft and World of Tanks.  Both titles have seen more players.  We’ll see if things like WoT‘s 10 year anniversary celebration and WoW‘s throwing a 100% xp bonus at players will boost their standings for April.

On the console column, surprising nobody, Animal Crossing: New Horizons stands at the top.  I would be hard pressed to find a general news outlet that hasn’t reported on it and my Twitter feed was probably 20% mentions of the game the week it launched.  Even SuperData gives it a special mention:

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold more digital units in a single month (5.0M) than any console game in history. The Nintendo-published title broke the console record for monthly digital game sales previously held by Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. Animal Crossing: New Horizons also roughly matched the first-month digital sales of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokémon Sword and Shield put together. The game’s combination of social features and a relaxing setting likely appealed to individuals stuck at home. Closures of brick and mortar stores also meant that a higher share of consumers purchased the game digitally compared to past Switch titles.

After Animal Crossing, FIFA 20 continued its run near the top of the list, followed by MLB: The Show 20, which is filling in the gap for baseball fans bereft of a season so far in 2020.  If you can’t have a real season you can run your own, something that people have been doing with a variety of baseball titles.  Out of the Park 21 on PC is popular with the hardcore fans doing that sort of thing.

And at the mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings continued on at the top. (It is one of the most popular games in China and is popular on the streaming front there as well.)  Most of the list carried over from last month, Roblox and Mafia City being the only two titles not on the February chart.  My benchmarks for the list, Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go were in third and fifth place respectively.

This is where I usually compare the SuperData charts to what NPD has listed for the month, as NPD includes physical retail sales.  However, NPD hasn’t posted their numbers for March to their site yet, so I will have to give that a pass for now.  I’ll put them in if they do get posted, but right now they still have February listed.  Retail might be causing them problems I suppose.

Instead I will jump to the usual close, which is the bullet points included with the SuperData chart, minus the one I injected in the post above:

  • Premium console and premium PC earnings jumped as lockdowns took effect. Premium console revenue rose 64% from February to March ($883M to $1.5B) and premium PC revenue rose 56% during the same period ($363M to $567M). These game types tend to be most popular in North America and Europe, where COVID-19 prevention measures expanded dramatically in March.
  • Gamers continued to play and spend on mobile titles even as they stayed home. Mobile games revenue was up 15% year-over-year and reached $5.7B during March. Earnings for a number of major mobile titles also grew during the month. For example, Pokémon GO revenue rose to $111M in March (up 18% month-over-month) after publisher Niantic made tweaks to the game to make it easier to play without physically moving.
  • The addition of Warzone to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare resulted in monthly active user numbers for the title jumping 159% month-over-month to reach an all-time high of 62.7M. While most modes in Modern Warfare require an upfront purchase of the game, Warzone, a battle royale mode in the style of games like Fortnite and Apex Legends, is free-to-play.
  • Doom Eternal from id Software sold 3.0M digital units in March, more than three times what Doom sold (957K) during its launch in May 2016. The latest entry in the seminal franchise benefited from strong reviews and the positive reception of its predecessor. However, as a primarily single-player game, Doom Eternal will likely have a shorter revenue tail than other multiplayer shooters that monetize through the regular sale of in-game content.
  • Half-Life: Alyx performed modestly by the standards of AAA games but was a blockbuster by the standards of virtual reality (VR) exclusive titles. A total of 860K gamers played the PC VR title in March. The game had a limited addressable audience, as there was an install base of fewer than 4M PC-compatible VR headsets at the end of 2019. Direct purchases of Half-Life: Alyx generated $40.7M in revenue, and hundreds of thousands of free copies of the game were also bundled with devices like the Valve Index headset to boost interest in VR.

Pandemic Pushes New Eden PCU Past 40K

I kicked off the EVE Online launcher yesterday morning to find that the online player count was past the 39K mark.  That later pushed past the 40K mark, peaking at 40,293 before the EUTZ players started logging off according to EVE Offline.

April 11 Peak Concurrent Users

It was almost there last week, capping out at 39,376 last Sunday, but when Saturday hit it made it.

A lot of online games are seeing a surge of players.  World of Warcraft has been perking up, WoW Classic has queues again on some servers, and physical copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons are tough to find in some jurisdictions, so it probably isn’t a huge shock to find EVE Online is also benefiting from all of us staying home.

And today, Sunday, which is traditionally the day of the week when the population is the highest, the count again made it past the 40K mark, hitting 40,597 players shortly after noon my time.  I am not sure if Easter helped or hurt that number, but it made it past the Saturday peak.

Sunday beats out Saturday by a bit

Is passing 40K a big deal?  Sort of.  Yes, that falls well short of the 2013 all time PCU number of 65,303, set back on May 5, 2013.  And even as late as 2017 the peak was closer to 50K than 40K.

PCU for 2016 through 2019

On the other hand, this is the first time since December of 2017 that the PCU has passed the 40K mark.  It is also a considerable step up from the Chaos Era (highlighted in red) when the Sunday peak numbers dropped well below 30K range.

And if you look at the chart that covers the life of the game, I rolled in back in 2006 when hitting a 30K PCU on a Sunday was kind of a big deal.  So it is always about perspective I suppose.

EVE Online isn’t what it once was, but it is still a long way from the crater some were predicting.

Related posts: