Tag Archives: Rambling Friday

China Reckoning

The integrity of China was more important than [the people] in Tiananmen Square.

-Muammar al-Gaddafi, in an insightful moment

Well, here we are.

Just so you know, I’ll get to this eventually

China certainly has been in the news of late for its noxious behavior, not that noxious behavior is anything new from the authoritarian government that runs the country.  Its legitimacy is built on a foundation of things like the Cultural Revolution and Tienanmen Square.  And while they’ve ditched most of the economic aspect of Mao’s teachings, they’re are still big on the repressive state thing.

As a rule, the government of China has also been pretty intolerant of any criticism, express or implied.  For example, if another country mentions Tibet or meets with, or even allows into their territory, the Dalai Lama, they can expect an official diplomatic protest from China.  Make a map that doesn’t show Taiwan as part of China or, even worse, refers to Taiwan as a country and you can expect an angry response from China.

Internally, in addition to the usual level of arbitrary police state activities, there is the Orwellian social credit system, which will soon be mandatory, that rewards pro-government activities with perks, while denying things to people doing things that the government does not like… which includes merely being connected to anybody the government does not like.  A social network that rewards you for ostracizing non-conformists… more so.

More recently they have been sending their citizens to “re-education” camps for the crime of being Muslim and battling a now nearly 18 week long series of protest in Hong Kong over an extradition law that would allow residents of the special administrative region to be extradited to China proper, where the rule of law is what the government says it is at any given moment.

That is the foundation on which the last week or so has been laid.

Then there is the trade war.  Our president, who says trade wars are good and easy to win, has been actively pursuing one with China for some time now.  The president has been quite vocal about China, saying we do not need them and that US companies should go elsewhere.  Of course, he also promised China he wouldn’t mention the protest in Hong Kong either, so not a lot of moral high ground there. (He also praised the strength of the Chinese government for gunning down students in Tienanmen Square back when it happened, so he never had any moral high group to begin with.)  But he has highlighted the long simmering perception that US companies are shipping jobs to China in exchange for higher profits.

Then in the last week or so we had things like John Oliver… don’t mention him in China… reporting on China’s one child policy, which is now a two child policy, double the children allowed but all the same government abuse remains, and the South Park episode “Band in China,” which went after US companies willing to do just about anything to make China happy in order to make more money.

That brings up to last Friday when the General Manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey tweeted a message in support of the protesters in Hong Kong.  This drew an immediate response from the Chinese government, saying the tweet had outraged fans in China which cancelled all future interactions with the team.

By Monday the NBA was apologizing, the owner of the Rockets expressed his regret, and Morey himself was on Twitter apologizing for causing any offense.  The NBA is in full on appease China mode.  NBA fans were not happy about this and started holding up signs that would no doubt offend the Chinese government, so the NBA began ejecting fans from games.  There is even a fun video you can find of somebody holding up a pro Hong Kong sign on the public sidewalk outside of the NBA headquarters being told by the security guard that they would have him arrested if he didn’t move along.

We’re used to companies like Apple or Google doing what China says for years.  They’ve both been pulling apps from their stores in China that the government does not like, including one that tracks police activity and another that merely allowed access to a new source that mentioned the problems in Hong Kong.  But now China has moved to dictating what can go on at NBA games being played in the United States.

And Blizzard stepped right into this already flaming bag of dog shit on Tuesday when they announced that the professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, who is from Hong Kong, would be suspended from play for one year and have all of his prize money “rescinded” for saying, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” on a post game stream where he was being interviewed.  Blizzard also cut ties with the two broadcasters who were doing the interview despite neither of them doing anything beyond looking doomed by what was just said.  They knew China.

And now people outside of China are rightfully pissed off at Blizzard.

I heard the argument that NetEase runs Blizzard’s operations in China and that it was they who actually precipitated the action and released the noxious statement afterwards, but that doesn’t really matter, true or not.  Whoever did it, did so in Blizzard’s name, and Blizzard went along with it, so it might as well have all come straight from J. Allen Brack’s.  He gets the power, he gets the money, and he gets the blame.

So now we are into the #BoycottBlizzard era.

It has become a time to pressure the company to try and do the right thing.  I am not sure exactly what that “right thing” is.  I doubt Blizzard will be able to do something… will be able to do anything… that will make everybody happy.  But even the NBA stood up just a bit… or pretended to, anyway… and said they wouldn’t regulate what players or team owners said, not officially, though that still doesn’t apply to fans. (And given player and team official comments since that statement, the NBA has clearly told them what to avoid saying.  And after GSW coach Steve Kerr defended China’s human rights record, the NBA cancelled all press interaction.  No doubt they need to get all their stories straight and cleared by Beijing.)

People have been cancelling WoW subscriptions to let Blizzard know how they feel about their actions.  I have cancelled mine, putting “Hong Kong” in the text field on the exit survey.  My account still has some time left to run, and I’ll keep playing WoW Classic as that runs down, both because I paid for that time and because I hold out hope that Blizzard will do something, sooner rather than later.  Ongoing silence could change that, and worse behavior certainly will, but I’ll give them at least until BlizzCon.  They need to do something before BlizzCon or they might be looking back longingly at the Diablo Immortal announcement.  It has been suggested that they might even cancel BlizzCon.  We shall see.  Still, I have sent them the economic message, the only message that counts:  No more money from me.

That is the nice thing about a subscription based game.  You can effectively vote with your wallet.  That stings more than a petition, but you can sign that too if you want. (There are a few of those, that was just the most popular one I saw.)  Players of their free to play titles have taken to deleting their accounts, since not paying is the default behavior. (Rumors that Blizz was blocking account deletion at one point do not seem to hold water.  Somebody had a problem and it quickly turned into a conspiracy theory from what I can tell. Your mileage may vary.)

But I am not kidding myself.  I am not changing the world here.  Withholding financial support only punishes Blizzard, not China, and any real effects will likely be felt by employees, some of who are equally unhappy with Blizzard’s actions, who may end up getting laid off.  J. Allen Brack or Bobby Kotick or whoever else makes these sorts of decisions will keep their jobs.  But maybe they’ll make better choices going forward.

Remember that.  The goal ought to be to change Blizzard’s behavior.  If your goal is to destroy Blizzard, a US company largely staffed in the US by US workers, I’m not on your side. (Some people shouting the loudest were already angry at Blizzard well before this, so I am suspicious of some motivations.)  And if you’re harassing Blizzard employees, well fuck you.

One of the protest efforts has been the attempt to adopt the character Mei from Overwatch as a symbol of the Hong Kong protests, no doubt with an eye to getting the gamed banned in China the way Winnie the Pooh was.  But this might have the odd side effect of making Blizzard more likely to do what China says.  It is all the easier for the government of China to ban Overwatch if it does become a symbol, so Blizzard may be all that much more motivated to stay in its good graces.  Nothing is ever simple.

And all of effort against Blizzard does nothing for Hong Kong, which I fear is without much hope.  When push comes to shove, China will roll the tanks, as they have done in the past, before they will relinquish any control.  The government of China likes having Hong Kong, rich and successful and semi-free, as a part of their country.  It makes them look good.  But their tolerance of protests so far is, to my mind, largely a lure to get Taiwan back.  But if Hong Kong gets too far out of control, China will use force.  They play a long game, and if keeping control of what they have pushes out getting Taiwan back by another 50 years, they’ll still make that choice.

But maybe public push back on companies like Blizzard or the NBA will cost enough to make other companies put a little more emphasis on what their current customers here are worth when they considering prostituting their values… like those values out in front of Blizzard’s headquarters, covered up by employees embarrassed at the company’s behavior… to curry favor with a dystopian dictatorship that is so thin skinned that it cannot stand any criticism.

I am a cynic, yet somehow I always find room for hope.  We shall see.

Other related items:

EverQuest Progression Servers vs WoW Classic

For the last few years one of the key arguments to my mind in support of the idea of something like WoW Classic were the progression servers that SOE and the Daybreak rolled up for the EverQuest community over the years, starting back in 2007 with The Sleeper and The Combine.

A splash screen of many expansion splash screens

There was a lot to be learned from even that first rough run, including the idea that it might be more popular than expected requiring the company to roll out another server.

After running lukewarm-to-cold on the whole special server idea during the SOE years, where they would launch with some fanfare and then never mention the servers again in any official capacity, Daybreak has turned the special server nostalgia thing into a part of their ongoing business plan.  When Holly Longdale says that EQ has more players in 2019 than it did in 2015, it is in part due to the cottage industry for Norrath nostalgia they have created.

So now Blizzard is in the nostalgia business with WoW Classic, and is clearly seeing some success from having done so.  But it is interesting to see the different paths Daybreak and Blizzard took to get to their respective positions, both in how the went after the idea and how their respective games evolved over time.

The Classic Splash Screen

The idea for this post came via a comment from Bhagpuss on the post where we were having trouble finding a definitive answer on the functionality of meeting stones.  He noted that information about mechanics in WoW Classic were not as readily available as they were for Daybreak’s games.  While places like WoW Head have been able to recreate WoW Classic versions of their site with quests and locations pretty well covered, they are not quite complete as we discovered.

Meanwhile, if you start digging up stuff on EverQuest you will find old articles, often not updated for a decade or more, are pretty spot on, both for live and progression servers.

Part of this is, of course, due to how SOE and then Daybreak approached the nostalgia idea.  While Blizzard set out to recreate the 2006 experience running in its own version of the client, an EverQuest progression server runs on the same client as live and draws on the same assets and resources.

This was no doubt due to a few reasons, with a lack of resources being at the top.  Blizzard has the personnel and the budget to create something like WoW Classic while the EverQuest team hasn’t had that sort of opportunity since the early days, at which point it probably seemed like a silly thing to take on.  The team was cranking out two expansions a year for quite a stretch, and expansions made money and kept people subscribed.

There was also something of a lack of commitment to the nostalgia idea.  While I give SOE props for even getting into it back in 2007, just eight years after EverQuest launched, it wasn’t until well into the Daybreak era that the company really took the idea seriously, that resources were dedicated to make the nostalgia server idea a thing and address some of the problems that the fans had been complaining about since the first round of them.

But SOE and then Daybreak were able to get away with their half-assed approach to progression servers largely due to the way the game have developed and evolved over time.

The thing is, if you log into an EverQuest live server today you can wander around a lot of old zones that have remained pretty much untouched since they were launched.  The EQ team has released expansion after expansion, adding zone after zone, while never doing anything to really reform or consolidate the world.

Yes, there is the Plane of Knowledge, the travel hub of Norrath, and SOE updated a few old world zones like Freeport, but a lot of content was just left where it was dropped and rarely looked after again.  Somebody might add a new zone connection for another expansion, and a few places got a Tome of Knowledge added to get people to the Plane of Knowledge, but for the most part if you wander through old zones they look like they did back in the day.

And you can add to that the fact that the team didn’t go hog wild on revamping classes with every expansion.  If you roll up a warrior on a live server or a progression server, they still start with the same old skills from back whenever.  Spells got a bit of a revamp, losing the every five level aspect at some point, but otherwise you still get Spirit of the Wolf at about the same point you got it in 1999 or 2007 or 2011 or 2018.

In that environment where you haven’t really added a bunch of new stuff to the old zones, where classes are about the same now at level 1 though 20 or 50 as they were back in 1999, where content has been delivered in nice little stand-alone silos, a company can get away with a low effort, same client nostalgia experience.  Fippy Darkpaw is still running at the 1999 gates of Qeynos. delivering his line, over and over again.  So they can fiddle with some toggles about which zones you can access and play with the experience slider and call it a day.

Yes, there is Project 1999 and the purist attempt to really recreate every little detail of the original game. (They have a new server coming too.)  I admire the effort, but it does feel a bit like a niche of a niche, the desire to get back the entire experience.  Daybreak delivers about 80% of the experience already in a… I was going to wite “modern client” but let’s not be silly… supported client that gets updates on servers that get a lot of traffic.

Compare this with Blizzard’s lot.

The elephant in the room is the Cataclysm expansion, which redid the old content, updated the old world to allow flying, and added zones that adjoined to classic zones, and basically stirred the pot radically.  This is ground zero of the “missing old content” movement.

But that is only the most stark example of change.  Blizzard stirs the pot with every expansion.  Occasionally I see a call for “WoW 2.0″ and I laugh, because we’ve been there already.  The Burning Crusade was literally WoW 2.0, and while its changes were not as sweeping as Cataclysm, the game changed the day it dropped, as it did with Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Panaria and so on and so forth.  And while Blizz gives us a new city to hang out in each expansion, it also pushed to keep us in Stormwind and Orgrimmar as well, with portals to ease getting back and the auction house to serve as a draw.

I have written about how the hunter in WoW Classic is so different that retail, but even the simple classes have seen change.  Compared to rolling a warrior in EverQuest today, rolling one in retail WoW is nothing like the 2004 or 2006 experience.  You go through different content with skills that work differently up a different skill path to unlock different talents on a different talent tree.

In that environment there is no cheap way out to create anything like a vanilla WoW experience.  You cannot half-ass an attempt to test the water, you cannot just roll out a new server with only the level 1-60 content unlocked, because that 1-60 looks different, plays different, and for the most part is different.

I think this is why, as Bhagpuss noted, that some info is just difficult to find about WoW Classic.  With Blizzard shaking up the game and every class with each expansion, there hasn’t been the sort of static, almost sedimentary, layers of development the way there was with EverQuest over the years.  Fifteen year old articles at Allakazam are still relevant because SOE and Daybreak laid down some content and moved on.  Blizz doesn’t play that way.  Blizz changes the whole world, touches most everything, in a regular ~24 month cycle.  There was no simple path back to vanilla because it was so well and thoroughly gone.

And so we got Blizzard pushing off the idea of vanilla WoW and things like J. Allen Brack’s now infamous line for at least a decade.  I was already referencing calls for “classic” Azeroth servers back in August 2009.  Private servers offering a vanilla experience were already pretty common seven years back when I dabbledwith the Emerald Dream server.  But for Blizzard to get there required such a commitment that it was only after retail kept sagging that they decided to play the nostalgia card.

Daybreak got their imperfect nostalgia merely due to their rather silo focused content delivery.  Blizzard got more perfect nostalgia but had to rebuild it as a new client due to their propensity to change the world.

I suppose the lesson to take out of this is to plan for nostalgia… at least if you think your game is going to run 15 or 20 years.

More New Eden Numbers for 2019

There have been a lot of numbers thrown about with regards to EVE Online of late in attempts to prove all sorts of things like whether the Chaos Era or the blackout or tax rates or PLEX prices are helping the game, hurting the game, or whatever.  So I thought I would join in on the fun.

Being who I am, I don’t have a point I am trying to prove, and if you skip down to the end you won’t find any grand conclusions either condemning or congratulating CCP.  I just want to see what the data says… or, more likely, what it doesn’t say.

For my numbers I thought I ought to compare the extremes of 2019, so I figured I would put January of the year up against August.  When those two months?  August simply because it is the latest set of MER data we have, while January… well, January was the peak of what one might call “fat times in null sec,” when NPC bounties were paying out greater than ever before.  Look at this chart from the August MER.

August 2019 – Top Sinks and Faucets over time

You can see that NPC bounties reached their peak.  This was also a period of not much in the way of wars.  It also pre-dates not only the Chaos Era but also the series of nerfs to bounties and mining in null sec.  January might very well be the height of everything that people outside of null sec hate about it.  It was the peak of the Delve Time Unit.

As for the data I want to toss around, there are three things I want to look at, all of which I am taking directly from the MER data in the January and August reports.

The first is NPC bounties, because of course it is.  As I noted above, January was the absolute peak of NPC bounty largess and CCP has been trying to combat that for much of the year, with nerfs to anomaly spawns and fighter damage application and VNI changes and the blackout and the recent cyno changes to complicate defense group responses.  As I mentioned in my August MER post, those numbers have been declining over the course of the year.

  • January – 83.8 trillion
  • February – 69.8 trillion
  • March – 71.4 trillion
  • April – 57.2 trillion
  • May – 55.5 trillion
  • June – 48.2 trillion
  • July – 29.1 trillion
  • August – 21.1 trillion

August was basically 25% of the January total from the sinks and faucets table.

Unfortunately, I am working from the RegionalStats.csv file that is included with each MER, and the numbers there do not align with some of the other charts.  I get it.  You write your SQL query and you take your chances, and different queries can yield different results if you’re not careful.

Also, the region of Cache was missing from the January MER file, so I removed it from the August data so as to compare apples with apples to the extent I could.

With that data in play, the numbers are:

  • January – 84.8 trillion
  • August – 19 trillion

That puts August at about 22.39% of the January total.  However, looking at it in drops sorted out by region, the average/mean drop was 50.49% and the median drop was 49.38%.  That those two differ so much from the combined total drop seems to indicate that drops varied greatly by region.

Since I have that data broken out by regions, I thought I would look at the biggest and smallest losers.

For losers, here are the regions that took the biggest hits:

  1. Period Basis – 3.4 trillion to 20 billion ISK – 0.58% of January
  2. Outer Passage – 2.4 trillion to 80 billion ISK – 3.31% of January
  3. Branch – 6.9 trillion to 259 billion ISK – 3.75% of January
  4. Catch – 1.2 trillion to 52 billion ISK – 4.47% of January
  5. Wicked Creek – 2.1 trillion to 96 billion ISK – 4.54% of January

Period Basis, that was Red Alliance space back in January, though they fell apart and GSF took over, turning it into Imperium rental space and an alleged haven for bots, protected behind the bulk of Delve.  The blackout and bot banning took its toll there.

Outer Passage was another deep null sec spot reputed to be a haven for bots.

Branch was Dead Coalition’s ratting paradise back in January, where they were recovering their fortunes after the Keepstar War of last year.  Not quite as well protected as some regions, but well back from NPC space aside from a station in Venal.

Catch is home to Legacy Coalition alliances including Brave Newbies.

Wicked Creek has been held by Fraternity for ages, but they have apparently pulled back from it for ratting, at least relative to their core in Detorid, which we’ll get to.

The big winners were:

  1. The Kalevala Expanse – 190 billion to 400 billion ISK – 210.29% of January
  2. Genesis – 199 billion to 218 billion ISK – 109.81% of January
  3. Placid – 76 billion to 83 billion ISK – 108.79% of January
  4. The Bleak Lands – 14 billion to 15 billion ISK – 105.83% of January
  5. Tash-Murkon – 98 billion to 103 billion ISK – 104.76% of January

Basically, that is four non-null regions that stayed about the same and The Kalevala Expanse, which is the real outlier in the mix.  It has been held by Pandemic Horde since May of 2018, but was not well utilized for a long stretch.  It was going to be, and may still be, their rental empire.

Then there are what I have decided to call the benchmark sov null regions, which were held by the same groups throughout 2019 and how they fared:

  1. Cobalt Edge (Hard Knocks) – 2.0 trillion to 706 billion – 34.72% of January
  2. Delve (Imperium) – 12.9 trillion to 4.4 trillion – 33.92% of January
  3. Detorid (Fraternity) 5.5 trillion to 1.2 trillion – 22.19% of January
  4. Esoteria (TEST) 5.1 trillion to 1.0 trillion – 20.44% of January
  5. Providence (Provi) 860 billion to 71 billion – 8.26% of January

The wretched excess of Delve was curbed, but it did not fall as far as many, while Provi appears to have suffered quite a bit over the course of the year. Detorid looks to be right at the mean drop.

And then, finally, I also broke the regions of New Eden out into three different areas, Empire (both high and low sec, since Empire regions often include both), Sov Null, and NPC Null.  Broken out, here is how they compared:

  1. NPC Null – 749 billion to 620 billion – 82.77% of January
  2. Empire – 4.3 trillion to 3.5 trillion – 81.70% of January
  3. Sov Null – 79.7 trillion to 14.8 trillion – 18.62% of January

So the weight of the changes over the course of the year fell on null sec.  Of course, that is where the most of the bounties were.  Empire and NPC Null lack upgraded anomalies and don’t see capital or super capital ratting, so the NPC bounties are likely from missions and belt rats.

Looking at NPC bounty changes overall and broken out by the different areas:

  • All Regions Overall: 22.39% Mean: 50.49% Median: 49.38%
  • NPC Null Overall: 82.77% Mean: 76.59% Median: 76.93%
  • Empire – Overall: 81.70% Mean: 84.96% Median: 84.78%
  • Sov Null – Overall: 18.62% Mean: 22.57% Median: 9.24%

When the overall, mean, and median are close, that means that the change was spread pretty evenly.  When they vary, as they do with All Regions and Sov Null, that indicates that changes were uneven.

Basic conclusion is that NPC bounty changes affected Sov Null more than other areas.  I do not think that is a particularly controversial statement.  It is what we would expect having paid attention to the MERs during 2019.

Next up is mining, the other thing CCP sought to nerf in 2019.  Again, it is something that happens heavily in Sov Null, but it is also pretty big in Empire space as well.  The only problem is that the ISK numbers are based on mineral prices during the given time period, so January to August comparisons will be less indicative than NPC bounties, which are always in direct ISK value.  But let’s look anyway.

Overall mining in January brought in 58 trillion ISK in mineral value, an amount that fell to 28 trillion in August, just 48.47% of January.  But the average percentage, when look at per region change, was 76.19%, which means there were some big losers out there.  They were:

  1. Period Basis – 155 trillion to 91 million – 0.06% of January
  2. Outer Passage – 809 billion to 35.4 billion – 4.37% of January
  3. Branch 2.2 trillion to 106 billion – 4.81% of January
  4. Deklein – 1.3 trillion to 83 billion – 6.38% of January
  5. Perrigen Falls – 327 billion to 35 billion – 10.54% of January

There is at least some overlap between the NPC bounty and mining regions here, with Period Basis on top and Branch in the middle for both.

Likewise, the regions with the biggest gains have a pair of repeats:

  1. The Kalevala Expanse – 150 billion to 520 billion – 345.47% of January
  2. Omist – 126 billion to 378 billion – 300.29% of January
  3. The Bleak Lands – 133 billion to 202 billion – 151.82% of January
  4. Pure Blind – 149 billion to 220 billion – 147.19% of January
  5. Aridia – 166 billion to 240 billion – 144.44% of January

As noted before, TKE was underutilized back in January, while TBL, high sec space, saw something of a boost for both bounties and mining.  The surprise for me is probably Pure Blind… who even lives there to mine… and Aridia, as low sec doesn’t have a reputation for being a miner’s paradise.  But, then, none of those regions had big numbers to start with, no trillion ISK regions on that list, so the amount required to move the needle is significantly less.

[Addendum: During the Sep. 20 Open Comms Show Brisc Rubal said that The Initiative moved their mining ops to Aridia during the blackout, which explains that jump.]

And then there are my benchmark Sov Null regions:

  • Cobalt Edge (Hard Knocks) – 745 billion to 217 billion – 29.06% of January
  • Delve (Imperium) – 14 trillion to 3.6 trillion – 25.81% of January
  • Detorid (Fraternity) – 3 trillion to 415 billion – 13.48% of January
  • Esoteria (TEST) – 3.9 trillion to 1.5 trillion – 36.97% of January
  • Providence (Provi) – 405 billion to 122 trillion – 30.16% of January

All were down, with Detorid down the most, while Esoteria seemed to hang on better than the others.

Broken out by different areas of space, overall is all regions as a whole, mean and median are per region changes:

  • All Regions Overall: 48.47% Mean: 76.19% Median: 75.61%
  • NPC Null Overall: 70.94% Mean: 63.77% Median: 65.66%
  • Empire – Overall: 99.99% Mean: 103.34% Median: 104.91%
  • Sov Null – Overall: 31.37% Mean: 60.01% Median: 36.27%

Mining isn’t down as much as bounties, but it is still down.  Empire space was the least affected over the course of the year, with January and August numbers looking very similar.  That at least seems to cast some doubt on the “all the mining bots moved to high sec” theory I have seen.  But the picture is incomplete.  The change in mineral prices, which went up over the course of the year, means that it the totals are close then less ore overall was mined.

Finally, the third thing people have brought up quite a bit is destruction.  The purpose of the blackout was, among other things, supposed to bring more destruction to New Eden.  Or so some people were loudly declaring.  Maybe it was just to frighten botters.  Anyway, we’ll look at those numbers.

Overall destruction in New Eden, according to the data I am using (and we know the data isn’t always complete as noted here) has January pegged at 40 trillion ISK and August at 39 trillion ISK, which is probably withing the margin of error for CCP data.  That would be an almost Ivory Soap-like 99.41% change.  That the by region mean change was 129.22% indicates that different areas saw different results over time, but the median was still a nice solid 96.21%, which is pretty close to the overall change.

So where were the big increases?

  1. Fade – 113 billion to 1.4 trillion – 1265.61% of January
  2. Omist – 76 billion to 414 billion – 544.21% of January
  3. The Kalevala Expanse – 278 billion to 777 billion – 279.66% of January
  4. Genesis – 402 billion to 910 billion – 226.64% of January
  5. Verge Vendor – 168 billion to 363 billion – 216.71% of January

I have no idea what was going on in Fade, which is a problem with a lot of these numbers.  And a big increase like that will skew your data when you look at it in region sized chunks.  Still, something was going on.  It was also interesting to see that destruction followed utilization in TKE, it having made the top increase in all three areas.

The last two regions are in high sec.  More ganking maybe?

At the other end, where did destruction drop off?

  1. Period Basis – 491 billion to 26 billion – 5.30% of January
  2. Geminate – 2.4 trillion to 380 billion – 15.68% of January
  3. Perrigen Falls – 372 billion to 81 billion – 21.78% of January
  4. Outer Passage – 387 billion to 93 billion – 23.95% of January
  5. Cloud Ring – 383 billion to 151 billion – 39.57% of January

Again, it is nice to see some consistency, with the drop off in ratting and mining on Period Basis there was a corresponding drop in destruction.

Geminate was where Pandemic Horde used to live.  Perrigen Falls and Outer Passage are both in the upper drone region, a place reputed to be a botting home.  And then there is Cloud Ring.  I blame The Initiative and Snuffed Out for whatever happens up there.

And how about the benchmark Sov Null regions?  Any changes there that correspond to anything we have seen so far?

  • Cobalt Edge (Hard Knocks) – 395 billion to 699 billion – 177.02% of January
  • Delve (Imperium) – 1.8 trillion to 1.5 trillion – 85.86% of January
  • Detorid (Fraternity) – 1.2 trillion to 1.6 trillion – 137.20% of January
  • Esoteria (TEST) – 613 billion – 860 billion – 140.39% of January
  • Providence (Provi) – 765 billion – 843 billion – 110.24% of January

Unlike Period Basis, there is no corresponding drop in destruction relative to the decrease in ratting or mining.  Somebody took it upon themselves to get out to Cobalt Edge and blow things up. Detorid and Esoteria are also part of an ongoing war in the east, which muddies the water a bit.  Providence saw a bit of a bump.  And then there is Delve, the only one of the bunch that saw a decrease, though at both ends of the measure it saw the most absolute destruction.

Destruction broken out by different areas of space, where overall is all regions as a whole, mean and median are per region changes:

  • All Regions Overall: 99.41% Mean: 129.22% Median: 96.21%
  • NPC Null Overall: 79.61% Mean: 74.70% Median: 76.72%
  • Empire – Overall: 110% Mean: 118.98% Median: 103.41%
  • Sov Null – Overall: 92.29% Mean: 145.77% Median: 88.00%

NPC Null saw a drop, the data shows that it fell in every region, Empire stayed about the same, with some outliers, and Sov Null saw the widest variety of change.  But there are more Sov Null regions than the other two areas combined, so that seems likely.  But the overall numbers didn’t show much change.

So what do all of these numbers mean?  I don’t know.

My daughter is currently taking AP Statistics, so I am trying to show the same restraint I have tried to instill in her when it comes to jumping to conclusions based on data that may not tell a complete story.  It is easy to infer meaning at a glance that is not really there.

There are certainly some consistent stories in the mix, like those of Period Basis or TKE, where a changes followed a nice pattern.  The stories of those regions seem clear.  But others are less so, which points to the need to know what was actually going on in any given area before drawing any conclusions about it based on the data here.  And everything should probably be overlaid on some sort of user online report to give some hint if more people online end up with more ratting and mining and destruction as part of things.

Still, I think there is some value in looking at the data, if only just to get a sense of what is changing where.

For this post I put the data from the August and January MERs into their own Excel spreadsheet, which you can download if you like.

Of course, I started doing this last weekend just because, then got it queued up to post this week after the Ragefire Chasm three-parter, only to find Rhivre at INN also wanted to throw lots of data around this week as well.  She goes into more depth, talks about more things, and generally does a much better job than I bothered to do, so if you want to wallow in numbers you should probably go check that out.

Line Member Blues

When it comes to life in EVE Online I am a tourist.  I have given up most of the ambitions I ever had about being good at anything in game or having some influence or impact.  I just log in to experience ops and see things get blown up and following the ongoing narrative that flows through the game.

There are ops that are exciting, and that goes for winning as well as losing.  A hard fight where you’re side comes off the worse but still inflicted some damage can feel like a victory.  You lost a ship?  So what.  You’ll lose more if you hang around.

There are ops when you get to blow up big stuff and run away before the locals respond.  I can see the allure of whaling and whenever Black Ops calls out for people to join them on a drop I log in if I can.

There are ops that don’t happen.  You log in, get in fleet, hang out for a bit, then get told to stand down.  Whatever was going to happen didn’t happen.  But you get a low effort PAP out of it, so you get something for your time.  It is better if you stand down quickly.  But I’ve sat on a titan or a black ops for an hour or more, tabbed out and doing something else, waiting for the FC to sing out that it was time to go and not felt mis-used when we have stood down without going.  It is the nature of the game.  If you want a guarantee of something to shoot at you can always go play World of Tanks.

And then there are ops that make you miserable.  I went on one of those earlier this week.

With the destruction of the Keepstars on Tuesday morning, most of the ihubs in Tribute being killed, and Dead Coalition having pretty much wiped out Tenal, focus for the Imperium has started to drift over into the Vale of the Silent, another region held by PanFam.

There was a ping for a very important op at 00:30 EVE time and, given that I was home alone, I figured I would go along.  The call was for Eagles, now called Salt Fleet because part of the gimmick to get people into Eagles was the coalition offering up a free Ghostbird SKIN for Eagles and Basilisks, which are both good looking SKINs and which led to the fleet name.   I jumped into game, got in my Eagle, and was ready to go.

However we were short of things.  Some of them were the usual roles, we needed more boosters and more logi and a couple other roles filled.  But there was also a call for people to fly entosis ships.  We got the “we’re not going anywhere until we have enough entosis ships” talk, and when they offered to hand out ships for entosis pilots to use, I figured I would step up.

I even double stepped up.  I logged my alt in and got him into fleet as well, and got two enotsis fit Drakes to fly.  I just had to hand them back at the end of the fleet if they lived.

I hadn’t done entosis in ages, and I couldn’t recall it being very exciting.  But I do try to fill roles that the fleet needs, which is why I fly logi most of the time.  If I help the fleet undock then all of us get to go out for what might be an adventure.

And we soon undocked, got on the titan, and bridged out to M-OEE8.  From there we slipped into low sec, then back into null sec via P3EN-E, which put us into the Vale of the Silent region.  There is also a Keepstar in that system, which is clearly on our list of targets.

In the entosis channel we were getting ourselves sorted.  I opened up the Google doc with the shared spreadsheet for tracking entosis nodes and put my name in the right column. (Legit spreadsheets in space.)  We flew in a few more systems then the FC told the entosis pilots to spread out to the various systems in the constellation.  As we grabbed systems and got setup one of the other pilots was called out and told not to entosis.  He was not in Goonswarm and this was a defending hack, which means that only those in GSF could participate.

Of course, that meant I couldn’t play either.

Denied this level of excitement

Being line members, we are told little to nothing about where we are headed or what the plan is.  There are enough spies around that I can see the sense of that.  However, if you’re setting up an entosis operation and you know that only people from a specific group can participate, it seems like something you should mention, or at least look into.  I mean, I had to trade with the person running the entosis opt.  We were all in a channel together and there were not that many of us.  A double check to make sure the right people are in the right roles doesn’t seem like a stretch.

Anyway, there would be no entosis lasering for me.  I flew both ships to a Fortizar we had dropped in the constellation and tethered up with the other guy to wait for the op to finish.

Things went quickly.  Nobody showed up to contest us, so after relatively few nodes the defenders had won and we were done.

Well, we were done with the entosis bit.  Since the area was quiet our FC took the Eagles around and began reinforcing various cyno jammers, jump gates, and other structures.   Meanwhile, the rest of the entosis ships, a dozen of us all together, tethered up on the Fortizar and sat around waiting.

As I mentioned above, waiting is nothing new.  But this was a particularly frustrating wait.  I had flown out with the fleet, both main and alt, for a role that I was not able to perform.  Once the entosis part of the operation was done our little band was essentially ignored while the rest of the fleet flew around shooting targets and… well… actually doing things.  And the number of things to be done was very open ended, so there was no ETA or such, just having to hear over coms that the were warping to another structure for another 20 minute reinforcement shoot.

And so we sat for over two hours.  If somebody had said, “Be back in two hours” I would have been good.  But no, we had to stay alert and listening to coms to figure out what was going on.  This was not helped at my end by it being the hottest day of the year so far (it hit 107, and was still in the high 90s as the sun set), my office being the hottest corner of the house, or the fact that one of the cats ate something they shouldn’t have and started throwing up all over the house.  Oh, and the paper towel roll in the kitchen had exactly three sheets left on it and it was the last one we had.  Also, nobody else would join up for a Drake conga line while we waited.

Two Drakes do not a conga line make

So I was salty and boiling, and not necessarily metaphorically, and my patience for being ignored and left to wait for an unspecified time frame was very much non-existent.  And I was not necessarily alone in that feeling.  The mood in the entosis channel was grim and a couple of people said that they had learned their lesson about volunteering for that.  Some people couldn’t stick around and just left.

I considered leaving as well.  If the two Drakes had been my ships I might have just blazed a trail for home despite intel reporting a couple of gangs roaming the route back.  Two high EHP entosis Drakes with RLMLs and ECM drones would make for some comedy moments if nothing else.  Plus they each had a cyno fit, so I could have called in a drop.  I knew there was a group on standby just for that.

But these were not my ships.  These ships were on loan.  And while I could afford to reimburse the person handing them out, that wasn’t the point.  On a deployment getting supplied can be a task in and of itself, so handing somebody the ISK doesn’t solve the full replacement problem.  Plus you just don’t go throw away ships people lend you.  I felt like I had to make a good faith attempt to get them home safely.  So I waited, listened to coms, and fumed.

This was the dark time of the op.  I couldn’t really stray far from my computer, I couldn’t watch a movie because there was still talking on coms, and a lot of it was from the command channel so being in the no chatter channel wasn’t helping, I was hot, I was bored, and I just wanted to get this whole thing done.

This is where you start questioning why you went on this op, why you are on this deployment, why you stay in your alliance, why you play this objectively unfun game at all.  I started planning to head back to Delve, haul the remains of my stuff to low sec… a process I started back in late 2017 when I was bored with the game… and just quit.  Fuck this game.

I tabbed out and played some RimWorld while I listened to the ongoing chatter as the rest of thee fleet moved from target to target, reinforcing various NC/PL structures so they couldn’t unanchor them and carry them off.  There were several fleets out doing this, including Zungen’s roaming fleet of Leshak battleships.

Eventually the FC called out that there were only three more targets before the fleet would head home, then two, then one, then, at last, the entosis crew was told to wake up and given a destination at which to meet up with the fleet.

Having something to do made me feel a bit better right away.  I was still surly, but could feel it ebbing away with activity.  We met up with the fleet on a gate and carried on with it.  The FC said we had a ride home waiting for us, that we just had to get through a couple of systems and a titan would be waiting to send us home.

My annoyance was peaked just a bit as we moved towards our ride.  We had to pass through one bubbled gate, and as we landed 80km off the of it the FC chided us to hurry, to turn on prop mods and get to the gate.

A defensively bubbled gate

Of course the entosis Drakes, the slowest ships in the fleet, had no prob mods fit.  We were going to sail leisurely through the bubbles no matter what the FC said, though at least somebody reminded him that we were not lagging behind on purpose.

The titan was in the next system.  We were bridged back onto the Keepstar where we started.  I docked up, contracted both Drakes back to the person who lent them out, and logged off.  Then I went to the store to buy more paper towels.

I was back by the next day though.  There are still more things to blow up in Tribute.

Watching a Raitaru explode the next day

And there are targets in the Vale of the Silent now as well.  That defensive entosis effort was to keep the ihub in P3EN-E in GSF hands.  There is a Keepstar in that system, and without an ihub in their possession the locals cannot put up a cyno jammer to keep our capitals out.  I imagine that we will be blowing that up some day soon.

And so it goes.  I got through my black moment and carried on, still keen enough to see things through another chapter in the ongoing story that is EVE Online.  Even bad moments make for tales once they are in the past.

But I am still going to sit on my hands and remain silent the next time they need volunteers for entosis operations.  Fuck that noise.

A Handy Guide to Criticizing Games You Do Not Like

Something from the drafts folder.  I’m not sure what set me to write this back in August, but I fixed it up a bit and set it free today.

You know what it is like, right? All these new games keep getting announced, Kickstarted, early accessized, launched, and ported to this platform or that to the point that you cannot keep track of them anymore. And how can you possibly shit all over some game you’ve barely looked into to keep it on encroaching on the games you love and have sworn to protect?

Well your worries are over as I have put together this helpful list of ways you can badmouth games you hardly even know anything about.

Compare it Unfavorably!

Find the best, most popular game that bears any resemblance to the game you want to put down… it doesn’t need to be an exact competitor, or even that close really…  and dig right in with how this new game isn’t the one you’ve picked out.  I mean Path of Exile, Pillars of Eternity, and Papers Please are all pretty much WoW anyway, right?

I call this the “It’s not WoW” method, because in the MMORPG genre you can put down anything by claiming it isn’t World of Warcraft.  No matter what you’re comparing it to you can always claim that WoW somehow does it better and faster while looking good and being more fun to boot.  It must be a really effective tactic given how much it comes up in general chat in every single MMORPG ever.

It’s been Done!

Is the object of your scorn an entry in an already established genre?  Then you’re all set by declaring it to be derivative, unoriginal crap that has been done better, faster, and cheaper already.  This is basically the flip side of the first entry, because on the MMORPG front you can dismiss just about anything as simply being another WoW.  The best thing about this claim is that the more crowded the genre is, the more likely that you’re actually on the mark with this one.  It is like a double win!

Graphical Style!

If it looks like shit it must be shit, right?  It doesn’t matter if you actually think the game in question looks like shit or not, somebody out there does and if you say this enough times then somebody will agree with you and BAM you’re there!

And even if it doesn’t look like shit you can always go on about how you don’t like retro or pixellated or stylized or realistic or colorful or dark or whatever art style is being used.  You can trash them all with ease.

The One Feature!

Struggling to find something bad to say overall?  Then just pick on one feature!  Does it have PvP?  Toxic!  Non-consensual PvP?  Griefing gankbox! A Cash shop?  Pay to win!  A shooter?  Aimbots and hacks!  An MMO?  WoW clone!  Involves colorful fantasy? WoW clone! Does it have quests? WoW clone! Can you wield a sword? WoW clone!  Is its name three words with “of” being the second? WoW clone! Levels? Grind! Factions? Grind! Crafting?  Grind!  Also, WoW clone for those as well.  Really, is there anything that isn’t a WoW clone these days?

A Missing Feature!

Did somebody make a game and forget to include something that you are sure must be a standard feature for all games in that genre?  Is there a shooter without a single player campaign?  An ARPG without local multiplayer support?  An RPG without modding?  A strategy game without play by mail?  An MMORPG without housing?  Let that obviously lazy developer know what you think!  This is a slap in the face!

Crowdfunding!

Is the game in question a crowdfunded venture?  Well, you’re work has probably been done for you then.  Even if it has shipped it was almost certainly late and did not deliver on all of its promises.  And if it hasn’t shipped it is probably both late and still asking for more money.  Make sure you let people know that “backers” is just another word for “suckers” and that the whole thing is certainly just a scam.

Developer Hate!

Don’t know enough about the game to even go after it?  Then go after the developer!  This is a slam dunk for any EA game, because we know they’ll fuck it up somehow.  But every dev has their weakness.  If the developer is popular, then the game has probably been dumbed down to appeal to non-gamers, which we all know to be a sin, and not worth $59.99 on Steam.  If it is an indie developer, then it is probably buggy as hell and not worth $4.99 on Steam.

If you want to get more specific, figure out any mistake or recurring trait of the studio in question, magnify it one hundred times, then project it on this new game.

For example, does Paradox Interactive have a new game?  Then it is probably an overwrought boring strategic sim with a confusing UI and an erratically bad AI that will force you to marry your adult son off to a six year old cousin just to secure your hold on power.

If the game comes from Blizzard then they have surely just stolen someone’s game idea, put colorful stylized graphics on it, simplified and watered it down so even your grandmother could play it, and put a $59.99 price tag on it.

Or if the game is from Riot then even running the tutorial would turn your sainted mother into a toxic, foul mouthed, misogynist douchebag.  Hah hah, just kidding.  You probably already love League of Legends, the only game Riot has ever made, will ever make, and need ever make.  Right amigo?

Objectively Not Fun!

Here is the big secret to game criticism.  Any game can be made to sound like it is no fun if you pull back and simplify it enough.  For example, with something like Diablo you can say, “So you just click on shit and that’s it?”  With an MMO like WoW you can say, “So you just press buttons and things die?” With a shooter like Call of Duty you ask, “So you just listen to some 13 year old swear at you while he kills you again with an aimbot?  Or with EVE Online you can ask, “So you just sit in your Rorqual watching your excavator drones and hoping not to get hot dropped?”

Then you follow that leading question with the big pronouncement, something like, “Games are supposed to be fun! How is this fun?” and bada-bing, bada-boom, you’ve scored your point even if what you have asked is so off base as to be a complete mis-characterization of the game.  (Except for EVE Online, which has been scientifically proven to be not fun.)

Corrupt Developer!

Hah, just kidding!  That is the sort of outrageous lunacy, sheer tinfoil, unbelievably biased, and unhinged craziness that will do more to sink your complaints than help them.  There is no point going there if it is just going to undo your hard work.

Make Things Up!

Let’s face it, this new game is a threat.  It could take players away from your game, and your value as a human being is directly measured by how popular the games are that you play.  So don’t let reality stand in your way.  Say whatever comes to your mind.  It is probably true to some degree in any case, right?

Special Bonus: Concern Troll!

If you cannot bring yourself to straight up attack a game (why the hell not?), then there is another route you can take.  You can pretend to like the game.  You can even say you like it a lot, but that you’re sure it could be even better.  And then you can start suggesting features and improvements that are pretty much contrary to the theme and focus of the game.  Just take whatever the game does and suggest the opposite.  Is it PvE focused? Then it needs PvP! Or if it is PvP focused, then it really needs a PvE server.  Is it vehicle focused? Demand avatar game play!  And if it doesn’t have vehicles, demand those!  Or pick a random secondary feature like housing and post over and over again how the game needs this.

But be sure to restate that you are a fan of the game in question, but you fear it is dying or incomplete, so you are trying to help the developer by posting your suggestions over and over in any comment thread about the game.  Never fail to bring up your pet suggestion, ever!  Maybe, by sheer volume of words, the developer will eventually waste time and wreck their game by trying to implement your suggestion.

Things to Remember

  • The more often you say something on the internet, the more true it becomes.
  • You’re totally normal, so everybody else who is normal agrees with you, so you should make sure people know you pretty much speak for everyone in your statements.
  • Negativity is all people listen to anyway.  If you want to be heard you need to go negative early and often.
  • Reason and compromise diminish you as a person and taint your family out to four generations.
  • People disagreeing with you have no feelings and are probably bots or being paid to say what they’re saying in any case.
  • You cannot definitively rule out that you are just a brain in a jar and that this is a simulation being run to test you and your ability to defend your game of choice.

No Good Expansions*

*Some expansions excepted

A post somewhat sparked by what Kaylriene wrote, though I have been harboring bits and pieces of this for ages now.  Ready for a Friday ramble?  Here we go.

I suppose that EverQuest needs to take some of the heat on this.  Coming up to its 20th anniversary it already has 25 expansions past the base game that launched back in 1999.  While expansions and updates and sequels and such were clearly a thing long before EverQuest came along, the success of EverQuest in the then burgeoning MMORPG space made it a standard bearer and template for games that came later, including World of Warcraft.

EverQuest went more than a year before launching the first expansion for the game, Ruins of Kunark, which I sometimes refer to as “the only good expansion,” and then embarked on a quest to launch two expansions a year in order to keep the community engaged and happy with new content.

Maybe the only fully good MMO expansion ever

That kept that money machine printing, but brought with it a series of problems like keeping people up to date, rolling past expansions up into consolidated, all-in-one packages like EverQuest Platinum, and what often felt like an exchange of quality in the name of getting another expansion out.  And some expansions barely felt like expansions at all.

SOE eased up on that plan in 2007, opting to dial back to just one expansion a year for both EverQuest and EverQuest II, which also launched with similar expansion plans.

So, if nothing else, EverQuest solidified the norm that expansions are a requirement, something the players expect.  That we complain about Blizzard only being able to crank out a WoW expansion every other year is directly related to the pace set by SOE.  Sort of.

But the one thing we know about expansions, that we complain about yet never think all that deeply about, is how they undue what has come before.

An expansion to a live MMORPG, by its very nature, changes the overall game.  And change always alienates somebody.  As I have often said, every feature, every aspect, no matter how trivial or generally despised, is somebody’s favorite part of that game.

MMORPG players also represent a dichotomy.  If they’ve played through the current content, it is likely because they have enjoyed it as it was laid out.  They’ve reached the end, they’re happy, and they want more of the same.  Mostly.  Some played through and were unhappy about some things, but happy overall.  Ideally an expansion will give players more of what made them happy, plus adjusting the things that made people unhappy.

Adjusting, of course, will make other player unhappy, as you’re pretty much guaranteed to be changing somebody’s favorite thing.  And every expansion brings change to the world, on top of the usual restart of the gear and level grind which, as people often point out, replaces their top end raid gear with better quest drop greens almost immediately.

Just handing out more of the same when it comes to content can feel repetitive and uninspired, but changing things makes people angry, because change makes people angry.  But leaving everything as it is means people finish the content and eventually stop giving you money via their monthly subscription.  The theoretical best path forward is the one that engages the most people while angering the fewest.

I refer to Ruins of Kunark as the one good expansion because it seemed to thread the needle almost exactly right.  I delivered more of what people were into, more content, more levels, more races, more dragons, more gear, all without having a huge impact on the game as it already stood.

Ruins of Kunark isn’t really the “one good expansion,” if only because “good” is very subjective.  And there are other expansions I have enjoyed.  It is more that it represents an expansion that did more to expand the game than annoy the installed base.  But first expansions can be like that.  Or they used to be like that.  Desert of Flames was like that for EverQuest II in many ways, and certainly The Burning Crusade had that first expansion magic for WoW.  I’d even argue that WoW, ever more fortunate than one would expect, got a double dip at that well, as Wrath of the Lich King continued on and did very well without disrupting the apple cart.

Eventually though, expansions begin to work against the game.  There is always a core group that keeps up, both others fall behind.  For EverQuest, the every six month pace meant a lot of people falling behind.  Expansions also put a gap between new players and the bulk of the player base.  That’s not so bad after one expansion, but each new expansion makes it worse.  And then there are the changes that anger the core fan base.

That leads us to Cataclysm.  The team at SOE, in their attempt to crank out new content, often neglected the old.  If I go back to Qeynos today it looks pretty much the same as it did in 1999.  There are a few new items, some new vendors scattered about, and the new mechanics added in to the game over the years.  But I can still stand out in front of the gates and fight beetles, skeletons, kicking snakes, and the occasional Fippy Darkpaw.  Yes, they redid Freeport, much to the chagrin of many, and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, but they have mostly left the old world looking like it did back in the day.  Enough has changed over the years that can’t go back and relive the game as it was at launch, which brought out the Project 1999 effort, but at least  I can still go bask in the eerie green glow of the chessboard in Butcherblock if I want.

Cataclysm though… well, it had a number of strikes against it from the get go, not the least of which was following on after two successful and popular expansions, which together played out the Warcraft lore as we knew it.  So Cataclysm had to break new ground on the lore front.

Cataclysm also only offered us five additional levels, a break with the pattern so far.  We also didn’t get a new world or continent, with the five new leveling zones being integrated into the old world.  We also got flying in old Azeroth right away, a feature that can start an argument faster than most.  I suspect flying is something Blizzard regrets in hindsight, but once they gave it to us they had to keep on  finding ways to make us unlock it all over again.

But most of all, Cataclysm redid the old world.  Zones were redone, new quest lines were created, and the 1-60 leveling experience became a completely different beast.

Arguably, it is a better experience.  I have run all of the redone zones.  I have the achievements to prove it. (Another divisive feature.)  And the zones all now have a story through which you can progress rather than the, at times, haphazard quest hubs which had you killing and collecting and killing some more over and over, often without rhyme or reason.

To give J. Allen Brack his due, for a specific set of circumstances, you don’t want the old game.

The rework, which was also necessitated by the need to give us flying throughout Azeroth, save for in the Blood Elf and Draenei starter zones, was spoiled by a couple of things.  First, the level curve had been cut back, so that the pacing of the new zones was off.  You would easily end up with quests so low level that they went gray if you chased down every quest in a zone.  And second, the rework of the 1-60 instances made them all short and easy and the optimum path for leveling using the dungeon finder.  You could run three an hour easy, even queuing as DPS, so you could, and probably did, bypass all that reworked content.

But, bigger than that, at least over the long haul, the removal of the old content led to something we might now call the WoW Classic movement.  There was already a nascent force in action on that, since the first two expansions reworked classes and talents, so you couldn’t really play the old content the way you did in 2005.  Vanilla servers were already a thing.  But they became a much bigger deal when Blizzard changed the old world.

Overall though, Cataclysm wasn’t a bad expansion.  It took me a while to get to that conclusion, because I did not like it at first, to the point of walking away from the game for a year.

The new races were fine.  The 80-85 zones were good.  Val’shir might be the prettiest zone in the game.  It is like playing in the most beautiful aquarium ever.  (A pity about the motion sickness thing.)  I ran and enjoyed all of the instances, with the reworked Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub raids being particularly good.  Being at level and doing the content was a decent experience.  I still use my camel mount regularly in no-fly areas.  Regardless though, the changes burned.  They were divisive. Blizz pissed off a lot of the core player base, even if the whole thing ended up getting us WoW Classic.

I think, even if Blizz hadn’t done all of those changes… which I guess would have meant calling it something other than Cataclysm… that it would have been a let down of an expansion.  Having to follow on after TBC and WotLK was a big ask.  How do you follow up Ice Crown Citadel?

Mists of Pandaria revived things a bit, though I think that was as much by being a really solid expansion as it was that expectations were low after Cataclysm.  But Warlords of Draenor?  Doomed.  The expectations set by reviving the themes from TBC meant eventual disappointment.  Garrisons were not great.  They were not the housing people wanted.  They took people out of the world, just like Blizz said housing would, without being a place people cared about and could make their own.  But I think the fact that it wasn’t the return of Outland and the excitement of 2007 was what led to the eventual drop in subscriptions.  People realized there was no going back to their memories of the old game.

As every feature is somebody’s favorite feature, the thing that keeps them in the game, every expansion is somebody’s breaking point, the thing that gets them to walk away.  The more expansions that come along, the more people end up dropping out.  Or, if they don’t drop out, they return to play casually, as much out of habit as anything.  The investment in the game isn’t as deep.  You play for a bit, see the sights, do the tourist thing, get the achievements, then unsubscribe until the next expansion.

Eventually there is an equilibrium it seems.  EverQuest and EverQuest II seemed to have found it.  They still do an expansion every year that plays to the installed base, that gives them just enough of what they want… be they invested or tourist… to buy-in and spend some time with the game.

Basically, expansions are change, and change has a habit of breaking the bonds players have with your game.  However, if you sit still and have no expansions then people will leave over time anyway, so you cannot simply avoid expansions and change either.  It is probably better to move forward in the end, make the changes, earn a bit of extra money, and carry on.

Just don’t expect everybody to thank you for it.

Is Circle of Two Dead or Just Mostly Dead?

It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.

-Miracle Max, The Princess Bride

It is difficult to kill an alliance, or a corporation, or any player organization in New Eden.  You can blow up their ships, pod their pilots, take down their structures, have spies or traitors disband organization and steal their assets, and camp them into an NPC station and sit on them for weeks and they’ll just come back once you’ve tired of the whole thing.

Player groups, successful player groups, exist outside of the game.  A change of pixels on a screen doesn’t change what holds that group together.  Yes, not everybody will hang tough through bad times.  The opportunist and hangers on and uncommitted will defect when times get tough.  We have seen that time and again, an alliance or a coalition will suffer a staggering defeat, be erased from the sovereignty map, lose a significant percentage of its members, and yet somehow come back again.  I’ve been through that.  I made the trek with Jay Amazingness from the north to Delve after the Casino War to help carve out a new empire after our total defeat.

So when it was announced back at the beginning of last month that Circle of Two had decided disband, complete with a SoundCloud recording of the meeting, I was a bit skeptical.

Circle of Two

Over at INN they quickly had an obituary posted, summing up the tale of the fall of CO2 in something of a victory lap.  That’s going to be a bit awkward if we find out, as we did over the summer, that CO2 had enough left in it to stage a comeback.

Meanwhile, over at EN24, Seraph was back again on his coming up on three year attempt to rehabilitate CO2’s reputation by trying to argue that the Imperium actually betrayed CO2 and that everything CO2 ever did was totally justified.  It is a long winded and completely irrelevant piece, but it is apparently all he has since he keeps re-running it.  No doubt he hopes that if he says it enough times it might become true.

The problem there is that even were his spin agreed upon by all sides as objective fact, it would make no difference.  He would do better to ape Marc Antony in Julius Caesar than keep up with his hair splitting irrelevance because his words won’t win back a single system of sovereignty nor restore any of the Keepstars that has CO2 lost since that fateful day.

The optics of the day, the optics of the betrayal, the optics of which played out before hundreds of Imperium pilots, will not allow that.  In the midst of the fight, while the battle for the M-OEE8 was still going on, while Imperium forces were fighting for them, with more on the way, the leadership of CO2 sent a messenger… declining to stand up and say it themselves… to tell the Imperium leadership they were pulling out of the coalition.

I had rushed home from work early and was sitting on a titan in a fleet waiting to be bridged in to continue the fight when word started to filter down.  A post on Reddit first got passed around, but was dismissed as a troll.  Then there was an announcement from The Mittani about CO2 having decided to leave no matter what happened in the fight.  I was there on coms and people were angry that CO2 let us burn through the day while already half out the exit.

There can be no walking back that particular offense.  Not in the eyes of those who were there, and the word quickly spread through the ranks.

All of which I add to remind people that it didn’t have to be that way.  They could have said they were leaving before the fight.  They could have let a decent interval pass after the fight and said they didn’t want to carry on.  Other alliances left during the war.  The Imperium isn’t out hunting down RAZOR with a burning passion for leaving.

CO2 would have had to have been blind to not be able to see how this would play out, how this would anger line members and leadership of the Imperium alike.  They clearly didn’t think it mattered.  The tide was against the Imperium.  We had already pulled back into Saranen as the Moneybadger Coalition overwhelmed us.  GigX no doubt thought we would be destroyed.

He should have read my first paragraph.  He should have studied the history of the game.  Alliances have been smashed on the rocks of defeat many times, only to come back as strong if not stronger.  Instead, CO2 seemed anxious to join the winning side, to share in the spoils, and to get some of that soon-to-be-banned casino money.

Their respite was short lived.  Eight months later I was there to see CO2 lose their Keepstar in M-0EE8 as their erstwhile allies sent them packing for the south as well.  I was there as we camped their ratters in Impass in what was alleged to have been cover for the first planned internal betrayal of CO2.  It did not go off, but we still made their ratters and miners suffer.  I was there in the fleet on the stolen Keepstar after Judgement day, when The Judge switched side and betrayed CO2, an act that got GigX to threaten The Judge so flagrantly that CCP felt they had to ban GigX for life.

One of the enduring images from Judgement Day

At that point it seemed like the alliance was dead.  But then it came back again, appearing in the north where it found a couch to sleep on as it got itself back together.

Then there was the recent was in the north which saw a resurgent CO2, led by GigX (who wasn’t hiding his attempt to skirt his ban very well), drop into Fade.  That is a region with history, the place where the Casino War could have been said to have started, the home of SpaceMonkeys Alliance who were involved with the ISK being taken from the casino cartel, which got the casinos to hire mercenaries to camp them in their region until they paid back the ISK  It was there that CO2 popped up, on the periphery of the expanding Imperium.  They dropped a Keepstar and setup shop in that space and it was like waving a red flag before the bull of the Imperium.

They landed in Fade towards the end of May 2018, taking over from Pandemic Horde, which had moved east, away from the Imperium and into The Vale of the Silent.  Around the middle of June CO2 hit its post Judgement Day peak, with over 4,000 pilots in the alliance and some 70 odd corporations.

That ended badly for the north in general and CO2 in particular.  By the middle of July the Imperium was already trying to kill the Keepstar in DW-T2I.  That attempt failed, but the stage had been set and the outcome seemed inevitable.  Two months later, the Keepstar, just one among several to go, was destroyed. CO2 gave up Fade and retreated back under the cover of their one again allies in NCDot and PanFam.  GigX was banned yet again.  And there was the question as to what CO2 would do next.

Which brings us to the announcement of the alliance disbanding.

Once that came about I subscribed to the RSS feed over at DOTLAN EVE Maps for the alliance so that any changes would pop up in my reader. (Just click the Feed button.)  I was waiting to see if the alliance would actually close, would officially be no more.  The numbers have certainly been in decline. (If not in Deklein, right?)

CO2 Stats… also, the blank spots where DOTLAN was down

But as of my writing this, the Alliance still lives.  It has a little over 500 characters in it across 24 corporations.

Stats as of Dec 28, 2018

Most of the larger corporations spread out amongst the alliances in the north, with Pandemic Horde being a popular destination.  But there are still corporations lingering behind, like Moms of Doom, which now makes up almost 20% of the alliance.  However, the remainders don’t seem too active, though a few individuals still flying the flag are on the zkillboard.

So back to the question at hand, is Circle of Two dead?  Will it die eventually?  Or is there a revival in its future?  Does it have the sort of name and reputation that can bring people back to its banner?

Addendum: An odd move on the ticker a few hours after this post went live.