Monday, September 25, 2017

Quote of the Day – The Optimism of Software Developers

Software developers at all levels tend to be optimistic – you have to be to build big things

Chris Roberts, EuroGamer interview

In my experience, developer optimism is the true state of affairs on every software project, big or small, and I can think of a few on which I have worked that wouldn’t have been started had we known up front how long they would take.

One of the tricks in managing software projects is understanding that the estimates that software developers give often need to be decoded to understand what the real number is likely to be.

There is an old saw about software project estimates that says you should take the time a developer says a task will take, double it, then go up a unit of measure.  So if your dev says it should take a day, you should assume it will be delivered in two weeks.

Of course you can’t develop a project plan that way.  If all your developer time estimates add up to a month and you say the project will take two years, you’re going to get fired.  And, in any case, with any software project you’ve probably been given the feature list and the deadline in advance, so you really have to start stack ranking features by importance to know where to focus.  Of course, marketing will rank every feature as a “1” so good luck there.

Still, if you know your team you’ll know how to interpret estimates.  You’ll know who chronically underestimates and who has other tasks that might interfere with the project.  I used to work with one dev who was always spot-on with his estimates of how long it would take him to finish any task.  The problem was that he was the key database guy on a product that was completely database driven, so spent more than half his time debugging field issues and helping out with new installations, tasks always deemed more critical than project work.  So his estimate of a day of effort for a task would be correct, you just wouldn’t know when he would have a day to focus on it.

And don’t even get me started on having a dependence on third party libraries and such.

Anyway, this is why most companies keep their projects vague and under wraps until they get close to launch.  Maybe a company will put out a road map with some general milestones, but even those tend to fall over beyond a six month window and get swept under the rug to be forgotten.

So running a project where you’re trying to do everything out in the open in front of customers… that way lies madness.  It would be nothing but outsiders kibitzing, asking for updates, and holding you to account for everything you’ve ever said would be a feature.

I am not sure why anybody would subject themselves to that.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pokemon Gold and Silver Available on 3DS Today

Meanwhile, on the retro-nostalgia front, Nintendo is bringing more old school Pokemon games to the 3DS today in the for of Pokemon Gold & Silver.

For the GameBoy Color

Back in 2016 Nintendo re-released Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow for the 3DS Virtual Console as part of the Pokemon 20th Anniversary celebration.  I went in on Pokemon Blue to discover how things went way back in the day, and I was surprised by how nearly fully formed the first generation of Pokemon games really were.

Now we have the second generation available, and with that comes some rounding out of the Pokemon standard features including:

  • Pokemon breeding
  • Held items for Pokemon
  • Dual-type Pokemon
  • Steel and Dark type Pokemon
  • Shiny Pokemon
  • Pokemon experience tracking

In addition the games are in full on color, no longer having to support the original monochromatic GameBoy hardware.

Virtual cartridges for the Virtual Console

As with the first generation releases, Pokemon Bank will be getting an update to allow players to move their Pokemon from these titles to Pokemon Sun & Moon, or to Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon when the latter ship this coming November.

So I am much more likely to spend time this weekend playing retro Pokemon than anything else, and all the more so since the 2009 remakes of these titles, Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver rank very highly on my list of favorite Pokemon titles.

The only quest is, do I go with Gold or Silver?

Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire Launches Today!

Today is the day.  At some point around noon [or now], here on the first day of Autumn in the northern hemisphere, the Path of Fire expansion for Guild Wars 2 goes live.

Guild Wars 2 – Path of Fire

As an outsider to the game… never got much past level 40… the expansion looks to offer up some standard sounding fare for players; New story, new zones, new skills/specs, guild halls, and the seemingly now mandatory character level boost.  I think the new feature I can most related to is the addition of mounts.

Some very Telara mounts

There is, of course, a whole page dedicated to the expansion over at the GW2 site if you are interested.  More than one actually, as there is a FAQ and such.

Expansions remain a mixed bag for me.

On the plus it brings in revenue for the game.   Expect a big spike on the GW2 chart when NCsoft releases Q3 2017 results.  It also gives players more content, gets players who have lapsed a reason to return, and can invigorate the whole game.

But expansions always bring about change.  Sometimes the change is minor and the spirit of the game remains true.  That caters to the core base but won’t attract anybody new.

But sometimes expansions change the core of the game.  I am reminded of Rift; I played the hell out of the base game, but then the first expansion changed design philosophy of the game and killed it for me.  And, of course, new gear, new mechanics, new skills, and what not also have a habit of changing the old content for the worse as well.

Then there is the ever growing gap between the new stuff, where the center of gravity of the community is playing, and where any new player will start.  I become more convinced as time goes along that level boosts are mixed blessing, a flimsy bandage applied to the gushing wound of linear, level based progression.

But I am also old and cynical and in a down cycle when it comes to fantasy MMORPGs right now.

Enough grumbling.  Today is a fresh new day in Telara and a lot of people will spend the weekend and beyond exploring the new things that Path of Fire brings.  I wish them well on their journeys.  Among other things ANet rolled out some stats to celebrate the launch.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Running some Warzone Extraction Event Sites

eve online warzone extraction wtf?

-search string that brought somebody here

Easily the most popular thing I have posted so far this week… or month… is the announcement about the Warzone Extraction event in EVE Online.  Google has sent many people my way, a pretty sure sign that the mechanics of the event aren’t clear to people.

EVE Valkyrie laughs at your confusion

So I figured it might be worthwhile to share what I learned running through some of the sites.

This event is in the structure of The Agency, and as such events go, you get tasks under The Agency icon to complete, each with a 20 hour cool down before you can do it again.  This time around there are just two tasks.

Warzone Extraction Tasks

One of the tasks is to complete a site, the other is to destroy 20 sleep ships, and they are worth 10 and 20 points respectively.

The sites themselves appear on your overview like the sites from previous events.  The sites seem a bit more sparse than some past events.  I had to go hunting for sites and rarely saw more than one in a system, with two in a single system being the max I noted.  The sites appeared on my standard travel overview without having to add anything.

Warzone Extraction sites

When you warp to the site you will land near a ship called the Quartermaster.  Sometimes, but not always, an alert will pop up with a message from him.

Message from the QM

There is also an acceleration gate there. When you activate the acceleration gate it sends you off to a pocket along with another message.

All the instructions you’ll get

When you land there will be some large collidable objects present.  If you have hidden them on your overview you (because they can be annoying and generally don’t mean much) you will have to change that or navigate by just eyeballing the wrecks in space.  There are five ship wrecks labeled Alpha to Echo and a station wreck.

Objects in the area

This where I got a bit confused because the very first site I tried also had a container visible.  I checked it and it was empty, so I moved on to find another site thinking it had been done.

Container confusion

However, I later discovered that if the site is still there it isn’t completely done.  But what do you do?

In the end I figured out what you have to do is approach each wreck.  When you get withing ~2,500 meters of a wreck it may give you a message.  The message might be about a container being discovered.  At that point the container will show up on your overview.  It might be at the wreck or it might be at the station wreck that is also on grid with you.  Once a container popped up in both locations.  I am not sure why.

In the container is the trinary relic that the quartermaster is looking for.  You can toddle over to it, loot the container, and you’ll be set for the Quartermaster’s Request task.

Off to collect the relic

The other message you may get is “Sleepers incoming!” at which point you’re going to have to fight.

I had read the post over at The Nosy Gamer about what to expect from the Sleepers that attack, the primary item being that they will use energy neutralizers on you to drain your capacitor in addition to warp scrambling and webbing you.  As I noted on a comment over there, for the unsuspecting capsuleer this might turn Warzone into Murderzone.

With this in mind I went out armed for bear with a passively tanked Drake I had sitting around.  It was the Clown Car entosis fit, but I swapped out the entosis module, cloak, and RLMLs for HMLs and a Auto Targeting system.  Later I changed out the HMLs for heavy assault missiles just to get more damage.  Fortunately meta HAM launchers are dirt cheap on the market.

The assault of the Sleepers is keyed to the security level of the system you are in.  In a 0.9 system I drew a pair of Sleeper frigates that went down to a single heavy missile volley.  They barely touched my capacitor.  Down in a 0.5 system I got frigates, destroyers, a cruiser, and a pair of battleships which combined to drain my capacitor in seconds.

Sleepers on the overview!

Of course, because this is a CCP event, the NPCs weren’t visible on the overview by default, which is why I brought the auto targeting system.  I had enough capacitor for it to activate for a few cycles and it targeted the Sleepers for me, at which point I could add them to my overview settings.

Of course, this being CCP, even the names were messed up on the first night when you tried to add them.

Wait, what?

That has since been fixed, though you still have to add each class of ship… frigate, destroyer, cruiser, battleship… to the overview separately.  The overview conspires to murder you.  That seems to be one of its functions.

Anyway, at that point, webbed, scrammed, and capacitor empty, you’re committed to the fight.  You will be mighty unhappy if you were depending on modules that required any power.  Rail guns and lasers won’t fire, repair modules are useless, and you won’t be scooting away with your prop module.

Resigned to your fate

My Drake was way over-tanked and never dropped below 88% shields, so I could just sit there and blast away at things.  I chose the Warden first, as it will rep other ships.  Then I hit the frigates, as they will aggressively go after your drones.  Once they were gone, it was out with the drones for the cruiser and then the battleships.

The short range of the HAMs was not a limitation most of the time as the Sleepers stay within web and scram range for the most part, which keeps them in your damage envelope.  There was one Sleeper battleship that pulled range on me and seemed to be able to neut me out to almost the 75km mark.  That put him way out of HAM range, which was 25km for my alt.  But that also meant he couldn’t web or scram me, so I decided to let him be rather than chase him down in a slow slog without a prop mod.  I was marginally faster than him, but it looked like it might take me as much as 15 minutes to close into shooting range.  Screw that.

The wrecks yielded boosters from the event… the damage and speed boosters were of value, but the tank boosters were for active tanks which, given the neuts present, wasn’t much good at that time… as well as Sleeper components to sell on the open market.

Interestingly, there were NPC buy orders up when I got around to selling those components.

The Emperor Family bought my stuff

I don’t know if this is a standard thing or if CCP foresaw the market getting saturated because of the event and decided to put a floor on the price.  I suspect the latter because I saw a lot of much lower buy orders out there.  That about off-set the drones I lost, the ammo, and the HML launchers I bought then traded out.

Anyway, that is getting ahead of myself.

Once you defeated the Sleepers and loot their wrecks, you’re ready to go.  If you’re feeling diligent and have not yet approached all the event wrecks you can do that until you have been to Alpha through Echo.  I have had Sleepers appear on two wrecks in a site.  But if you’re set, you just motor to the acceleration gate that is close by and activate it.  That will take you back to the Quartermaster.  Approach his ship and put the relic in it… it acts like a cargo container… and you’ll get credit for the site.  If that event task is active, you’ll get 10 points.  It if isn’t you seemed to get squat.  Such is life.

If you need to blow up more Sleepers then it is off to another site, but first you might want to repair, especially if you’re drones are damaged.  Fortunately there are publicly available citadels all over New Eden now, so you can just warp to one, tether, and wait a bit while it refills your capacitor and repairs your ship and drones.  Then you’re ready to go again.

I did both of the tasks which was enough to get to the first prize from the event, a support kit from The Agency.

Reward unlocked!

The reward was another event booster, of which I already had half a dozen.  So far I have just seen boosters and Sleeper drops.  There was a promise of SKINs somewhere, both fantastic and new, but maybe I just haven’t hit one yet.

Potential rewards: Fantastic new SKINs, useful Boosters, Skill Accelerators, valuable loot, and more

Warzone Extraction Event announcement

Anyway, in summary:

  • Warp to Warzone site
  • Take acceleration gate
  • Fly to wrecks
  • Collect relic and/or kill Sleepers
  • Take acceleration gate
  • Give relic to Quartermaster

Also:

  • Be passive fit – Anything that needs cap might not be available to you
  • System security influences Sleeper difficulty

And, to follow up, a few screen shots from various points during the event.

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fall Movie League – Clowns and Assassins

Week three was up for the fall Fantasy Movie League.

After a week where which day of It was all that mattered in your picks… and woe to those who went with Friday like I did or, worse, went with Home Again… we were back to a world with some interesting choices to make.  The line up looked like:

 It                 $799
 American Assassin  $167
 Mother!            $143
 Home Again         $75
 Hitman's Bodyguard $41
 Annabelle          $32
 Wind River         $27
 Leap!              $25
 Spider-Man         $18
 Dunkirk            $16
 Luck Logan         $14
 Emoji Movie        $10
 Despicable Me 3    $9
 Girls Trip         $7
 Best of the Rest   $7

It was clearly going to rule the box office roost again, but pricing meant that you could choose It and some cheap films, or you could gamble on whether or not a pile of screens running American Assassin or Mother! would outweigh the single screen of clown horror. (Also, screw movie names that are pronouns.)

My Monday evening gut pick was anchored on It largely because I knew it was going to pull in at least $50 million, and probably closer to $60 million, before anybody published estimates.

Estimates were slow and I don’t recall seeing anything firm until Thursday morning, at which point Mother! seemed out of the running, but American Assassin was predicted to be somewhere in the $12.5 million to $15 million range.  At the high end of that range the five screens you could get would be enough to make it a worthwhile bet against It.

So I swapped to five screens of American Assassin and then dropped in Mother!, Lucky Logan, and Best of the Rest to fill out the lineup.

My Fall Week Three Picks

I hindsight I should have gone with two Best of the Rest just based on what I said last week.  Best of the Rest tends to be the best price/performer when it shows up, something which occurred again this week.  That would have given me $2.7 million rather than $996K for Lucky Logan.  Ah well.  I will try to remember that for next time.

When the picks were in and locked on Friday morning there was a spread of choices among the Meta League.  Most people were in for five screens of American Assassin, though some were in for four or three screens, and four people were anchored on a screen of It.

In the end, the perfect pick wasn’t in any of our theaters.  Yes, five screens of American Assassin was the right anchor, but then you needed to screens of the suddenly not-so-bad Home Again and a screen of Best of the Rest, which turned out to be Dark Tower, so two Stephen King movies, one at each end of the top 15.

Fall Week Three Perfect Pick

That netted out to about $92.5 million with the perfect pick bonus.  74 people managed to get that pick.  But it didn’t go too bad for the rest of us.  Those heavy on American Assassin were at the top, where variations in the other three screens accounted for the minor gaps, but if you anchored on It you weren’t too far behind.  Hedging on American Assassin cost though.  The results for the week were:

  1. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $87,434,193
  2. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $85,746,474
  3. Wilhelm’s Films from New Eden – $85,672,954
  4. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $83,921,075
  5. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $83,632,973
  6. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $83,485,864
  7. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $83,285,598
  8. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $80,239,128
  9. I HAS MOVIES (T) – $79,745,592
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $79,701,949
  11. Ocho’s Octoplex (L) – $77,328,839
  12. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $77,030,257
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $73,395,633
  14. Bel’s House of Horrors (L) – $1,227,888 (didn’t pick, 4 empty screens)

A $14 million spread from top to bottom, not counting Bel, isn’t that wide, and the top half is within about a $4 million bracket.

That meant that nobody fell too far behind, but that nobody caught up or gained much of a lead either.  So the rankings for the season didn’t see any drastic changed over the previous week.

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $271,686,516
  2. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $266,479,296
  3. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $264,464,743
  4. Wilhelm’s Films from New Eden – $258,563,957
  5. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $255,766,938
  6. Ocho’s Octoplex (L) – $252,612,323
  7. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $250,763,302
  8. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $249,025,449
  9. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $245,971,521
  10. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $197,384,020
  11. I HAS MOVIES (T) – $192,391,460
  12. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $171,866,588
  13. Bel’s House of Horrors (L) – $157,884,588
  14. Kraut Screens (T) – $150,063,804

A bit of shuffling there, but nothing drastic.  Those who started on week two… or who forgot to pick… or who has a really bad week last week… are clustered towards the bottom.

And now we face week four of the season with a few new titles on the list.

Kingsman: Golden Circle $511
LEGO Ninjago Movie      $389
It                      $352
American Assassin       $68
Friend Request          $66
Mother!                 $34
Home Again              $32
Brad's Status           $22
Hitman's Bodyguard      $19
Wind River              $15
Leap!                   $13
Annabelle Creation      $12
Spider-Man              $11
Battle of the Sexes     $8
Dunkirk                 $7

For new options Kingsman tops the list with the LEGO Ninjago Movie not far behind.  Then there is Friend Request and Brad’s Status tucked in mid-pack with Battle of the Sexes down near the bottom.  That is five new movies in the mix.

I have no feel for Kingsman.  The few people I know who saw the original didn’t like it.  But it did really well and there is some Hollywood rule about sequels being good for 80% of the original even if they don’t bring much new to the table.  So maybe 80% of the original’s $36 million as a starting point estimate?  Then again it is being heavily advertised and it being released in a different season… but it is also rated R… so who knows?

While I am not a fan of the LEGO Ninjago IP, I did love The LEGO Movie and the LEGO Batman Movie, and this is a kids film during a week when the other contenders for the under age demographic are pretty stale.  So unless I see a big red flag between now and Friday morning, I will likely be in on the LEGO Ninjago Movie as my anchor.  Better two of those than one Kingsman I think.

And then there is It, which did $60 million last week, so even if it drops by 50%, a likely amount, it will still be in around the $30 million mark, making a very viable third choice for an anchor.

Then we get into the filler options to back up the anchor, and there are a lot of options.  I feel like Battle of the Sexes is way under priced… it has Emma Stone and Steve Carell in it for Pete’s sake…  though I haven’t seen how many screens it will be on.  It might be an art house film that only appeals to me because I am old enough to remember the events on which it was based… and the episode of The Odd Couple came from it. [Addendum: Since I wrote this I saw on Box Office Mojo that it is only slated for 20 screens. So, yeah.]

Anyway, that is where we stand on the gateway to week four.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MegaWars Dawn of the Third Age

In order to talk about MegaWars – Dawn of the Third Age I feel I need to delve into the well of ancient games from which I drew the title of this blog.  It is been a while since I’ve gone here, so a refresher might be due.

Back in the early-to-mid 1980s personal computers were becoming common, modems were increasingly becoming an option for the, and online services like CompuServe and GEnie began to flourish.  This was the pre-web era, when even having a GUI beyond a command prompt was considered.  (There is a whole “pre-web online services” category on Wikipedia.)

And while special interest forums, online encyclopedias, and services were often bullet points used to get people to sign up, it wasn’t long before online games came into being.  Kesmai was an early leader in online games and its Island of Kesmai on CompuServe was very much a precursor to today’s fantasy MMORPGs.

Also on CompuServe was a game called MegaWars III.  If Island of Kesmai foretold the fantasy side of the MMORPG genre, then MegaWars III was very much a hint as to what the future might bring when it came to internet spaceships in EVE Online.  Launched on CompuServe in January 1984, it gained a following even at the expensive hourly connect rates that online services charged back in the day.  $15 a month seems like a bargain compared to $6 an hour.

MegaWars III did not feature a long term persistent universe.  Instead games were four week long affairs that saw everybody logging on to scout on the first night to find and colonize planets.  There was a fixed amount of numbered star systems, but the planets around them, and the quality thereof, changed with each game.

Players would colonize and manage their planets, build up defenses, try to take planets from each other, and attempt to blow up each other’s ships.  At the end of the four weeks scores were tallied up and winners declared.  The leader of the highest scoring team was declared Emperor while the highest individual score was named President of the Imperial Senate.  The top 20 scoring players were made senators.

When GEnie arrived on the scene, they wanted online games too and got Kesmai to make a simplified version of MegaWars III which was called Stellar Warrior.  A fun game in its own right, and following the four week campaign model, it did not have the depth of MegaWars III with its planetary management module.  GEnie eventually got a straight up copy of MegaWars III a bit later in the form of Stellar Emperor.

And that is where I came in.  During the fourth four week Stellar Emperor campaign during the summer of 1986 I logged into GEnie via the modem I bought from Potshot for my Apple //e and started fumbling around with online games.

It was then that I first used the handle Wilhelm Arcturus.  I had been recruited by a team called the Arcturan Empire (-AE-) and learned the ways of the game sufficiently to become both Emperor of the Galaxy and President of the Imperial Senate.  You actually got physical trophies for that back then.

Pewter Cups Awarded for Emperor and President titles

The names are probably easier to read on the paper certificates that were also mailed out to winners, including those senators in the top 20.

Wilhelm d’Arcturus Emperor of the Galaxy

Wilhelm d’Arcturus – President on the Imperial Senate

Later I dropped the “d” from the last name to become simply Wilhelm Arcturus.  My tales from those days can be found here:

And so it went.  For most of the balance of the 1980s MegaWars III and Stellar Emperor ran along as identical twins.  As the 90s approached GEnie and Kesmai began to work on improving Stellar Emperor, giving it a GUI eventually, while MegaWars III remained as it was.  If you played them both after 1989 or so you’ll probably say they were different, but before then they were essentially identical.

Into the 90s the internet and the web became a thing and online services started to fade away.  CompuServe was bought by AOL in 1997 and faded away into the background while GEnie shut down in 1999.  Kesmai ran its own online service, GameStorm, through the 90s until the company was sold to EA.  EA did what it always does with studios it buys; shut it down, never to be seen again.  And so all of the Kesmai titles, including MegaWars III, disappeared.

Like all closed online games, somebody out there decided to go ahead and recreate the originals.  I have written previously about Crimson Leaf Games and their resurrection of the original MegaWars III as well as Cosmic Ray Games and their recreation of a 90s version of Stellar Emperor.

But some time has passed since then; seven years in the case of the former and four years for the latter.

Crimson Leaf Games has been hard at work and has produced a new version of MegaWars III, MegaWars: Dawn of the Third Age.  The site for the game is here, and includes a history of MegaWars III worth reading.

The new version has a client and graphics and all sorts of things we associate with more modern online games.

The MegaWars III universe has also expanded from a couple hundred stars to over five million systems to explore.  Space has also changed in a way that might sound a bit familiar to EVE Online players.  Rather than the game being open season for PvP, there are three regions of space.  They are:

  • Empire – no combat and planets cannot be taken
  • Frontier – full combat and planet industries can be bombed but not taken
  • Open – full combat and planets can be taken

The penalty for Empire and Frontier is that you pay taxes that sap your planetary economy, and a hit in score, relative to the wild west of open space.  But in exchange for that you get complete safety in Empire space and some amount of safety in Frontier space.

The game is currently in open Alpha… which seems to be what we would call Early Access if it were on Steam… so you can try it out if you are interested.

So we now have a new take on a game that has its origins in the nearly 40 year old DECWAR, which was, in turn, an attempt to make a multiplayer version of the Star Trek terminal game from the early 70s.

And the beat goes on.

The Agency Warzone Extraction Event in EVE Online

CCP has a new PvE event up in EVE Online starting today.  Part of the framework of The Agency, this one is called Warzone Extraction and is meant, in part, to draw attention to the EVE Valkyrie Warzone expansion coming later this month.

EVE Valkyrie Represent

As is the standard procedure with such things, event sites will appear on your overview.  This time around all you have to do is warp to them and loot some wrecks.  Of course, there is a warning that hostiles might show up, which pretty much means that NPCs will be arriving to shoot you.

There is already a post up over at The Nosy Gamer about the sort of NPCs you’ll face and some cruiser fits that Alpha Clones can fly if they want to attempt the sites.  It is probably worth reading that post before you dive in.

The event itself runs longer than the standard event in The Agency framework so far, kicking off today and running through until October 3rd, giving people two full weeks to run the sites.  Possible loot includes boosters, skill accelerators, and SKINs.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Missions and Content on Demand

Friday night at about 10pm I was sitting in front of my computer and really feeling the desire to resubscribe to World of Warcraft.  My wife and daughter had gone to bed early, it was quiet in the house, the air was cool in something of the usual mid-September tease of the coming of autumn, and I was really in the mood for the sort of easily guided, always something to do, nature of Azeroth.  I might have even had enough gold for a WoW Token, though they have gone up quite a bit of late.  If I did that I could just jump back into the game.

Ah 2015! WoW Tokens prices are now about 170K Gold

That is the way it is with WoW.  You can log in and just do something.  And, more importantly, you can log in a do something yourself.  Being able to solo is one of the key attributes of the game… perhaps THE key attribute sustaining its ongoing success.  For all the talk of the Blizzard name, the Warcraft setting, the low system requirements, the stylized graphics, I think being able to just log on and potter away on your own might be the biggest thing in retaining its player base.

A lot of us old timers pine for the glory days of early EverQuest, becoming practically fetishistic about the forced grouping and harsh nature of the game.  But even at its nadir in the dark days of garrison boredom during the Warlords of Draenor era, WoW was still pulling in an order of magnitude more subscribers than EverQuest did at its absolute peak.  And with good reason.  Mixed in with all those “good old days” memories of Norrath are the recollections of evenings wasted trying to get something going, not being able to find a group, waiting for a spawn camp to be available, or just traveling across the world to group up with friends only to take so damn long that everybody was done for the night by the time you arrived.

You can even do the traditional group things solo thanks to Dungeon/Raid Finder.  Well, solo-ish.  You get grouped up, thrown into an instance, and everybody still has to do their job.  So there is always something to do, and usually something you can do right away with a limited amount of time.

So when sitting, stuck for a game to play, it isn’t hard to see why WoW springs to mind unbidden.

And, as I sat there pondering Azeroth I did not even consider New Eden.

The problem is that many of the things that make EVE Online challenging, interesting, dynamic, and what not also conspire against it being, for lack of a better word, convenient.  World of Warcraft is, most of the time, very convenient.  I recall getting to Desolace back in the day being a long run, but even that sort of thing has been smoothed out.

I have said in the past, only half-jokingly, that before you do anything in EVE Online you usually have to do two or three other things first.  At least I am past the point where I need to train a skill to do something new on my main.  That only took a decade.  But even trained up I was a bit stuck.  On Friday night my jump clone was still on cool down and I was in a clone with implants in a station so I couldn’t jump, couldn’t swap to a clean clone, and couldn’t self-destruct without wasting some implants.

But that really didn’t matter.  While I was in an out-of-the way location, there were no fleets going up and I was just in the mood to “do” something and not travel somewhere on the off chance that maybe I might find something to do.  Something besides running anomalies, which I tend to when I don’t really want to “do” anything.

I do get an occasinal screen shot out of anoms…

Which brings us back to missions.  I could have logged in the Alpha clone alt I used for the last few events in The Agency cycle and run a few missions.  Missions are one of those things you can do on demand, at least once you have yourself setup, which leads us back to the whole thing about new players going down the mission path until they are able to run level four missions, at which point they leave the game.

To recap, missions are the closest thing EVE Online has to the theme park, WoW-esque, PvE experience in that they:

There isn’t much else in the game that hits those three buttons.  Even mining, the beloved pastime of those doing something in another window, isn’t as reliable as you might assume.  Belts get mined out, anomalies take time to respawn, and on a rare day somebody might even try to interfere with you just to see if you’re awake.

Covering those three things seem to me to be something of a baseline to cater to a casual player base.  And EVE Online fails on the first one eventually because the progression is only temporary.  Once you, as they say, “level up your Raven” and can run level 4 missions safely, there is no more progress to be made.  There is no story tying the missions together, there are no other stories to follow.  The cold darkness of the space sandbox, where content is random and fleeting is what remains.  The occasional highs are offset by long periods of quiet routine.

Which is why EVE Online is never my only game.  In the end, I am far far further down the casual spectrum than you might suspect.  There are things to do and sometimes I feel inclined to log on and do them.  But more often my tales from New Eden start with a mention that a ping went out over Jabber for a fleet op.  That is something that works for the space tourist in me.  Somebody else has found something interesting and I log in to go along for the ride.  I’ll do my part as something of a combat reservist that shows up when called to support the people who find the content.

But as a game that provides content on demand… and those other two things… EVE isn’t very good.  As has been said many times over, you need to find your own path in the game, you have to discover what is out there that will keep you engaged.  EVE Online pretty much dares you to like it.

It is never going to be a home for casual theme park MMO players.

Anyway, that is the last of my three part exploration of PvE in EVE Online.

I’m still thinking about resubscribing to WoW, though on Friday night I managed to distract myself by picking one of the many unplayed games out of my Steam library to try.  I spent a couple of hours with Sniper Elite V2, which I think was a freebie on Steam at some point in the past as part of a promotion.

And Potshot has mentioned Medieval Engineers as a possibility.  But it seems likely that there will be more Azeroth in my future.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Flip That Keepstar and Changes in Impass

Word came down as we sat on the former Circle of Two Keepstar in 68FT-6 that it would be changing owners again.  A deal had been negotiated wherein TEST would be buying the citadel from us.  Soon Middle Management Dino was floating between the uprights of the Keepstar.

The TEST logo flying proudly

It had been reported previously that The Judge had received 300 billion ISK to transfer the Keepstar to GSF, and the rumor going about was that TEST bought it yesterday for 400 billion ISK.  Despite the markup that is still a pretty good price for a fully fitted, lightly used (never been besieged!) Keepstar.  Look the price at which zKillboard valued a recent Keepstar kill.

The name remains the same for now.

Keepstar still bubbled

Meanwhile, some diligent camper brought in some more small bubbles and rebuilt the “LOL” in space above the citadel.

Bubble arrangement

Somebody on coms said that the shaft of the dong also had to be recreated as it had also been built out of tech I warp disruption bubbles, which only last for 48 hours.  (Bubble decay came in with the YC119.3 update.  Before then they lasted until somebody shot them.)

Selling the Keepstar at least answers my question about what we were planning to do with it.  We weren’t going to keep it here in Impass, which will soon be hostile to us again, and packing it up to ship it back to Delve invites a gank attempt.  Now what to do with it is TEST’s problem.

And speaking of problems, the camp itself is becoming a bit of one.  As time goes on more and more of the CO2 groups are leaving that alliance and joining one of the others that we are temp blue with.  So in addition to the people moving into Impass, some of which are temp blue and some of which are not, we have corps in transition, having left CO2 but in the cool down before they can join TEST or Brave or whoever.  So there were many moments where there seemed to be a target… like when a Capital Fusion Naglfar undocked… only to find they were tethered because they were pledged to TEST but not yet in the alliance.

The dismantling of CO2 continues, with many pilots and most systems gone now.

Circle of Two Changes – Sep. 15, 2017

CO2 membership is still in motion, but the sovereignty has been divided up by members of the Legacy Coalition, which Impass being shared by Brave, Drone Walkers, and Requiem Eternal.

Impass Sov – Sep. 15, 2017

TEST also has a system in the region, though it is not 68FT-6, which makes me wonder what they are going to do with the Keepstar once things settle down.

Meanwhile, the camp of the Keepstar seems set to wind down.  Fewer and fewer attempts to escape are being made and we’re occasionally having to pay people who we shouldn’t shoot.  The number of CO2 pilots hanging out in the Keepstar is dwindling.  Then there is the fire sale market, which has been pretty much picked over.  The good deals are gone.  There are a few things I might buy if we lived here.  But having to haul stuff back to Delve or to Jita is a non-starter.

I suspect that we will pack up and head home before the weekend is out.  Then the temporary cease fire will run out and Impass will go back to being hostile territory and somebody else’s problem.

Meanwhile Triumvirate, CO2’s ally in the war, looks to be in an uncomfortable situation.  Still, they managed to blow up an FCON Fortizar and a Nyx while people were focused on Impass and 68FT-6.

The camp out in 68FT-6, tiny in the scope of the universe

And the story of null sec grinds slowly on.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

At the Camp in 68FT-6

Being the space tourist that I am, I had to get out to 68FT-6 to see the pilfered Keepstar, the hell camp, and the various warp disruption bubbles laid about the station.

The bubbles above the Keepstar

Pings were calling for more interdictors and I had a Flycatcher stashed not too far away, so I tried to get out to the scene, but fell victim to a gate camp.  It was a gate camp I should have expected, could have avoided, and likely could have escaped, but I managed to be dumb on all front at that point and got blown up instead.  Typical me.

That put me back in Delve where I grabbed a Sabre I had handy and started the flight out to 68FT-6 all over again.  The route from Delve to Impass was actually pretty safe thanks to the fact that we are temporarily blue with both TEST and Brave Newbies, so in my speedy ship it wasn’t too long before I was arriving at my destination.

First glimpse of the Keepstar name

I docked up, then undocked to join one of the fleets camping the Keepstar, waiting for any daring CO2 pilot to try and get away.

Hanging out in the bubbles near the undock

I hung out in the fleet, listened to coms, and generally only paid half attention at most to what was going on.  There wasn’t much.  Capsules and interceptors that undocked to try and slip out were quickly picked off by sensor boosted insta-lockers in the fleet.  There was little chance to get in on those kills unless you had drones assigned to one of those pilots.

I did luck out and get on one kill when an Apostle undocked to get blown up for insurance.

Apostle getting hit

I almost missed out on that.  I saw the Apostle appear on my overview and it took me a moment to process the fact that somebody had undocked and wasn’t almost instantly dead.  By the time I locked the ship up the damage was well into armor.  But I was close enough to get in a few hits with my tiny whore gun and was included on the kill mail.  Somebody gunning the Keepstar did most of the damage.

After that it was more hanging out and listening to coms.  DBRB showed up for a bit and stirred people up.  After he left some new guy said he had heard about DBRB but now understood why people hated him.  I could only think, “You know nothing Jon Snow!”  That little visit was barely Boat at all.  I am very much on the pro-Boat side of things because nobody throws themselves into this game like he does and he has been leading fleets and getting kills for longer than any active FC I know.  But he is an acquired taste and a little Boat can go a long way.

Sitting around on the Keepstar

We also have the station in the system well covered.

Station bubbles? Check!

Being a tourist attraction, other fleets and individuals would show up from time to time just to look in on the event.  What looked to be a Spectre fleet showed up in Confessors and hung about for a bit, killing somebody being dumb in a Legion before heading off for greener pastures.

Confessors lurking well out of range

Not far off from the Keepstar, on the same grid, Legion of xXDEATHXx was dropping a Raitaru.

Raitaru online in seconds

I am not sure what Legion of xXDEATHXx has planned in the area, but TEST was about guarding the deployment, so they are clearly welcome in the area.

Legion of xXDEATHXx logo on the Raitaru

And then there were the CO2 members hanging out in the Keepstar looking for a way out.

I am not going to go Gevlon and claim there were no victims here, but the people in CO2 do have some options.  There is asset safety with citadels, so after some duration they can pay 15% of the assessed value of their stuff to have it delivered to a station in low sec.  That can add up quickly and  you’re still stuck in low sec and have to move your stuff around, but you can at least get your stuff… unless you have a super capital.  You can only dock a super in a citadel, not an NPC station, so some very expensive ships might be lost.

But even that can be worked around.  A number of alliances are taking in CO2 individuals and corporations.  TEST is very open and even the Imperium has picked up some members from CO2.  Back at the end of the Casino War I saw people leave the Imperium, join Pandemic Horde, rescue their stuff, then come back to the Imperium.  Some times you have to do what you have to do to get your stuff safe.

I wouldn’t want to trade places with them, but all is not lost.

While out on the camp the word came over coms that The Judge had joined Goonswarm.

The Judge

Like Haargoth Agamar before him (the guy who disbanded Band of Brothers) The Judge was take in by Goonswarm, but faces a future of relative obscurity.  As others have noted, and even Haargoth himself said before he pulled the trigger, after you do something like this it isn’t like you’re going to get a lot of positions of responsibility.  You’ve shown your colors and that is that.  He certainly won’t run for the CSM again.  He would be a distraction and would be more likely to get people to vote just to elect somebody else.  Some people have been asking if there is a way to recall him from the current CSM.

And then there is GigX.

He got himself perma banned for continuous, very public, often very specific threats to harm The Judge in real life either at his home or when he shows up in Iceland for the next CSM summit.  That goes well beyond “heat of the moment” to my mind.  He burned himself and good, though he might yet get himself reinstated with an appropriate apology and whatever amends might fit.  We shall see.

I’m somewhat pissed that he felt he had to loudly and publicly threaten The Judge and get himself banned.  It was both dumb and avoidable and it also hurt the game.

First, the end of the story was cut short.  And in null sec stories are what makes the place great.  You can blow people up anywhere, but you can only play space empires in null.  CO2 is done for now by default because GigX is gone.  We won’t know how things might have played out had he stayed in the game or what sort of recovery of might have occurred.  I wouldn’t bet against the determination of GigX, and despite some of the things he has done to his alliance, he has his share of supporters.

Second, and probably more importantly, his behavior changed the narrative in the news.  Rather than this being a story or intrigue and betrayal, it is becoming a tale about how a bad person in a bad game made real life threats and got banned.  Gamers remain horrible people as he managed to shit on all of us.  Thanks.

Welcome to the new cycle.

So I remain out on the camp, collecting participation links… I need some as I haven’t been on a fleet yet this month… and watch a lot of brand new TEST pilots undock and fly away.  I wonder what we’re going to do with the Keepstar once the temp blue situation is over?

Even Fat Bee is in a bubble

There is still work to be done, CO2 space to be carved up and conquered, new homes to be found, and a new balance of power to be sorted out.  But that will come and eventually things will settle down and events of the day will fade into memory just like the mocking bubbles spelling out LOL above the Keepstar.

Bubbles, like events, fade eventually

And yes, somebody made a giant penis out of warp disruption bubbles below the Keepstar.

Make no mistake, it is a dong

I think people… well, men… have been scrawling penises on things throughout history, so why not in this pretend dystopian future?