Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fall Movie League – Week of Wonder

The penultimate week for our Fantasy Movie League fall season has passed.

Also, “penultimate” is one of those words I use whenever I have the opportunity.

With one final set of picks for week 13 yet to go, now would be a good time to think about joining our league for the winter season.  Clicking on this link will send you on your way.  I was wondering whether or not to keep going with this, but we have Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming up, which should be a wonderfully budget distorting venture.  Pricing for a weekend when the top movie is expected to bring in $250 million should be interesting.

But that is all in the future.  First we need to review what happened on week twelve, the week of Justice League’s launch, which saw the pricing as follows:

 Justice League - FRI         $636
 Justice League - SAT         $434
 Justice League - SUN         $334
 Thor: Ragnarok               $269
 Daddy's Home 2               $175
 Murder on the Orient Express $152
 Wonder                       $140
 The Star                     $120
 Bad Moms Christmas           $77
 Lady Bird                    $30
 Jigsaw                       $16
 Boo! 2                       $9
 Geostorm                     $8
 Blade Runner 2049            $8
 Three Billboards             $8

Monday evening, when the new week is unlocked, I immediately do a quick, gut level pick without doing any research whatsoever on the theory that it will get one of my bad ideas of of my head quickly.

This time around I anchored on two screens of Justice League Sunday and filled in from there.  Then I started poking around and decided that Justice League was not going to be the pick for the week.  Pricing was based on it doing something close to $150 million but by Tuesday there were already murmurs about that being optimistic.

Based on the pricing and initial predictions, The Star looked to be a good bet for the best price-performer for the week, but I wasn’t buying that either.  Stuck for choice I redid my picks anchored on three screens of Thor: Ragnarok and then played with options for the back fill as the week went on.

By late on Thursday projections for The Star had begun to wane, Justice League was under $125 million, and I was sitting there with Thor and Blade Runner 2049 wondering if I should stick with that.  Box Office Pro, one of the sites I watch… in part because they do weekly projections and in part because they don’t post a hundred things a day like the Variety movie section can… popped up with their forecast, which had Wonder at $17 million, up from a modest $12 million earlier in the week.

I put that in my spreadsheet and it looked to be the clear pick for best price performer.  I took that as a sign and went in with seven screens of Wonder, leaving a screen of Blade Runner 2049 there, more a pick from the heart than from logic.  After that I was busy and didn’t have time to follow up until after the picks were locked on Friday morning.

My Fall Week Twelve Picks

Looking at the MCats league, I was clearly not the only one who saw the swell Wonder was getting.  Of seven active players, six of us went heavy on Wonder.  Over on the TAGN league however, only Pak and I were in on Wonder, with Justice League taking the anchor spots for four players and Thor for another.

And then Saturday rolled in and, for once it was not the Saturday of false hope, as Wonder was projected to hit $27 million.  At that level nothing else was poised to touch it and the only real question was what film was required in that eighth screen for the perfect pick of the week.

Well, it wasn’t going to be Blade Runner 2049, which was running at about half of the best estimate I could find for it.  Three Billboards was the right filler instead, giving a perfect pick worth just shy of $213 million.  906 people got that, including four of the MCats league.

Fall Week Twelve Perfect Pick

Still, even without the perfect pick, anchoring on Wonder was going to lift me up against SynCaine.  Last week his Daddy’s Home 2 lineup killed, a situation helped by my bad-in-hindsight Geostorm heavy lineup.  That put him $23 million ahead of me.  Then we got the results for week twelve.

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $212,937,228
  2. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $212,937,228
  3. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $212,937,228
  4. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $212,937,228
  5. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $207,916,834
  6. Wilhelm’s Films from New Eden – $207,461,101
  7. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $192,196,924
  8. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $90,471,789
  9. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $80,640,147
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $77,851,048
  11. I HAS MOVIES (T) – $75,091,163
  12. Kraut Screens (T) – $66,355,138
  13. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $72,529,183
  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

There was a four-way tie for first this week, which meant not a lot of movement.  The only one assailing Corr was Aure and they maintained their gap.

Otherwise, people who bet heavy on Wonder had a six figure week and those that did not were stuck in the five figure zone, leaving Meta League season totals looking like this:

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $1,123,167,684
  2. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $1,102,712,428
  3. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $1,071,866,235
  4. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $1,066,965,208*
  5. Wilhelm’s Films from New Eden – $1,042,078,034
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $1,011,641,542
  7. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $1,013,838,980
  8. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $934,914,714
  9. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $885,263,260
  10. Kraut Screens (T) – $794,711,809
  11. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $782,619,999
  12. I HAS MOVIES (T) – $773,187,860
  13. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $628,140,520

So Corr seems pretty secure in first place, and Aure in second.  The third place battle is now between Elly and Ben, while I seem to be in the gap between fourth and sixth.  And SynCaine, who was in the race for third spot last week fell back to eighth place due to Wonder paying off so big.

That leaves us with once week left in the fall season, with the following choices:

Coco                           $716 
Justice League                 $534
Wonder                         $298
Thor: Ragnarok                 $206
Daddy's Home 2                 $143
Murder on the Orient Express   $128
Roman J. Israel, Esq.          $102
The Star                       $96
Bad Moms Christmas             $70
The Man Who Invented Christmas $68
Three Billboards               $51
Lady Bird                      $49
Jigsaw                         $7
Loving Vincent                 $6
Blade Runner 2049              $6

Leading the pack is Coco, from Disney/Pixar.  It already had a huge opening in Mexico, we shall see if Pixar magic continues north of the boarder.  Justice League is here for its second week and ought to be worth north of $40 million.  Thor is still in play as well. Then there is the week 12 ringer, Wonder, now priced more appropriately.  Also new to the list this week are Roman J. Israel, Esq., The Man Who Invented Christmas, and Loving Vincent.  And I still have one more week to put Blade Runner 2049 in my picks.

As I write this on Monday night, I couldn’t tell you which way to jump, but my current anchor is Coco.

Finally, as noted above, I will be carrying on for the Winter season.  Click here to join.  We shall see what Star Wars does to the league.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Resumed Pet Battle Campaign

On coming back to World of Warcraft I was a bit bemused to find that one of my key pet battle addons, Pet Battle Teams, appeared to have broken again.  I had run into problems with it before, when Blizz changed the name of the pets window in the game, so I checked on that.  But that did not appear to be the problem.  So I setup my base catching team, the Terrible Turnip, Grunty, and Deathy, and continued to catch pets in the Broken Isles while I tried to get the addon straightened out.

Grunty in Action, Turnip Face Down

Grunty and Deathy are BlizzCon rewards and are two of my favorite pets.  They are unique and a bit OP and work very well for a lot of my general needs.  Grunty was the first battle pet of mine that hit level 25.

I tinkered with Pet Battle Teams some more, tried uninstalling and re-installing the addon, and eventually removed all data and started from scratch.

That last bit appeared to do the trick.  Somewhere along the line my team data went out of date and when I came back to the latest version of the addon.  That was a shame, as I had already set up teams to handle many of the trainers and challenges in the game.  The problem I have with managing my pets is that with over 600 of them in my collection, including duplicates, finding the right pet for the right battle can be a challenge on its own.  I like to have some set up for specific battles and other set up for opposing different pet types, like aquatic or flying.  That at least puts a few of what I am often looking for quickly to hand.

My Pet Window with the Teams Addon

Of course, I should be working on flying in WoW Legion.  But if I spend all my time doing that it will start to feel like a grind, so I do a bit of that every day, the look into other things.

And with pet battles I actually have a lot of options.  I have a bunch of nice pets I want to level up.  I have the collections for various areas to finish.  And then there is Pandaria.

Pet battles came in with the Mists of Pandaria expansion, but that was the expansion I did not play at launch.  Because of that, when I did finally join in on the expansion… and it turned out to be one of my favorites… I was way behind the curve when it came to pets.  I had a bunch of pets, but they were all level 1.  So I wasn’t going to be challenging the master trainers in Pandaria.

So, for me, pet battles really started in earnest with Warlords of Draenor.  I had to work to build up a team to unlock the menagerie in my garrison.  While I have a number of negative comments about garrisons in Draenor, the menagerie was not something I would knock.

The menagerie became the cornerstone of my pet battle experience.  Between that and Trainer Ashlei I was able to level up and improve my collection dramatically.  As I wrote back in early 2015, my pet battle enthusiasm had been unleashed.

Now, running around the Broken Isles doing world quests, I was finding that pet battles were on the list of options.  In building up teams for that I started to realize that I had a something of a collection going.  Checking my stats over at Warcraft Pets, I saw I had well over 100 max level pets.  So I decided I might be ready to go back to Pandaria to face some of the trainer challenges there.

I may have binged on it a bit.  After a rough start I managed to get in the two beginning challenges for trainers there, racking up a number of achievements along the way.

Pandaria Pet Battle Achievements

Getting those required some research.  WoW Head has posts with basic information about each fight, which is a start.  It is the comments where the real meat comes in about the sorts of teams that might be successful.  However, it isn’t just copy the team and go at it… mostly because I almost never have the battle pets suggested.

Literally I think all of my pet battle problems would be solved if only I had the Anubisath Idol pet, as it seems to feature heavily in successful teams.  However, I don’t have him or a number of other favorites.  So I looked at what had been successful to see if I can use those ideas with pets I actually have.

A team that didn’t quite work…

I got a few on the first try, but most took a couple of runs to come to victory.  Eventually I ended up at my last fight.

This time I have you

Success there led me back to the quest giver.  That both yielded a reward, a new pet, of course.

I went for the Earthen spirit

That also opened up daily versions of the quests in order to get the pets I didn’t choose.  So I have more battles ahead of me.

In addition, I still have a lot more pets to catch.  In some places just one pet awaits me, like the one I am missing in Northrend.

It only spawns when it is snowing in the zone…

In other areas I have to get there at the right time.  And then there are the raiding with leashes pets.  I have a couple of those, but there is a list still waiting for me, including the aforementioned Anubisath Idol.  So much left to do… enough to keep me busy for a while I imagine.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What Other Pains will WoW Classic Bring?

Over at Massively OP Syp published a Perfect Ten column about the perils of getting what you ask for in the form of WoW Classic.

WoW Client from Days Gone By

The list he came up with is almost charming in its scope, featuring things some people have been literally clamoring for in a vanilla server, like no Dungeon Finder and old school talent trees and new skills that don’t magically appear in you skill book.  And believe me, inventory space is still at a premium in WoW Legion today.  We have three damn hearthstones to start with.

So I started trying to come up with other aspects of vanilla WoW that people might have forgotten or actively suppressed from their memory.  So, to steal Syp’s idea and add to the list, here are a few that stick out for me:

Just Being Poor

Gold was scarce and you would collect every bit of gray trash to vendor just for the few silver coins it might bring.  One of my earliest memories of World of Warcraft is going to my class trainer and realizing that I did not have enough coins to train all of my skills.  This got a little better as time went on but, like so many things, it seemed to be especially burdensome for new players.

Expensive Epic Mounts

Even when you think you’re no longer poor you end up running into this.  I don’t even remember the price of the level 60 fast mount, but you had to buy the skill, which was expensive, and then you had to buy a mount, which wasn’t cheap either.  And then there were the paladin and warlock mounts, both of which had long quests, needed the skill, and cost even more to finally acquire.  Our little group did both of those.

The instance group all mounted up

Mounts in Inventory

And if you are worried about inventory slots, then you might have blotted the fact that your mount took up a spot in your bag.  You kept your favorite mount with you and, if you had others, you left them stashed in your bank… which was probably also full.

You Are Mounted

It seemed like any mob that tagged you would dismount you.  But if you went to a flight point and tried to get on the bird while still mounted, you would just get an error message flash on your screen informing you that you were still mounted.  At one point Blizz tried to go through and automatically make you dismount when a task required it, but there are still a few corner cases in the game where you can get that message.  But back in the day you had to manually dismount for damn near everything.

Point to Point Flight Paths

While we’re on the topic of travel, flight points were different back then.  While being able to fly past flight points you hadn’t visited is a more recent change, back in the day you couldn’t even automatically fly through multiple flight points.  Sitting up in Darnassus and want to fly to Tanaris?  It didn’t matter if you have the whole route on your map, you could only fly to a flight point directly connected to your current location, at which point your trip would stop until you talked to that flight master and picked the next connecting flight point.  Non-stop flights eventually came, but for a long stretch you had to get off the bird to catch your connecting flight.

Still, it probably wasn’t as bad as taking the tram from Stormwind to Ironforge, getting distracted, and then finding yourself heading back to where you started again.

Hunters with Ammo and Quivers

I still have a few old hunters I rolled up back in the day on various servers that still have quivers or ammo pouches with ammo in them.  Hunters were really this strangely different class back in the day, which I think explains some of the love/hate relationship people have with the class even today.

So yes, you had to have ammo for your ranged weapon.  And you had access to better ammo as you leveled up, and getting that was pretty much critical to remaining effective.  And then there was player made ammo, which was a bit better… and also came in various levels.

And all this ammo had to go into your inventory, taking up precious space.  And if you wanted to draw ammo from inventory you had to keep it in a quiver or an ammo pouch, something that took up a whole bag slot.  Basically, hunters had four bags of general inventory while every other class had five.  Whoever thought that was a good idea had never done The Green Hills of Stranglethorn.

Hunter Pet Skills

This was one of those neat ideas that became awkward as you progressed.  Like every other class, Hunters had to go back to their trainer to get and upgrade their skills.  But not all of them were available to the trainer.  Some pet skills you had to learn in the wild.  What that meant was putting your pet in the stable (three slots only, no epic collections of pets back then), running out into the wild without your essential combat buddy, finding a mob with the skill you wanted to learn, taming that mob, then fighting along side it for a while before you would finally learn the skill, at which point you would abandon that pet and head home to teach your pet the skill and then carry on with your adventures.

Hunter Pet Levels

Hunter pets had their own independent level back in the day.  If you liked the model of a level 10 lion… like The Rake in the Barrens, with its special fast attack speed… but were level 30 already, you would have to go level up your pet to catch it up to your level.  And the only way to do that was to grind mobs.  You had to be really dedicated to a particular model to level up a pet more than a few levels.

Hunter/Pet Relationship

Again with the hunters… I know, but they were special and popular and helped make Azeroth what it is today.  But first they had to suffer.

So hunters also had a relationship with their pet based on being fed and letting them die and just fighting together.  A happy pet did more damage, so you wanted to keep them happy, which primarily meant keeping them well fed.  So in addition to having a while bag slot roped off and dedicated for ammo, you also had to keep a stack or two of pet food in your bags.  And not just any food, but the RIGHT food.  Some only ate meat, some only dairy, others a variety.  There was nothing like being out in the field and finding you were short of food and the only vendor around only sold something your pet wouldn’t eat.

And it was possible that, if neglected, you pet might run away.  I never had that happen, but the thought of it was enough for me to pack an extra stack or two of food… because stacks were only 20 units back in the day.

The Elf Run to Ironforge

If you made a Night Elf back in the day, you were probably found yourself pretty much alone over in Darnassus while your friends we all over having fun in Stormwind and Ironforge.  The reason you were alone was that Westfall was one of the best early zones and led to the Deadmines instance, so nearly every night elf before you had already gone there.  Getting there meant taking the ship to Menethil Harbor and then making the perilous run across the Wetlands to Dun Algaz and the tunnel that would bring you to the zone with Ironforge.

The Elf Run

Of course, the Wetlands were a level 20+ zone and you were likely level 10 tops… so everything could kill you and your aggro radius was huge.  And then, if you did make it and were a druid… well… you class trainer was back in Darnassus, which could be awkward.  But at least you had a travel form.  You did train the travel form, right?

Strange Dungeons

The current design philosophy for dungeons in Azeroth is like the old slogan for Dominos, “30 minutes or less.”  New ones are designed in that scope while older ones have been mostly trimmed back to that goal.

But back in vanilla WoW the design philosophy seemed to be… hrmm… more like, “We’re just doing something that seems cool!”

So instead of being configured for one run, some instances seemed to be designed for multiple visits.  Everybody’s favorite early instance, The Deadmines, had a level split from the start to the end that was wide enough that if you were set for Van Cleef the start of the run was all gray to you.  The Wailing Caverns were a long and confusing crawl.  Uldaman was another with a wide level gap designed for multiple runs… and the worst death respawn location ever.  There were three wings to Scarlet Monastery, but just getting there as alliance was a chore.  Then there was the epic puzzling majesty that was the original Sunken Temple.

And many of these had quest lines that tied them to the zone they were located, so you would have to do at least some of the zone in order to get the quests. (Otherwise, for example, Gryan Stoutmantle wouldn’t shout your name to the whole zone after you defeat Van Cleef.)  I look back at our instance runs through vanilla back in the 2006 to 2008 range and times were a lot different.  (Also, if you want to wallow in nostalgia I have a video from our first year and another one devoted just to Sunken Temple.)

It was, when it came to five person dungeons, a very different time.

The Great Stranglethorn Quest Gap

One of the things Syp mentioned was quests not filling in the experience gap to keep you advancing.  But that one is a lot deeper.  The thing is, quests were fine, you just had to make sure you did them all across a couple of zones.  For example, I would move back and forth between Stormwind and Ironforge, each of which had their own early zones, and do all the quests in both areas.  Doing that would keep you moving into appropriate level content and was easy enough to find.

Eventually though you were funneled into Stranglethorn Vale, with quests both odd and annoying, crowded with the flow of players, and unable to provide the experience boost needed to get you past it via questing alone.  There was a reason I had a number of characters sitting levels between 35 and 40 unplayed for ages.

If you went and did some research you could find Desolace as a possible alternative, though getting there from Menethil Harbor would take you an hour or so, if you didn’t get lost.  And there, in the pre-Maraudon days the quest chains were… odd?  You could end up running around trying to quest there, Arathi, or in the Swamp of Sorrows and still find yourself coming up short.  Or that was how it felt.  But once you got past that hurdle to about level 45 or so, more options started to open up, and from 50 to 60 there was almost an embarrassment of choices.  This was one of the reasons that Blizzard went back and filled in the Dustwallow Swamp with a bunch of additional quests.

Others

There are many others.  Useless trade skills, no quest locations on the map, dancing for tips, restricted class roles in raids, five minute pally buffs, Addons yet to be imagined, and more swim in and out of view in my brain.  But these are the ones I wanted to put on the growing list of what to possibly expect from WoW Classic.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Timely Anniversary in WoW

We are in the anniversary zone in World of Warcraft, the official launch date being November 23rd.  But Blizzard spreads out the celebration for a while, so anniversary events and such are live in the game.

The traditional WoW Anniversary Tabard

But the re-usable boost token is really on my side this year.

13% for 13th Anniversary

I am not so concerned about experience gains, but since I am in the reputation grind to unlock flying in WoW Legion, I will take every little boost I can get.  I still have a ways to go on reputation, so I’m using the bonus while I have it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon Launch Today

The latest entries in the long-running core Pokemon RPG series, Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, go live today!

UltraSun & UltraMoon

Nintendo and GameFreak are returning players to Alola, the Hawaii-esque islands that previously served as the location for Pokemon Sun & Moon.

But, unlike some past generations, this won’t be a simple rework of the original story in Alola.  While the location and the basic range of Pokemon will be the same, there are new things afoot in the region for you to explore as GameFreak throws in a mix of names from past titles.  You will have a shot at catching some special Pokemon as all past legendaries be making an appearance (some on UltraSun, some in UltraMoon, because you know how it goes), so you can scoop up any you’re missing, if you are skilled and patient enough.

Legendaries from Titles Past

In addition to that they are even pulling past villains into the mix.  You will be faces with Team Rainbow Rocket, made up of the bosses from old foes such as Team Magma, Team Aqua, and Team Galactic.

The desultory Team Skull looks to be left out

Pokemon games are pretty much the only reason I own a Nintendo handheld.

However, I have not ordered either title yet.  I played a lot of Pokemon Sun earlier this year, completing the main story and running down the post-game activities as well as completing the Alola Pokedex.  But I am not feeling the Pokemon urge at the moment.

I am also a little worried about how well it will run on my original model Nintedo 3DS XL.  Pokemon Sun bogged down quite a bit on the older, slower hardware and I doubt that the new titles are going to be better, so I am waiting to see if that comes up as an issue with the new titles.

Still, I cannot wait too long.  As usual, Nintendo has some “buy now!” incentives, including giving players a master ball if they register themselves on Pokemon Global Link between today and January 29, 2018.  A master ball is guaranteed to catch even the most reluctant Pokemon in the wild.  You usually get one per game to catch an elusive legendary, but now you may have two.

Anyway, you can read more about it at the official Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon site.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dropping in on the North

For me things have been pretty quiet down in Delve for the last month or so.

Which isn’t to say a lot hasn’t been going on.  Just look at last week’s post about the Monthly Economic Report.  And then there has been the changes to moon mining that came at the end of October.  Lots of people have been very busy.

Just not me.

I haven’t mined in ages and rat so sporadically that all of my own bounty payouts from Delve, lumped into one figure, wouldn’t influence any region’s monthly total for any recent month, high, low, or null sec.

I live for strat ops and deployments.  “Join The Imperium and See New Eden!” was the recruiting poster aimed at me.  And not much of that has been going on.  We have a structure and sovereignty treaty with TEST, our neighbors to the east. North, in Fountain, the collapse of The-Culture created more of a buffer between us and people we would shoot regularly, with The Initiative moving in next to Pandemic Horde.  And while there is some sort of war going on involving Triumvirate and Solar Fleet, that is a distant place where we don’t have much in the way of friends.

And, of course, I’ve been playing a bunch of World of Warcraft over the last few weeks, which I do full screen so I can’t even see pings if I remember to launch Jabber, which I haven’t done for a bit.  So there might have been a few strat ops, but I could have missed them.

What I did miss, but quickly caught up on this week, were some deployments.  A few groups have been heading into the north end of null sec to make mischief and shoot the locals.  I went from shipping some stuff to Jita in case I got kicked for not doing anything during November… I needed to clean out my hangar anyway… to racing north in a stealth bomber to join in on the fun.

I went from not knowing about any deployments to being deployed in under an hour, though I was in such a hurry to get going that I ran off without any torpedoes or bombs in my Purifier’s cargo bay.  I had to check the market as I flew, picking up a few torps here and there as I went.

Up in the north with just a bomber, I was in it for the hot drops until I could fly/ship something else. (Flying seems more likely as today’s jump fuel related news made isotope market prices exploding, which mean shipping prices will be up as well.)  But hot dropping has it own charm, along with the element of surprise.

First you get in the fleet, get on the black ops battleship.

Bombers clustered on a Redeemer

Of course, it doesn’t look like that most of the time.  Usually the battleship is cloaked to start with and you cloak up your bomber and warp to it, so you have essentially what looks to any casual observer like just more empty space.  (Ignore local, there is really nobody here!)  The black ops battleship only uncloaks when it is time to bridge us to a target.

So everybody groups up, all cloaked, and waits.  Out in the field scouts with covert cynos are searching for a target worth dropping, but the hammer sits in its tool box until it is time.  Which means you can sit on coms and listen while doing something else… like running world quests in WoW for the flying achievement.

But when Asher calls out, “Everybody wake up!” it is time to go.  Sometimes you’ll end up on a small mining op to bomb and finish off, other times you end up on a bigger prize.

Bombers hitting a ratting Nidhoggur

That is the fun time, getting to rip into a capital ship with a fleet of glass-cannon-esque bombers.  It is torpedoes on the way and hoping to be able to hold the target down until it is too late.  Then seeing the hull begin to erupt.

The Nidhoggur about to go down

And then boom!

Flying out of the explosion in a Haven

It all goes by so fast at times that I forget to take a screen shot or three along the way.

Then it is time to loot what we can, destroy whatever is left, and get back on station to wait for the next target of opportunity.

Probably one of the more historically ironic things I have seen so far been Goons dropping on and killing a Mordus Angels ratting carriers.  How times have changed.

Anyway, I am suddenly active again, so maybe I won’t get kicked this month.

Quote of the Day – Sisyphean Task

Devs promise to change Battlefront II until players are happy

-Ars Technica article title

It is the rare headline that gets me to laugh out loud, but this one managed it.

EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II woes around lockboxes and pay to win and the game in general continue unabated.  I’m not keen on EA when they’re having a good day… since a “good day” at EA usually means buying a studio they’ll close down sooner or later…

Fun created here… on an Orca graveyard!

Starting with what seemed to be like a “land war in Asia” grade mistake where players could unlock things either by playing or paying using the same currency, allowing players to immediately calculate an hours/money comparison, made more grievous by having it in a PvP shooter.  So the rage online was epic and the EA response on Reddit became the most down-voted item ever.  Call Guinness, we have another video game record for the books!

EA stuck to their guns… for a bit, then suddenly dropped the price of unlocks by a whopping 75% while trying to put all of this in back in the bottle by promising… well… you can see the quote above.  My immediate reaction on Twitter was:

At this point EA can only hope to fix enough so that the review scores from the big sites… which are all on hold right now, so the current Meta Critic score of 79 is based on four sites, three of which I would call “minor” and a fourth I haven’t heard of… won’t tank.  But good luck making any of the vocal members of their audience happy at this point.  On that front the pooch has already been well and truly screwed.  Anything short of removing lockboxes completely… and EA won’t ever do that… will fail to meet their stated goal.

Anyway, we shall see if anything is learned here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fall Movie League – Who’s Your Daddy?

Our Fall Fantasy Movie League run is now eleven weeks in, leaving only two more to go.

The week eleven box office was clearly going to go to Thor: Ragnarok again, and the goat-driving god of Asgard was priced appropriately for that.  The week’s picks were.

 Thor: Ragnarok               $659
 Murder on the Orient Express $284
 Daddy's Home 2               $266
 Bad Moms Christmas           $105
 Jigsaw                       $34
 Boo! 2                       $25
 Geostorm                     $19
 Thank You for Your Service   $18
 Happy Death Day              $16
 Blade Runner 2049            $14
 Only the Brave               $13
 Victoria & Abdul             $10
 The Foreigner                $9
 It                           $6
 Subrubicon                   $6

Competing with Thor for anchor position in people’s lineups were two new entries, Murder on the Orient Express and Daddy’s Home 2.

Estimates on both of the new films were somewhat soft, with those willing to commit to a number sticking below $25 million on each while those giving a range allowed that either might go past that and close to $30 million.  But nobody strayed much beyond that.

Meanwhile Thor was a pretty solid bet for $55-65 million.  Having wrested the lead of the TAGN league from SynCaine last week, I felt that the conservative track might be best.  So I anchored on Thor, put on a pair of Bad Moms Christmas, and then filled in with Geostorm.

My Fall Week Eleven Picks

Going with Geostorm was mostly based on it exceeding estimates every week despite being critically panned as a disaster of a disaster movie.

Thor came in a little low, but still in the range I expected.  But Daddy’s Home 2 seemed to be doing better than expected and was pulling up close to $30 million in the Saturday estimates.  That was giving SynCaine, who went in with three screens of Daddy’s Home 2 a lead for the week.  The only redeeming factor was that Bad Moms was the best price/performer and the $4 million extra that was giving me helped mitigate the strong Daddy’s Home 2 showing.

But I always call those first estimates “the Saturday of False Hopes” because the usually change by Monday.  Sure enough, on Sunday the roles had flipped, Dads passing Moms, putting Daddy’s Home 2 as the best price/performer, sinking my own picks to the bottom of the list.

Corr, who pays closer attention to these things, and who was in for six screens of Bad Moms so was keenly interested in the outcome, said early Monday that the margin between the two was thin enough that it could go either way with even a small shift in the final numbers.

However, it was not to be.  When the numbers were finalized, Daddy’s Home 2 was the best price/performer and the anchor for the perfect pick.

Fall Week Eleven Perfect Pick

123 people got the perfect pick for week eleven.  Fortunately, SynCaine was not one of them.  However, his anchoring on three screens of Daddy’s Home the only person in our overall group to do so, gave him his fifth win in the TAGN league and a win in the overall Meta League, with the numbers shaking out as:

  1. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $115,590,767
  2. Kraut Screens (T) – $104,712,521
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $100,919,575
  4. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $96,030,514
  5. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $95,384,287
  6. I HAS MOVIES (T) – $94,984,586
  7. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $94,252,816
  8. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $91,751,712
  9. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $90,021,774
  10. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $89,618,203
  11. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $89,093,184
  12. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $88,224,634
  13. Wilhelm’s Films from New Eden – $88,224,634
  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

I was feeling pretty good when I saw that Aure and I had the same picks for week eleven, she having done much better than I overall.  Pity we were of like minds on the week when she chose poorly.

That left the overall Meta League looking like this:

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $910,230,456
  2. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $889,775,200
  3. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $858,929,007
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $857,063,666
  5. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $854,027,980
  6. Wilhelm’s Films from New Eden – $834,616,933
  7. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $819,444,618
  8. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T)$805,922,146
  9. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $794,791,471
  10. Kraut Screens (T) – $728,356,671
  11. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $701,979,852
  12. I HAS MOVIES (T) – $698,096,697
  13. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $555,611,337

Corr’s third place finish this week put him solidly out in front of Aure again.  Aure, likewise, has a pretty solid hold on second place.  The close fight is for third place where this week’s results put Elly and SynCaine past Ben, who went all-in with eight screens of Bad Moms this week.

Then I sit down in sixth place, not completely out of the running, but I need a big week or one of those three to stumble in order to move up a notch or two.

Which leads us to the options for week twelve, the penultimate week of the Fall season.

Justice League - FRI         $636
Justice League - SAT         $434
Justice League - SUN         $334
Thor: Ragnarok               $269
Daddy's Home 2               $175
Murder on the Orient Express $152
Wonder                       $140
The Star                     $120
Bad Moms Christmas           $77
Lady Bird                    $30
Jigsaw                       $16
Boo! 2                       $9
Geostorm                     $8
Blade Runner 2049            $8
Three Billboards             $8

We have another big super hero movie opening for week twelve.  Justice League, like Thor two weeks back, is supposed to open so big relative to the rest of the pack that it has been divided into Friday, Saturday, and Sunday screenings.

The Justice League three-way, along with new films Wonder, The Star, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri managed to push Thank You for Your Service, Happy Death Day, Only the Brave, Victoria & Abdul, The Foreigner, It, and Subrubicon off the list this week.

So Justice League seems to be the safe bet, being predicted to open even bigger than Thor did.  Putting Batman and Wonder Woman on the same screen will do that I guess.

On the other hand, Justice League is pretty pricey.  There is no “three Sundays” option as with Thor.  Friday seems like a sucker bet again, with maybe a Saturday and Sunday plus some very cheap filler being my main guess.  That might be my last chance to put Blade Runner 2049 in my lineup.

But without Justice League, where do you go?  With Thor good for $25 million or so, what do you team him up with? There is The Star, a rework of the Christmas nativity billed as a “computer animated Christian comedy film” starring animals.  I guess in a world with Veggie Tales that is possible.  And then there is Wonder, where photogenic parents struggle with the problems of a child with facial deformities.  Or there are last week’s properties, Daddy’s Home 2 and Murder on the Orient Express.

There are a lot of ways to jump this week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Timewalking to Northrend

Timewalking has been in World of Warcraft for a while now.  This is where they open up dungeons from past expansions, reworked to support players in the current expansion.

Re-using old content and making it viable in the current context/meta of the game is something I am totally in favor of.  I just haven’t participated in the whole Timewalking thing up until now.

That is mostly because I haven’t been subscribed and playing for about the last year, so I missed the previous events.  Now that I am back though I took an evening to look into what was going on.

I was lured in by the fact that the current event is for dungeons from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was provably the peak of my interest in WoW.

That was the only expansion I stuck with from day one through until the next expansion drop.  Unfortunately, the next drop was Cataclysm, about which I have a list of gripes, and which started my pattern of starting expansions, go away for six months to a year, then coming back to finish them off after Blizz has unlocked all the content and fixed the more egregious issues.

(As an aside, Wrath of the Lich King was launched nine years ago yesterday.  That seems like a long time ago now.)

However, now that I am back and enjoying Legion, timewalking is also an option, of course I was going to indulge myself in the current even and travel back to Northrend and the instances I knew so well at one point.

I did a couple of the instances before figuring out that there was a quest for the event that would award some additional benefit in the form of vendor tokens, so I grabbed that and kept on going for a while.  Going back to the old haunts was a nice little break from Suramar, and didn’t slow me down too much.  I have been on a WoW binge for a bit now.

Slaying King Ymiron again

The event was popular so queuing for it in Dungeon Finder was quick, even as DPS.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the dungeons themselves and how they might scale or what drops one might get.  I was quite happy with the ilevel 880 timewarped Northrend gear I got, which was both an upgrade over what I was currently wearing as well as giving me a bit of the old school WotLK look.

Vikund and the Knights who say “Ni!”

There were also artifact boosts for every boss and vendor tokens along the way, though the drops from dungeon mobs themselves were still seemed to be in the WotLK level range.

Finding the vendor took a minute though.  When I completed the event quest it told me to go find the vendor in Dalaran.  However, he was nowhere to be seen in the Legion Dalaran, so I had to think about the best way to get to the WotLK Dalaran, the two co-existing in the game.

I decided to take the portal to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria from the Legion Dalaran, remembering that there was a portal from there to the WotLK Dalaran.

Passing through Pandaria

That got me to the correct Dalaran where I was able to find the vendor, standing in the center of town with a crowd around him.

The vendor is in there somewhere

The quest turn in actually gave me quite a few tokens to play with, tripling the tokens I had earned along the way.

The reward

The tokens can be turned in for various bits of gear… though honestly I got so many upgrades that there was only one piece that was a semi-side-grade for me… or tokens to up your standings with various Northrend factions… not helpful since I am exalted with all the factions for which there are tokens… and some expensive things like a mount.  I’d have to run a lot more dungeons to get there.

The list of things from the vendor are over at the WoW Head timewalking guide.

It was there that I also learned that there were only six dungeons in play for timewalking, which explains why I saw some repeats.

The limited rotation wasn’t all bad.  My main worry was pulling The Oculus, the gimmick instance most likely to cause a rift in a group in the entire expansion.  Dungeon Finder groups fall apart doing that on normal mode.

What is probably my all-time most run instance ever, The Nexus, was on the list so I got to run a victory lap there.  I even remembered to jump during the last fight.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded doing Utgarde Keep or a couple of the others.

Which leads us down to the experience of running the instances now, so many years later.

On the one hand, it was fun in its own way to romp through a few old places.  I even remembered how most of the fights went.

On the flip side the problems with both timewalking and Dungeon Finder were apparent.

The ilevel reduction to make the instances something of a challenge doesn’t seem to be enough.  This is doubly so since I noticed I was getting credit for doing Heroic instances in doing these timewalking dungeons.  The power/difficulty ratio barely put these on par with normal mode dungeons at level.

And then the real problem with Dungeon Finder, which isn’t jerks or the unhelpful, who tend to be rare in my experience, but the speed.  When you’re in a group with strangers you’re not there to share an experience but get the reward for completion.  So each of these runs became races through the content, made all the more hasty by the ease with which we tore through boss after boss.

Ideally I would have liked to go through these old instances in a pre-made group, preferably the old instance group, to savor a bit of the history, to sit a while and listen to what the bosses have to say, to actually enjoy the fights.  But you go with the options you have, and random Dungeon Finder groups are the only choice some of us have, so you have to make the most of it.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Through Suramar and the Class Hall Quest Line

The Suramar zone has a lot of quests.

As noted previously I floundered about a bit figuring out where the lead-in for the zone was, eventually catching up with Khadgar and getting on the right path.  But that is quite a path.

To start with there is a whole quest chain series to run through… not a zone’s worth relative to the other zones, but maybe half that amount… to get the Nightborne up and running and willing to start you off on the actual series of quest chains for the zone achievement that is on the path to unlock flying.

Suramar itself is in the shape of a section of a circle, an arc with open countryside and ruins on the outside two thirds of the arc.

Suramar Zone Map

The outside boundaries are a bit rough, but it is mostly an arc.  It is in this outer area where you start to delve into the tale of the Nightborne, their deeds and sites, and their huge mana addiction.

Basically, the whole story is about a bunch of isolationist night elves who became junkies, slaves to their mana addiction, how they got tied up with the Legion, and the search by one underground group to rid themselves of the Legion and to find the mythical mana methadone equivalent.  You seriously have to get the quest givers a fix before they’ll talk to you if they are Jonesing.

Fortunately bits of mana are literally sitting all over the countryside and by a few quests in you’ve been given the power to see such mana nodes on your mini-map, all the better to keep your Nightborne buddies lit and sweet.

There is even a sort of mana pool game you have to play.  When you start out there is a hard limit on how much mana you can acquire, but one of the rewards you get as you move along is boosts to the total pool you can have.  Nothing like ending up in a mana rich area and finding you’re already full up, though at least some of the nodes yield crystals, good for 50 or 100 mana, that go into your inventory as a secondary storage which can be accessed later.

Once you have followed through setting things up in the outer arc, the quest line begins to focus on Suramar City in the center of the circle.

Gonna go down to Suramar City…

There you get in touch with the underground seeking to overthrow the Legion and their Nightborne allies.

Suramar City itself reminds me a bit of Annuminas in Evendim back in LOTRO, at least in its semi-circular form around a central bay/harbor and the somewhat overwrought grandness of its structures.

Gazing across Suramar City

I like how fantasy cities all seemed to have been built by one architect.  Nobody dares violate the style guidelines.

The city has an interesting game mechanic.  To those running the city you are a hostile outsider who is kill on sight, so the underground hooks you up with a disguise that mostly fools the bads.  However, some of those bads possess “true sight” which allows them to see through your disguise.  Fortunately for you, you can spot them a mile away by the glowing blue eyeball hovering above them when you are disguised.

Skirting past some true sight guards in a sedan chair

If you get too close they call you out and you have to either get away quickly or kill them.  Once combat starts… or once they identify you… your disguise drops and any other guards in the area will also join in.

And so you do your bit for the underground, avoiding true sight and recruiting allies, assassinating foes, and generally sowing discord.  It can be a nifty and immersive experience.  Also, the grapple mechanic from Stormheim is a thing in Suramar City and you can get up onto the room tops at various points… though you mostly do that to find treasure boxes and bits of stray mana to keep everybody sweet.

There is one guy along the quest chain who wants 1,200 mana to carry on, which at that point is most of what you can carry and he just asked for 800 mana a bit ago, so I spent some time just refreshing my supply.  It is a good thing that the stuff is lying about all over, to such an extent that you might wonder who couldn’t keep themselves supplied, but maybe they’re all just high and can’t be bothered.

Still, while this is all good fun, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, there are some kinks in the plan.  There are a series of solo quests that require you to run through the Moonlit Landing area of Suramar city in order to speak to people, pick up a few items, or kill a few foes.

However, what distinguishes the Moonlit Landing is that most of the guards both have true sight and are elite.

Yeah, yeah, out in the open world “elite” doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in a dungeon or a raid.  For the most part an open world elite means that you can probably solo it with some effort/competence, but that getting a couple of them on you is bad news.  The problem is that the true sight elites are packed in tight so the idea that you’re going to get spotted in the middle of the area and only have to fight one at a tight is unlikely in the extreme.

If you’re very patient you could probably get through with stealth.  If you are very lucky you could probably get through skirting the edge of detection circles while speeding through.

For the rest of us, there are alternative means.

There were a couple that I managed to do by using the good old Goblin Glider kit to jump off from the vineyard level above Moonlit Landing to glide on down to the person I needed to speak to or the dingus I needed to acquire or modify.  From there I used the whistle you get when you open up world quests… and this may be the best thing ever for those who don’t have flying yet… that summons a flying mount to take you to the nearest flight point.

And then there were a couple I did by the brute force corpse and revive method.  I didn’t start out with that as a plan, but I had to speak to three NPCs in the midst of the area and I failed at stealth and speed, so I just ran to a safe spot near the first one and died.  Then I ran back as a spirit, revived, spoke to the NPC, then ran for the next one, died in a safe spot, revived, and then again for the third one.

Finally, I had to kill some of the elites for drops.  Again, killing one is possible, but getting a group means you die.  I found a couple on the periphery and pulled them out into the water to take them down, a plan that worked three out of four times.

Fighting my pull in the water

The first time I did it I didn’t see the other guards behind something on the dock, but still managed to slay my target before dying, so I could loot him after I revived.

It wasn’t horrible, and it did provide a challenge of sorts with a few possible solutions, but I could see those quests being a real barrier to some people.  I told my daughter that when she gets there I’ll help her out, either healing for her DK if we need to brute force some of it or flying her in for some of the trickier ones.  But she might not need my help as she is generally more savvy at that sort of thing than I am.

The other issue turned out to be less of an issue than I thought it might be.  You get sent off to slay Xavius in the Emerald Nightmare raid.  On the plus side it was doable with the LFR version of the raid, so I queued up for the Xavius section of that thinking that I might be a couple hours getting through it.

However, that section of the raid is a few quick fights and then Xavius shows up.  Our group took him down without issue and I was able to run off to Cenarius, pick up the required quest item… which doesn’t drop with Xavius but is stilling next to Cenarius… and be done.

After the fight

I spent more time waiting in the queue for the raid… maybe 10 minutes… than it took to get through it.  It went so fast I forgot to take a screen shot until I was done.

The raid and that final venture into Moonlit Landing were the last real hurdles.  There were a pair of quests that required me to do Heroic instances, which I felt would be a real problem… everybody is fine with sloppy in easy normal mode, but in Heroic people start hating strangers when the difficulty ramps up… but those turned out to be option for the achievement.

So I finished out the quest chain which knocked out a couple of achievements for me, the important one being Loremaster of Legion, one of the five required for the Broken Isles Pathfinder (Part One) achievement that gates flying.

Meanwhile, along the way I also managed to complete my order hall class quest. I had a little bit of trouble figuring out where this quest was and ended up getting both of the other paladin artifact weapons… the same orange punctuation heralds both quest types… before finally getting on the right path.  That also rained down some achievements on me.

Class Hall Quest Results

You get the new champions as soon as the chain is done, and they are 110 to start with, so that is a twofer right there if you’ve kept your other champions trained up.

Now my Ashbringer seems bigger and even more glowy than it did before.

Behold My Ashbringer… which is totally not exactly the same as yours

Now I can turn undead to little piles of dust even more quickly!

That also knocked out another section of the first Broken Isles Pathfinder achievement, leaving me with two to go.

The first is Variety is the Spice of Life, for which I have to run 100 different world quests.  If you look on the side of one of the screen shots above, you can see that I am tracking that achievement and sit at 71 out of 100.  I should be able to knock that out.  The only issue is remembering which world quests I have done before.  I’ve done some I could swear I was hitting for the first time, only to not see the number go up, while I’ve done others I know I’ve done and they count.  There is some confusion possible as a lot of world quests seem to be re-worked versions of normal quests.  Either way, if I run enough I know I’ll get there.  I still have not done any Broken Shore world quests, so those will boost that number.

And I know I will be running world quests because the last bit of the Pathfinder achievement is the Broken Isles Diplomat achievement which requires you to get revered standings with a list of factions.  I have a ways to go there.

Broken Isles Diplomat standings

The Nightfallen is our Nightborne friends in Suramar, and I managed to squeak into revered with them on the last quest in their chain, so I am covered, there.  But as for the rest, it will be world quests ongoing.  Lots of work to do on The Wardens as they are only Friendly at this point.

And that is just the Broken Isles Pathfinder Part One.  There is the Part Two portion, which extends things to the Broken Shore.  Fortunately that seems to be a single zone worth of exploration and a quest chain to do along with another faction to revered.

Anyway, some progress made and I continue to track myself as I go over at WoW Head.