Thursday, July 27, 2017

Two Days to Delve

We had been deployed long enough.  We got some good fights, annoyed the locals, but things were starting to slow down.  Asher had been busy with Alliance Tournament practice, things were brewing on the home front, and there was the promise of a different adventure on the horizon.  It was time to pack up our belongings from our favorite fishy referencing system in Curse and get back to Delve.

Of course, packing up is easier said that done.  We came out with two fleet doctrines and added a third while we were there, and being remote means keeping an extra ship or two on hand for each doctrine along with extra ammo and charges for things like boosts or interdiction bubbles.

The latter was exacerbated by Asher’s fondness for a Boy Scout level of preparedness, meaning we carry mobile depots and modules so we can refit to match the occasion, leading to full cargo holds and an of repeated meme.

If we could strap things to our ships, Asher would make us…

On the bright side, we also brought carriers and dreadnoughts over to Curse, so there was some space available to carry extra ships.

As the time to the move op home ticked down, I made arrangements.  Ships I was unlikely to ever use again were stripped, repackaged, and shipped to Jita.  I organized what was left, decided what would just stay in the NPC station to await our eventual return, and tried to figure out how to get the rest home.

The smaller ships were not so bad.  RatKnight1 took my Scimitar, two interdictors, and three Vigils in his carrier.  That left me two Typhoons, a Damnation, and a couple of covert ops scanning ships.  I decided to leave a Typhoon and the cov ops behind, along with jump clones, so I could go back to hunting Fraternity deployables at some future date.  They were leaving MTUs around for me to shoot for a while.

That meant flying home a Typhoon and a Damnation.  A lot of people chose to fly their Typhoons back, battleships being awkwardly large, though I did see smaller ships along as we moved.

My Damnation near one of the local Minmatar gates

Tuesday night the appointed hour came and we all logged on and got into the fleet, captials and subcaps sharing the same fleet and voice coms, something that always leads to a bit of confusion.  Actually, most of us had been logged in for hours before the fleet, leaving the system empty under the threat of a few dozen Imperium pilots hanging about with nothing to do.

Then came the call to undock.  Capitals undocked first and jumped off to wait for their first dose of jump fatigue to wind down and for the sub caps to catch up.  Then the subcaps undocked, heading for our first waypoint on the road home.

The rag tag fleet in motion

We made it to the appropriately named system 0SHT-A, where we met up with the capitals.  The system is on one side of a inter-regional jump gate that the capitals had to take in order to continue on the way home.  The distance covered by the gate is beyond the capital jump range, so they either take the gate or travel a much longer, and more dangerous, route home.

The capitals logged on and got undocked and ready to go as the subcaps went through the gate to U-QVWD in order to cover them.  They came through and jumped to the next cyno.  However, as that was in motion, the locals showed up with a Loki fleet.  The system is an obvious choke point, so them showing up wasn’t any act of amazing foresight.   Any Imperium fleet traveling through the area is likely to show up in that system.

We sat there on the gate with a bunch of hostiles in local as the carriers and dreadnoughts came through and made their jump.  The Loki fleet showed up on grid, though far off from us just as the last few capitals were coming through.  Asher had us point towards the Astrahus we have in the system and somebody put up their fleet boosts… likely Asher… just in case a fight started.  I took that cue and ran the boosts on my Damnation for a cycle as well.  And then the Lokis warped to us, just as the last dread was jumping away, and Asher warped us to the citadel where we tethered up in safety… except for Asher, who left his boosts running, something that sets an aggression timer and keeps you from tethering or jumping through a gate.  He had to warp off and back to get safe.

We were not totally outnumbered by the Loki fleet, but they were a coherent combat fleet while we were a mix of various doctrine ships traveling together for safety in numbers rather than looking for a fight.  We were not going to challenge them.

So we all docked up.  The capitals had docked up at their end.  All we could do is wait.  However the Loki fleet seemed to be patient, so Asher called the fleet for the night, got us our participation link, and said we could go but asked that we stay logged on if we could just to keep our friends in the Loki fleet hoping for kills they were not going to get.

So ended the first night of the move op.  We were scheduled to reconvene the next night to finish the run home.

Wednesday night had most of us sitting at the login page waiting for the word to get into the game and resume our journey, there being no desire to show up early and tip off the locals again that we were in town.

Waiting to log in

As people got themselves set and got onto voice coms, the subject of pizza came up because Thomas Lear was ordering Dominoes for dinner.  What started as a condemnation of the position of Dominoes in the hierarchy of pizza quickly devolved when the New Yorkers on coms adopted the standard line that there is no good pizza outside the five boroughs of New York.

Having worked with people from New York in the past… one of the oddities of Silicon Valley is that so many people here are from somewhere else, so you learn which parts of the country think their the only ones who can do a given thing… I opted to stay out of that discussion since you might as well argue with a brick wall as a New Yorker on that topic.

Then, however, the topic somehow slid into the relative merits of regions BBQ styles in the United States, at which point it seemed like the SIG might break up as passions flared and intemperate phrases were tossed around about coloration and the appropriateness of vinegar and other ingredients in something as sacred as BBQ sauce.  Quick thinking saw a straw poll put up on the topic asking us stand up for whichever variety we supported.

BBQ Poll in Fleet

I did not bring up Alabama white sauce lest I be accused of some form of heresy and be branded as beyond the pale of polite company.  I voted for Kansas City style, less out of any true passion than because it is the style I grew up with and what is used at my favorite local BBQ place, where I have been eating since I was a kid.

Tempers cooled as everybody was able to vote for their choice.  There seems to be a calming effect to being able to have your view counted.  The discussion then somehow moved to the prevalence of spam in Hawaii and eventually sputtered out as the call to log in came.  The caps logged in and made their jump and then the subcaps got into the game, undocked, and continued the journey back to Delve.

Nobody formed up to oppose us as we settled into the usual routine of jumping and aligning as we Asher warped us from gate to gate.  An Imperium Jackdaw fleet caught up with us and moved with our fleet for a while, reducing the likelihood of anybody showing up to challenge us.

Aligned out for another warp

Along the way we learned that not only does Thomas Lear have bad taste in pizza… the only aspect of the pizza discussion on which we could all agree… but that he had never been to a concert in his life.  So that was added to the list of his sins.

Eventually we wandered into Querious, then Delve, and found ourselves in jump of the Imperium staging Keepstar.  From there it was onto a titan and a bridge to the cyno which, by tradition was lit inside the model of the citadel, a position known as the “twerk zone” because of the way ships bounce around when they land.

Damnation in the Twerk zone

From there we could bounce around if we liked or dock up and be done for the evening.  Our deployment was over… except for the people who did not make the move op.  There is always somebody who can’t make it and needs to be extracted at a later date.

As with the fleet, I expect any comments on this post will focus on the critical issues of BBQ sauce, pizza, and what concerts Thomas Lear should attend in the wilds of Kansas.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Corrupt Developer Career Path

In which we see how logic is useless with bad data.

This all started innocuously enough with Wolfshead angry about life as video game developer.  His ire, deflected momentarily from his usual target of Blizzard, was aimed at the video game industry itself and the fact that being a game dev can be a really crappy career choice.  The pay is low, the hours are long, job security is fleeting, and there is a long line of gullible young people willing to take your place if you try to buck the system.

This is not a new tale.  Having lived close enough to Electronic Arts for them to be covered by the local paper regularly, word of how shitty the video the games industry can be is something I have been aware of since the late 1980s.

Wolfshead called it an example of  the “worst excesses of capitalism,” by which I assume he means supply and demand.  Seems legit.  Oversupply lowers pay and working conditions while scarcity raises tends to raise them. That is the whole “invisible hand” that Adam Smith was going on about telling you that you should look for work elsewhere.

Oddly though he also went off on progressives who run operations where life is not intolerable, which comes off a bit muddled and counter to his main point.  He rather ironically denigrates people who care about fair trade coffee, then turns around and says gamers need to demand better working conditions for developers.  Progressive ideals are fine when they benefit you I guess.  I expect him to follow up with a post calling for fair labor video games.

But the net message is that being a video game developer can suck.  Another brick in the wall that should block you from ever wanting to work in the video game industry.  You go down that path despite the reality, not because of it.

However Gevlon was having none of it, even doubling down when challenged.

In Gevlon’s world, nobody does anything without getting compensated.  Young developers don’t line up for crappy pay, long hours, and no job security simply for passion or to follow a dream.  That whole “do what you love” is bullshit.  If you go there, there has to be a payoff!  These young developers go into the video games industry intent on lining their pockets by becoming corrupt developers!

Artist concept of the decision process

This whole idea fails the sniff test almost immediately.  It smells like bullshit and defies the logic Gevlon himself lays out.

First, if money is actually the REAL motivator, as opposed to the dream to work in the wonderful fantasy world of video games, then there are a lot better ways to go about it than risking your career, future employment options, and possible legal and tax complications, by becoming a corrupt game developer.

A developer could, for example… and I realize this is a huge stretch… get a job elsewhere in software development.  There are many jobs in software available.  Most of them pay better than the video games industry.

Basically, ample other opportunities exist.  You do not go into video game development as an individual contributor with an eye towards making bank.  And doing so with the idea of essentially creating a criminal enterprise is absurd in the extreme.

It isn’t as though there are no corrupt devs.  Stories do surface now and again about somebody taking advantage of their position.  But those are more matters of opportunity rather than somebody’s career goal.  People are weak.  Oh, and their careers got ruined once they get caught.  Like a lot of segments of software development, video game development is a small community and word gets around even if you don’t make the front page of Kotaku.

That leads us to one of the key arguments against this corrupt developer proposition; the lack of news stories about this.

If being a corrupt developer was a career path people going into video game development were actually, consciously pursuing we should be seeing a lot more news about corrupt developers.  His argument pretty much needs this to be taken seriously.

Where are all the stories?  Please, post links in the comments if I am wrong, but I’ve got nothing.

We know all about Kickstarters taking your money and running and about game companies over promising and under delivering.  Players complain incessantly about price gouging by greedy companies  But the biggest developer “corruption” story of the last few years was an unsubstantiated allegation that a indy developer used personal contacts to get a better review.

The stories just aren’t out there and the only way you can explain that away is by turning the whole thing into a conspiracy where management and the industry are in on the corruption and we enter the realm of Dinsdale where players are paying off companies.  At that point companies are working against self-interest allowing corrupt devs, since even Gevlon insists that protecting the integrity of a game is vitally important and why would they share the booty with line devs in any case.

Well, that, and the fact that the number of game developer positions where being corrupt would get you paid is probably pretty limited in and of itself.  Further evidence that people don’t go into this industry with corruption in mind as a career goal.

The only real evidence that Gevlon can produce to support his theory is that bugs in code exist and some of them take longer to get fixed than he thinks they should.

That has an easy response.

Gevlon, as I have noted elsewhere, is an ignorant amateur outsider when it comes to software development in general, and all the more so when discussing the situation involving any particular video game, so his determination as to what should be easy to fix and how long it should take carries exactly zero weight.

This is not an insult, but a statement of fact.

I am an ignorant, amateur, outsider when it comes to treating cancer.  It seems like you should just be able to cut that shit out and be done with it.  Also, Jesus, doesn’t radiation give you cancer?  And the chemicals in chemotherapy were derived from mustard gas!  Why would you use that on people?

So if you see me hanging out the oncology department at your local hospital, feel free to discount any advice I might give you.

The difference between those two situations is that I know and admit that I am the ignorant amateur outsider and Gevlon does not.  He thinks his assessments are meaningful.

They are not.

Which leaves him with very little to support his hypothesis besides his idea that people don’t spend time doing things that do not bring them the greatest financial benefit.  At that point you have to start asking why he spends time blogging.  That is giving something away for free, something that has value.  Imagine the page views his posts would get from enraged fan boys on a site like Massively OP!  He doesn’t even run ads on his own site, so he fails by his own logic.

To summarize:

  • The alleged financial motivation to become a corrupt developer is nonsensical and counter productive; there are easier way to make more money and people do value things besides a paycheck.
  • Positions where being a corrupt game developer are extremely limited; real money trading has to be involved somehow.
  • No substantial external evidence exists that anybody is pursuing this career path in any numbers; where are the news stories?
  • The remaining evidence offered lacks credibility; Gevlon is not in a position to know and his own logic argues against him.

So while I would not deny that corrupt game developers may be out there, it seems more like something subject to occasional circumstances where opportunity arises and not a career path anybody set out on to offset the poor pay offered by their chosen industry.

The burden of proof lies on Gevlon to prove that that the situation is otherwise and so far he has failed completely on that front.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SuperData Research Says Pokemon Go is Back but not in the Top Ten

The SuperData Research numbers are out for June 2017.

SuperData Research Top 10 – June 2017

On the PC side of the chart, the top six entries remained the same compared to the May chartWorld of Warcraft is still listed as a single entry rather than being broken out East/West.

Further down the list, World of Tanks was down a slot, losing seventh place to the hot new awkwardly named kid on the block, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.  Likewise, Overwatch lost ground, dropping to tenth position, being overtaken by comparatively long in the tooth title ROBLOX.  The miracles of massive online games I guess.

Dropping from the PC top ten were Counter Strike: Global Offensive and New Westward Journey Online II.

At the other end, while SuperData noted in the text accompanying the chart that Pokemon Go saw a significant boost in June due to the gym and raid update, it was not enough to get the game back on the list.   Candy Crush Saga, which returned to the list last month dropped from seventh to eighth place, but somehow hangs on in the top ten revenue list after all these years.

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week Eight

What happens when you and your main rival both throw a “Hail Mary” pass?

My eventual picks for week eight were something of a risk, but I felt that risk was really the only way forward in catching up with Liore.

I started off the week’s picks the way I always do, without looking at any predictions or forecasts from the various movie industry pundits.  That led me to a lineup anchored on Dunkirk, which seemed very likely to be the top box office draw for the week.  That justified its top position on the week eight price list.

 Dunkirk            $667
 Girls Trip         $334
 Planet of the Apes $299
 Spider-Man         $266
 Valerian           $219
 Despicable Me 3    $148
 Baby Driver        $70
 Wonder Woman       $57
 The Big Sick       $54
 Wish Upon          $33
 Cars 3             $22
 Transformers       $14
 The House          $10
 47 Meters Down     $6
 The Beguiled       $5

However, its price meant you could only play it once which required loading up the other seven screens with cheaper items.

Then I started looking into what the industry watchers were saying.

The three new movies out this week were Dunkirk, Girls Trip, and Valerian.  Early in the week the estimates were strong for Dunkirk, at about $55 million, while Girls Trip and Valerian were both close to the $20 million mark for estimates.

Then as the week wore on, estimates began to vary.  At one point Variety was practically damning Dunkirk with faint praise, saying that it would make at least $35 million in the US weekend box office.  Mired in the sands, I sought to emulate the movie and get elsewhere.

I tinkered with four screens of Valerian since they were cheaper than any of the alternatives in that estimate range, but the review were soft and the estimates began to sag.

Meanwhile, Girls Trip was suddenly the hot item with excellent reviews.  I had said in last week’s post that it needed to bring in $30 million to justify the price on the list, and the estimates were heading that way while its rivals were shrinking.

I went back and forth on what to pick, not finalizing until Thursday morning with two screens of Girls Trip and six screens of The Big Sick.  The latter I picked because it seemed to be a shoe-in for best price/performance (and the accompanying $2 million per screen bonus) if only it could get to $5 million.  It seemed risky, but I figured that the only way I was ever going to catch Liore was to take a risk to get a big win.

And with the final numbers in, it looked like my picks paid off.

At least I kicked the Baby Driver habit

Alas, The Big Sick failed me, but Girls Trip won it the bonus instead.  Still, a winning combo as it added up to the perfect pick of the week, a win I shared with 655 other players.

Week 8 perfect pick

Unfortunately, it did not do me a bit of good because Liore was one of those 655 other players who got the perfect pick.  So I neither caught up nor fell further behind.  Instead, the gap between Ocho, in third place, and myself widened as nobody else doubled down on Girls Trip.  The left the scores for the week as:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $101,452,698
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $101,452,698
  3. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $80,224,322
  4. Void’s Awesomeplex – $79,914,548
  5. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $79,879,251
  6. Bel’s House of Horrors – $79,690,570
  7. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $78,720,086
  8. Ocho’s Octoplex – $78,477,848
  9. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $77,657,470
  10. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $76,164,575

Liore and I are over $20 million ahead of the pack, but after that less than $5 million separates third from tenth place.  And there were a variety of picks in that group, anchored off of four different movies.  None of them were Girls Trip however.

That leaves the overall standings at the end of week eight as:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $897,719,151
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $859,233,803
  3. Ocho’s Octoplex – $783,974,744
  4. Void’s Awesomeplex – $754,934,995
  5. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $737,576,296
  6. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $721,168,928
  7. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $698,641,677
  8. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $697,599,400
  9. Bel’s House of Horrors – $646,729,434
  10. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $645,737,926

The standings did not change much with this week’s results, save for Belghast overtaking Syl.  Liore remains solidly in first place, with me struggling to close the $38 million gap between her and myself in second place.  Then there is Ocho in third place, facing a $76 million gap between us, and $114 million barrier between him an first place.  But his own third place position is fairly secure as he himself is ahead of Void by a good $38 million.  Void in turn is $17 million in front of Moderate Peril.

The upper rankings are spaced well enough that they seem unlikely to change due to the cumulative nature of the contest.  Unlike more traditional sports standings, where a win has a constant set value, here the bigger your win the bigger your lead in the season.  It doesn’t mean people cannot catch up, but it requires both a big win for the person behind and a bad week… or weeks… for the person up front.  So for Syl to catch Liore, as an example, she has to close a $252 million gap, which means beating Liore for the remaining five weeks of the competition by at least $50 million every single week.

That seems unlikely in the extreme.

Even my $38 million gap means beating her by almost $8 million a week for the remainder of the season which, considering I have beaten her twice so far, seems beyond my grasp.

But we carry.  I, for one, have enjoyed the season so far which, in part, explains why it has gotten about a thousand words a week on the site.

Moving on, for Week Nine we have the following options:

The Emoji Movie          $400
 Dunkirk                 $373
 Atomic Blonde           $289
 Girls Trip              $219
 Spider-Man              $151
 Planet of the Apes      $126
 Despicable Me 3         $100
 Valerian                $99
 Baby Driver             $52
 The Big Sick            $44
 Wonder Woman            $39
 Wish Upon               $15
 Cars 3                  $14
 Transformers            $6
 Guardians of the Galaxy $4

It is a sad weekend in summer when the estimated king of the box office is The Emoji Movie, featuring Patrick Stewart as the poop emoji.

The other big release for the week is Atomic Blonde.  I plan to see it.  However, it is rated R in the US, which limits its audience as the summer movie season favors kids and families, which is why it opens behind both The Emoji Movie and Dunkirk this week.

Meanwhile, the perennial filler pick of the summer, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, made its way back onto the list again, having been pushed off last week.  Not bad for a movie that released in early May.  Take that The Mummy and Captain Underpants!

And a week with no clear champions offers some potential for interesting picks, or so I hope.  The FML research vault already shows Atomic Blonde as the most picked movie for week nine so far, while Valerian is at the bottom of the list, so an early pattern is developing.  Can I fine a lineup that will help me catch up to Liore?

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Man from Annuminas

In preparation for the coming Mordor expansion, and specifically what plans our potential group should have come the launch, I have been back and playing in Middle-earth.

It is the usual mixture of wonder and exasperation.

I got out a champion in our guild who was in the midst of Evendim, one of my favorite zones in the game.  Sigwerd the man champion, for men are men and human isn’t a word of Middle-earth, still dressed up in a selection of cosmetic gear from past expansions and the Lone Lands.

Sigwerd in Evendim

The chest piece is clearly from the Lone Lands… dyed olive green… but I cannot remember where the hooded fur cloak came from.  Just don’t tell PETA, they’ll sue me claiming the former owner of the pelt holds its copyright.

Anyway, the idea was manifold.

I wanted to get back into the game itself, with its various quirks.  I wanted to get a feel for the state of the game.  I wanted to try out a class I might play going forward.  I wanted to work with the new talent tree thing.  I wanted to get a sense as to how quick levels were given that one of the possible plans was essentially “walk all the way to Mordor.”  And I wanted to enjoy myself.

It is no doubt a telltale of my somewhat conservative nature that I like to go back and run through enjoyable zones and quest lines.  As I have noted in the past, nothing makes you feel more like a ranger… or in this case a champion… of Middle-earth than going through a zone like you own the place.  This is as opposed to wandering about the place half lost with the map up and muttering something about, “If that is the goblin camp over there, then the wolf den must me off to the left.”

I must have more than a dozen characters beyond level 30, so the Lone Lands is like a second home to me, with Evendim not far behind.  Once a zone known primarily for the amount of swimming you had to do in order to get around, it was revamped and given a boat transport system and a re-work of quests, all of which turned it into a great zone.

Looking out on the lake

I picked up where I left off with Sigwerd… left off about six years ago… with him picking up the quest trail in Ost Forod.  He was level 35, so ready for the quests there.  I ran through those, then the quick set on the island of Rantost, then up at the north end of the lake, before picking up at Men Erain and what I consider the start of the grand finale of the zone.

Evendim map

Men Erain starts in with tombs of the Kings of Arnor and leads you into Annúminas, the highlight of the zone.

The ancient fallen city, once the capital of Arnor, is such a great area.  When you arrive there are not many quests handed to you, just a couple of general ones that will take you about the area.  But one of the quests teams you with the ranger Orchalwë.  He travels the ruins with you and, as you reach certain points, give you additional quests as well as assisting you when fighting.

Sigwerd and Orchalwë in the ruins

The whole thing is so organic in its way that really puts me in the game.

And you need the help of Orchalwë.  Many of the mobs you face are elites.  While they aren’t too tough… you can solo one, though it takes some effort… they often come in groups of two or three and singletons wander about leading to surprise adds.  Three at once was a tough fight for me, even with Orchalwë throwing me a heal now and with me having taken the Martial Champion spec, which is a damage dealing tank.  Any mistake and the wheels come off.

However, the elites do not become locked encounters, to use the EQII term, when you tag them. (Also similar to how WoW handles named mobs in Legion.)  This is very handy as it encourages casual group efforts.

Sigwerd versus an elite

At a couple points I was standing, looking at an objective when another player of showed up, their own copy of Orchalwë in tow, and we were able to take on the area and finish the local quests.

The whole thing is so well done, perfect for a small group like our, it makes me wonder why more of the game isn’t like this.

Not that there are not flaws, the first of which is that Orchalwë goes away if you finish his main quest, something that left me in the lurch before I was done with the zone.  That is the reason I am soloing the elite in the screen shot above.

Finishing up in Annúminas, though without having hit all the possible quests, left me almost level 41.  I learned a few things along the way.

The first was that after picking a spec I really should have assigned points to the skill tree.  That would have made life easier.  Still, I managed to muddle through with a small set of default skills.  Once applied my available points my options on the hot bar expanded.

Champion skill at level 40

The icons haven’t changed much since I made my humorous/mocking post about them over eight years ago.  They are still hard to see and when I can see them they still don’t tell me what a skill really does.  The one with the box communicates, as does punching Amy Tan, but the rest still could mean any number of things.  As I understand it, the fact that I have what might be termed a “vintage” monitor means that it isn’t as bad as it could be.

And second, don’t hit the “x” key or your camera will lock in on whatever you are targeting.  I did this by accident during a fight and spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out why I had lost control of the camera.  I had to Google the issue to fix it and then unmapped “x” from that function.

On the key mapping front, I had to map both “b” and “i” to open my bags because by this point I can never remember which game uses which and my brain seems unable to cope with this.  LOTRO uses “i” by default, but I kept hitting “b,” so I changed the key… and then I kept hitting “i,” so clearly I have some bad wiring as well.

However, I remain impressed how often I end up getting LOTRO Points for completing deeds.

Hey, more money!

But while the world is still quite worth touring, I did run into more graphical glitches than I expected.

The haunted pixellated forest looms!

More on point to planning, I did get a bit of a feel for leveling up.  With VIP blue bar daily and a 25% experience booster from a past expansion in the pocket equipment slot it was easy enough to get a level a day with a reasonable play session of about an hour.  The blue bar goes away pretty quickly, so doing two levels a day means more than double the play time.

Also, I did this under ideal circumstances.  As noted, I feel like the hero in Evendim and I know where to go for any given quest more often than not.  So, operationally, I was very efficient.  That efficiency drops off considerably past Evendim however.

That means going will be slow, or slower, past a certain point.

I think we could, as a group, power on through to level 50 by doing every last thing in Evendim, including the three person version of any instance, picking up the latter half of the Trollshaws, and then pressing through the Misty Mountains.  The last has Goblin-town, which is another ideal place for a small group.  We’d still probably need to hit Angmar or Eregion to get to 50.

At 50 we could decided to try Moria or get a discounted Blessing of the Valar boost to level 95.

Going much farther than 50 however means postponing Mordor for a long time, and getting there through all the content between there and where we stand would likely test our stamina as a group and the life expectancy of the game.  There are a lot of zones between us at level 40 and Mordor.

And even the ten levels between the Blessing of the Valar and Mordor might be a challenge.

Anyway, the plan is still under discussion.  We have at least another week before the expansion lands, and maybe a bit longer given the tentative launch date given with the pre-order.  I likely won’t feel pressed to buy anything until this coming weekend.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Producing Mechanical Parts

I showed up late to the game with Planetary Interaction in EVE Online. Really late, as in early last year.  That is pretty late for a feature that came in back in 2010.

And even then it took me a while to figure out how to make things work.

I blame that on the classically bad EVE Online UI, which few tutorials spend much time explaining around.  The typical intro to the topic say to do something while failing to mention the dozen motions and clicks that it really takes to, say, actually route a material from an extractor to a processor.

Not an uncommon occurrence in documentation, as once you know how to do something people often blur over the minutia in the brain.  I run into it all the time in technical documentation, where any process of a given number of steps almost always leaves out as many unstated assumptions.

The fact that I was no longer interesting in manufacturing did not help.   I wasn’t particularly driven to figure it out.

It wasn’t until we moved into Delve after the Casino War that I actually found a tutorial that finally broke through the UI barrier and finally made PI work for me.  As with minerals and moon goo, there was a call to start producing PI items to support manufacturing in the region now that we were too far from Jita for cheap and easy shipping.  Buy orders were up in our trade hub, I just had to figure out what to produce.

I tinkered around with various planets and things to produce.  With PI, there are five layers of production.  There are raw materials and then four levels of refined products.  Raw materials are easy, as is the first level of refinement, as that is just turning the raw material into a product usable for further production.  After that production requires combining materials to produce the next level of product.

At that point you end up having to combine the output from various planet types in order to continue, which means pulling stuff off of one planet and hauling it to another… and you can only do production beyond a certain point on barren and temperate planets.  In other words, some work is involved.

One of the early things I discovered was that I could get as far as mechanical parts, a second level production, on just a barren planet.  Furthermore, as a commodity, mechanical parts seemed to be in demand, as they are used in the production of fuel blocks and T2 construction.

After playing around with other options for a bit, I eventually dumped all but my barren planets, then found a few more locally, and concentrated on mechanical parts production exclusively.

Barren Planet Production

All I have to is keep an eye on things ever couple of days, restart extractors after their cycle is over, move extractor heads occasionally, and just make sure things are moving along producing mechanical parts.

Then about every other week I roll out in the Epithal and fly off to each planet’s customs office to collect the output.

Epithal at the Customs Office

I go from planet to planet picking up the output, then head off the the market hub for Delve, which is just a gate and a jump bridge away from my last pickup.

Go Epithal, Go!

There I just sell to the highest buy order.  Occasionally somebody will have a more lucrative buy order in another system and I will travel there instead.  But most times it is to the keepstar that is the center of the Imperium’s economic structure.

The output from PI nets me between 35 million and 50 million ISK per week.  Not enough to make anybody rich or swear off super carrier ratting, but it is a nice little addition to the wallet.  It covers my jump clone and ammo costs.  And, of course, it helps feed the economic machine that is Delve.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Moving Forward to Mordor

As I mentioned last week, the Mordor expansion for Lord of the Rings Online is coming and may be here as early as the end of the month.

Mordor, we’re simply walking in!

I even got a note from Skronk saying that he an Enaldie might be up for a return to Middle-earth, which would give us just enough of a group to do instances.

Of course, there are some issues to overcome.  We haven’t played as a group in LOTRO since late 2011. We’ve done Rift, World of Tanks, Need for Speed: World, Neverwinter, and a couple more runs in World of Warcraft since then.

A metaphor for our group, featuring our group

Our kinship, Murder for Shire, was on the Firefoot server, which is now gone.  I moved the guild to Landroval, which was one of the few choices back when they did the server merge.  That seemed like a good place to start, though we could also use the kinship we formed on the Windfola server back at launch.  Somebody just has to move that guild to another server, since you can no longer access the old servers any more.

Six characters still on Windfola

The characters on other servers might not be required.  The group of three we had on Firefoot, guardian, minstrel, and rune keeper seems pretty viable in the classic tank, healing, DPS format.  At least once we figure out how to play them.  A lot has changed since 2011.

That, however, is all trivia, things we could wrap up with a bit of practice and maybe a Google search or two about the whole spec/talent tree thing LOTRO has going now.

The key question is: How do we get to Mordor?

Obligatory Boromir meme

The thing is, a decade into this war, we’re still standing around in Evendim fighting tomb robbers and pondering whether to head into the Misty Mountains or Forochel next.  So we have a decision to make.  What path will we take to Mordor?

Simply Walk

First on the list is to simply play through to Mordor.  That route means we see the whole epic story line through to the end.

Pros:

We won’t miss a bit of the story!  Complete play through!

Cons:

Where do I start?

We’re in our low 40s and Mordor is level 105 I think.  That is a good sixty levels to go in a game that has softened up the level curve some, but not so much that we could make it there, as a group, this year.

Doing this also requires all of the expansions, which I believe only I own, so there would be a cost.  And while Moria is an excellent zone and worth seeing, after that things are bit less certain.  I found Mirkwood tedious and formulaic without much to recommend it.

And, honestly, our past history is working against us.  We are, as I repeat, a decade into this game and only have a group of level 40 characters to work with.  We’re not the fellowship of the ring, we’re Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Trillian mucking about in cocktail party for a bit then buggering off for something else.

Blessing of the Valar

Second option on the list is to use the current boost available from the LOTRO Store, the Blessing of the Valar.  This boost gets you to level 95 and puts you on the road to Gondor.

Pros:

Gears us up, gets us all to the same level, puts a bit of cash in our pocket, puts us into content none of us has seen, gives us a run through the direct build-up before Mordor, and keeps us the hell out of Mirkwood.

Cons:

At 5,995 Turbine Points, the Blessing of the Valar is a bit pricey, plus there are still expansions to purchase I bet, though I couldn’t tell you which ones.  We could cut that price down a bit as the Blessing of the Valar Upgrade, which requires you to be level 50, drops deal to 2,995 Turbine Points.

Seems like a bit of a waster when the Mordor expansion comes with a level 105 boost.

Also leaves us with ten levels to get through in Gondor, the quality of which I cannot speak to.

Scenes Missing

Go directly to Mordor, do not pass Gondor, do not collect 200 farthings.  The expansion comes with a booster to get you straight there, why not use it?

Pros:

No mucking about, march straight into the black lands ready to stick your sword into the heart of the foe.  We’ll be all caught up, geared up, and playing with the critical mass of the player base that has otherwise been hanging around the black gate wondering when the next bit would show up.

No need to buy anything besides the Mordor expansion.

The content available seems to be sizable, with five zones and another ten levels.

Seems to be the plan best matched to the historical record of our efforts in Middle-earth.

Cons:

Kind of like reading Fellowship of the Ring to just past Weathertop, putting it down, then picking up Return of the King and starting in again just after Shelob’s lair… or maybe even after the battle before the black gate.  I’m not sure where during the timeline of the story we actually enter Mordor.  Are we just the clean up crew, set to mop up the remaining orc holdouts?

Certainly key plot points would be skipped.  But it isn’t like we haven’t read the books I suppose.

Forward to Mordor

I suppose the ideal path would be something like what Star Wars: The Old Republic did, where they gave you an experience boost so you could just do your personal story without side quests to advance.  Something like that for the epic quest line would be ideal.  However, that does not appear to be in the offing.

So that is what we are looking at.  It will be just the three of us I imagine.  Neither Bung nor Earl were much for Middle-earth, and Earl is still banging away in the Broken Isles.  He is dedicated to WoW in a way that a tourist like me never is.

The other choice is which edition of the expansion to buy, though that isn’t a tough choice at all.  Sure, I’d like everything included in the Ultimate Sucker’s Bundle, but $130 is just too much for that.  If that were the $80 package I might be convinced, but as it stands I don’t care about making a high elf character and the title is cool, but not that cool.

People have been upset about the Mordor expansion pricing, to the point that it has Syp arguing for free access to elves.  But the only way to send a message is to not buy something if you think it is over priced.  I’ll take the $40 expansion and be on my way.

Of course, all of this means EverQuest II and the Fallen Gate server will drop by the wayside as I jump games after a month yet again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Eden and The Temp Agency

The Agency has come to New Eden!

Wait, what?

No, not that Agency, though probably about four people even recognize that graphic these days.  No, The Agency is the latest event in EVE Online.

Welcome to The Agency, not a spy MMO

Unlike the never realized SOE spy MMO, or past events in EVE Online, The Agency here lacks for any background lore that I can detect.  The announcement page about the event gets straight to what it is, but not why it came about in the game.  CCP Falcon must have been too busy watching Game of Thrones in his disturbingly symmetrical sitting room to get to that.

Lacking for official lore, I went and made up my own.

The Agency appears to be the capsuleer temp agency for New Eden, existing for those pod pilots who can’t be bothered to maintain a relationship with their local mission agent.

And it is a temp agency with an advertising budget!  You cannot get through logging in without seeing its logo on the launcher, the character selection screen, and of course in the UI once your in game both on the neocom and up what I will call the “info corner” of your screen where you see navigation and star system information.

If only the CSM election could get such penetration into the game, right?

Every day you get some tasks you can pick up and complete.

The Agency menu of tasks

Some of them are easy, while others are oddly specific… or exclusionary, if you choose to look at it from that direction.  I logged in with an Alpha account I have been training up… just in case I need such a thing… and saw The Agency trying to tempt me with running a combat site in a Tech III cruiser.

My Alpha in his best ship

Not only can’t he fly such a ship, an Alpha can’t even train the skills to fly one. (And such ships are called Strategic Cruisers elsewhere, so yet another terminology thing with the game.)

Of course, he could train for it if he was an Omega clone… which is to say a subscribers… and there just happens to be a sale on subscriptions currently.

Hey, here is what you need! Help offset the current decline!

Of course, even if he subscribed, he could train up in time to complete that task as the event only lasts through August 1st… making it a temp temp agency of sorts.  Maybe he should load up on PLEX and buy skill injectors.

Meanwhile, The Agency is like any temp agency in that they make it difficult to get paid.  You don’t get ISK for running their task but tokens that you can use to buy things in the company store.

You also get a 30 minute booster applied to your character when you log in… so if it is useful, you had better undock and take advantage of it quickly.  Of course, it isn’t likely to be all that useful.

A Speed Boost only Asher could love

At least the booster seems to affected by your skills, so I got about an hour of boost out of mine, even though I did not undock.

All of which makes me sound pretty cynical I suppose.  I’ve been told it is a genetic disposition in my family.  But my main characters… the ones who could, for example, fly a Tech III cruiser… are out on a deployment in null sec space where hostiles abound.  And I likely won’t be back before the event is over, so I won’t be able to participate directly. (Though I’ll be looking for some of those reward SKINs on the market later.)

Pulling out from my own issues, if this gets people undocking from stations and out and blowing things up, then it is likely a good thing for the game.  It just doesn’t feel quite like other events.  Who knew I needed the lore so badly?

Anyway, if any of this confuses you, CCP is holding a live developer demo of the event tomorrow, July 20th, at 19:00 UTC.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week Seven

In which I play the same hand for the third week straight.

Going into week seven it looks like it might be time to break with the past.  There were enough newer movies over the last couple weeks to think about a completely fresh line up.  Here was the price list for our pretend theaters:

 Planet of the Apes $705
 Spider-Man         $586
 Despicable Me 3    $201
 The Big Sick       $143
 Baby Driver        $93
 Wish Upon          $92
 Wonder Woman       $68
 Cars 3             $33
 Transformers       $30
 The House          $26
 47 Meters Down     $17
 The Beguiled       $12
 Pirates            $6
 The Mummy          $5
 Best of the Rest   $5

Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man were clearly going to dominate the box office, and were priced as such.  After that though, there was a lot of room to play different combinations.

My process is to make my “gut pick” first and throw out a line up.  I picked apes over spiders and built up what seemed like a sound lineup for a theater.

Then I started looking at reviews and estimates and started tinkering in my spreadsheet to see if I could come up with something better.  As I put numbers in and changed them up, it became clear that Baby Driver was still priced pretty well and had a good chance of being the top price/performance pick.

Of course, that was my logic last week, and it did not serve me well.  And Baby Driver was not going to do well enough for me to go all-in on it again.  I needed a strong anchor for it.  Despicable Me seemed to fit the bill.  I could get a couple of those in and then load up on Baby Driver to fill out the selection.  So, I ended up with two screens of Despicable Me and six screens of Baby Driver.

Still obsessed with Baby Driver

As it turned out I was on the right track, I just had the wrong emphasis.  The optimum line up of the week was four screens of Despicable Me, two screens of Baby Driver, and two screens of Best of the Rest (which ended up being Guardians of the Galaxy), the latter winning the price/performance race with its $2 million per screen bonus.

Week Seven Perfect Pick

Failing to get on the right bus with the 78 other players who managed to get the perfect pick of the week put me $14 million behind their pace.

However, in our little blogger group it was a different story.  Here are the scores for the week:

  1. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $90,999,400
  2. Ocho’s Octoplex – $85,813,237
  3. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $85,515,858
  4. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $83,926,268
  5. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $82,685,858
  6. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $82,034,224
  7. Void’s Awesomeplex – $80,550,386
  8. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $75,707,395
  9. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $64,974,540
  10. Bel’s House of Horrors – $22,213,643

While my picks were sub-optimal, they were still good enough to squeak out a win for the week.

Ocho also went with Baby Driver, but his second place slot was secured by dedicating two screens to Best of the Rest and its resulting bonus.  That put Liore in third place by just under $300,000 with what was the most picked lineup of the week, anchored on Spider-Man with six screens of the fading Wonder Woman and one screen of the now salty Pirates of the Caribbean.

At the bottom end of the list, Belghast didn’t pick for the week, so his entries rolled over from last week.  Unfortunately for him, three of his picks from week six were not available for week seven, leaving him with soft picks and three empty screens.  And then there was Murf who was the only other one to pick this week and not anchor on apes or spiders.  Four screens of The Big Sick and four screens of Baby Driver did not serve him well however.

And so, at the end of seven weeks, the overall scores sits thus:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $796,266,453
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $757,781,105
  3. Ocho’s Octoplex – $705,496,896
  4. Void’s Awesomeplex – $675,020,447
  5. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $658,856,210
  6. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $641,289,677
  7. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $622,477,102
  8. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $617,375,078
  9. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $568,080,456
  10. Bel’s House of Horrors – $567,038,864

Liore maintained her lock on first place, while Ocho and I edged ever so slightly closer to her.  At our rate of advancement I think we need a lot more than six weeks to catch her.  Braxwolf made the only move of the week, jumping up a couple of spots based on this week’s performance, overtaking Syl and Murf.

And now we look forward to the week eight options, which are:

 Dunkirk               $667
 Girls Trip            $334
 Planet of the Apes    $299
 Spider-Man            $266
 Valerian              $219
 Despicable Me 3       $148
 Baby Driver           $70
 Wonder Woman          $57
 The Big Sick          $54
 Wish Upon             $33
 Cars 3                $22
 Transformers          $14
 The House             $10
 47 Meters Down        $6
 The Beguiled          $5

Dunkirk has great reviews so far and looks to be the sure fire box office winner for this coming weekend.  However, war movies are not usually date movies… I’ll probably have to go see it myself, as the wife and daughter won’t be interested… so it won’t open like Wonder Woman or Spider-Man, with estimates putting it over $50 million this week.  Girls Trip, also opening this week, seems likely to drain off some of the young adult female demographic. That is still very strong and it is priced accordingly.  Like the British Empire, you can only afford one Dunkirk.

The other big new arrival on the list is Valerian and the City of 1000 Planet.  While it is from acclaimed director Luc Besson and was promoted heavily as part of his Fifth Element 20th anniversary tour earlier this year, first week estimates are still somewhat soft based on middling reviews, putting it behind Girls Trip, which is slated for $20 million. (And it has better reviews as well.  So, despite it being new on the line up, it is down the list in pricing, which might make it a decent gamble if it does better than expected.  I know we are likely going to go see this over the coming weekend, so that is two tickets you can count one.

And then there is Girls Trip which my gut says is prices a little too high on the list, and you can only have two screens of it.  It needs to do $30 million to justify that price, and is only estimated to hit $20 million, so I will be interested to see if this makes it into many picks.

That is where we stand going into week eight.