Monday, May 21, 2018

Vacation in Venal

Asher pinged to warn us that we would be moving.

The question was where.  Where would we be heading after Pure Blind?

We have been in Pure Blind for a while.  There have been a couple of short breaks, but we have been deployed up there since November at least.  However, once Pandemic Horde moved on from Fade to Geminate and people started sensing blood in the water when it came to Guardians of the Galaxy, things have started to get a bit more crowded.  Adding to us and the TNT deployment near another corner of Pure Blind, The Initiative has become a lot more active coming in from Fountain through Cloud Ring, with FedUp joining them, and Space Violence, anther Imperium group, chose to deploy into the middle of Pure Blind as well.

All those Imperium pilots roaming around the area has attracted the attention of GotG’s neighbors.  NCDot had deployed to Gehi to threaten Querios in the hope that it would make us pull back our groups in the north, but the Imperium has proven to be big enough to have mainfleet ops running to defend Queious without needing to call anybody back.  So NCDot has also been drawn into supporting GotG direction in the north.

And then there is Pandemic Legion.  They had been occupied since February attacking Providence.  Having pushed back ProviBloc and ground down their sovereignty slowly week after week, PL up and withdrew when TEST declared they were deploying to the area specifically to fight them.  ProviBloc quickly regained their territory.

Providence changed over the course of a week

That meant PL was back in the north looking for something to do as well.  With all those forces mixed about us, our small fleets seemed less likely to be effective.  Or so I gathered from Asher’s ping.

We did not know where we would be headed, or most of us did not.  The best way to broadcast intel to your enemies is to make it widely known among your friends, some of whom are no doubt spies.  All most of us knew was that all of us would be going and we would be hauling along all doctrines.  That meant capitals going as well, which helped some as the caps could carry extra ships for people in their ship maintenance bays. (CCP adding those to dreadnoughts a while back boosted deployment hauling potential significantly.)

After handing over a few ships to cap pilots to haul, I got my main in an Oneiros for the trip and my alt in a stealth bomber to haul that along as well.  When things finally came together we undocked to begin our journey, which was estimated to take us about an hour.

Combined fleet undocking for the move

Bombers went to hang out on a black ops battleship on a citadel, the rest of the sub caps loitered on the undock as the capitals were undocked and jumped to their first mid-point.  It was without a station, so they had to land, warp off to make safes, then cloak up to wait out their timer.  Meanwhile, the main subcap fleet aligned out to catch up with the capitals in order to cover them for their next jump, leaving the bombers behind.  But we ran into trouble almost right away.  The locals had heard about our move op and dropped supers and subcaps on us as we jumped through the first gate.

A local welcoming committee

We got away from that with only two ships lost, but it was an indication that our move might be eventful.  We bounced around to get away and when the drop cleared out we ended up back where we started.  We actually stood down for a while to let the hostiles clear out.  The caps were safe down the road, but people were trying to scan them down.

Eventually that cooled down and the subcaps were able to move out and catch up to the capitals, then move ahead to the next mid point, which had a station for them to dock up.   The bombers were sent along as well.  The caps were able to jump again and the subcaps ran along to our final destination, which turned out to be deep in Venal.

I hadn’t been to Venal since early in the Casino War.  It is an NPC held section of null sec, owned by the Guristas pirate faction, and follows the design philosophy of an past era.  It is a region consisting of 95 systems, but it only has five NPC stations in it, so there are not a lot of truly safe locations there.  But it is also in the center of the north.  If you like EVE Online donut metaphors, if the north is a donut (blue or otherwise) then venal is the hole in the middle.

Venal in the North

While none of the stations in Venal are particularly handy, if you don’t mind a few gates between yourself and the locals the region gives you access to quite a bit of the north.  Black Legion used to use Venal for this back when we lived in the north.  For us the likely target seemed to be Branch, where GotG has been able to rat and mine in relative peace for while we have been active in Fade, Pure Blind, and Tribute.  And so we settled in to our new home.

A Guristas Station in Venal

Well, we settled in once we got the bombers caught up.  Somehow they got left behind without a black ops battleship so one had to be cyno’d back in to jump us to our destination.

But once that was done we were able to settle in and start operating from our new location.

Undocking from the new station, Guristas logo visible

From there ops started rolling for targets of opportunity.  While waiting around for opportunities there were a few things locally to shoot.  There are towers and citadels hanging about for us to hit.

Following Asher around on a shoot

So we quickly got on the board with a couple of easy kills.

A POS module goes up, just because I like the picture

But juicer targets await.

GotG, learning of our change of location, packed up and deployed to counter our threat.  Never mind that of the groups deployed in and around Pure Blind represented much larger numbers, we were apparently the threat.  Or maybe we seemed like a manageable target.  Or perhaps they really were worried about their as yet unmolested ratting and mining space.

My Oneiros, lit by the destruction of a POS

This led to a particularly dramatic fight, which I totally missed.  It was on Saturday night and I was at home and not doing anything in particular.  But I wasn’t at my computer and so I did not see the pings for it until The Mittani was smug pinging about it.

We managed to catch and drop on Sort Dragon as he was moving his titan to the GotG staging in WLF-D3.  Sort is the leader of GotG, so this was a particularly satisfying kill.  The clash also saw another titan killed with the ISK war leaning well in our favor.

Battle Report Header

I am extremely bummed that I missed this fight, all the more so as I was home and could have easily joined in.  Ah well, I can’t be there for everything.  But this certainly did make for an auspicious start to our time in Venal.

More information on that battle:

Other posts related to the situation in the north:

Friday, May 18, 2018

What Would Even Help This Genre Anyway?

Earlier this week Massively OP published a Perfect Ten post about things the MMO industry could do to make its games more accessible, and I have to admit that my gut response was, “Who cares?”

The Perfect Ten column used to be the realm of sarcasm and exaggeration for humor, but it seems to have crept into the realm of simply another opinion piece about the MMO scene.  And this one strikes me as another thinly veiled attempt to tell devs how to save the genre.

The problem is, the genre doesn’t need saving.  It is what it is.  It had its moment of peak popularity and now it has settled down into the niche it is.  People still make MMOs, so the genre isn’t dead.  Yes, it has WoW looming over it as the yardstick against which every other game will be measured, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Other genres have that.  If you’re going to make an RTS and you haven’t thought about how it will measure up against StarCraft, then they are doing it wrong.  Likewise, if you’re going to make an action clicky RPG, you had best know what made Diablo and Diablo II great.

If anything, I think the popularity of WoW didn’t act as deterrent enough at the peak of the genre.  Rather than seeing that they would have to compete against this behemoth, a host of developers looked at WoW and felt they could repeat WoW’s success by simply copying WoW with minor variations.

So, in this post peak era of the genre, no amount of accessibility ideas are going to bring back to the growth levels we saw back in the mid-point of the last decade.  We are too hemmed in to the expectations that come with the acronym “MMO,” or at least those that come with “MMORPG,” for any turning of the currently accepted dials to change anything.  And that list is entirely made up of “re-arranging the deck chairs” sort of suggestions.

Which isn’t to say that the list itself is horrible.  I can get behind at least half of them in some way or another, though they are pretty subjective.  What does it mean to have a “clean user interface” these days?

EverQuest in 1999 – Looks pretty clean, everything is big and well labeled

Further down the list, what does a “flexible and fair business model” even look like?  In the end the company needs to pay the bills and keep their staff happy.  If you won’t subscribe and will walk away if there is too much emphasis on the cash shop or lootboxes are a thing, what do you think the company should do?

But overall, these aren’t going to change the fortunes of the genre or any particular game… except maybe the business model thing, and I think that can only get worse for either the company or the customer… or both.

All of which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the discussion either.  MMO nerds will talk about MMOs.  I could crank out a 500-1,500 word opinion piece on 7 out of the 10 on the list.  In this case, I decided to go for the meta discussion about the discussion itself and the genre and its needs.

In the end my gut says that anything capable of causing a resurgence of growth to the genre would have to be different enough from the World of Warcraft template that we would likely call it something else.

We have what we have.  While it is no longer the aspiration of any three devs who happen to be sitting together to build a WoW-killing MMO, it is still a popular gaming niche.  Titles from it make the top ten list when it comes to revenue.  It just isn’t 2008 any more.  The future no longer seems to be a gilded path towards limitless growth.  But some times reality is a good thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

SKIN Scarcity and Rotating Stock

The now standard turnover of items carries on in the New Eden Store, the in-came cash shop in EVE OnlineWe got notice of a new set of SKINs, the Octopus Orange Flight SKINs for some Caldari hulls.

Octopus Orange SKIN on a Raven

Not a bad SKIN if you like bright colors.  A pity that the meta in null sec is mostly about armor tanked ships, so I don’t fly Caldari ships that much these days.  Plus I might have enough SKINs for Caldari already.  Either way I won’t be rushing out to grab any of these SKINs just yet.

Actually, there is another reason I won’t be rushing to buy them.  They’ll eventually be removed from the store and put on sale when that is announced, as happened to a bunch of SKINs as part of teh Octopus Orange Flight announcement.

On the news item, after the list of hulls for the new SKIN, there is a long list of SKINs that will be leaving the New Eden Store.  The Valkyrie set will be going, along with the EoM sets for Amarr ships, the remaining Ruby Sungazer SKINs, the Kopis Edge SKINs for Gallente hulls, and a few others.

I’ll actually miss the Kopis Edge SKINs.  On Gallente hulls it is probably the best looking set of SKINs after the Quafe set.  I picked up a couple of those on sale for hulls I might fly some day, though for some reason the Oneiros isn’t on the list though the Exequror, which shares the same basic hull, is available.  But I have the Oneiros version already… though now I can’t recall where I got it.  Was it an EVE Vegas give away?

Kopis Edge Oneiros undocking with a fleet

Anyway, this the the natural order of things in the New Eden Store. Like most online shopping interfaces, it isn’t made better by having more pages of products to scroll through.  CCP weeds out old items as it adds new ones.  This also lets them play the scarcity card, encouraging players to buy things they might want before they disappear, either for their own use or for speculation.

This has turned into an issue for the Reavers.  While we don’t have a required ship SKIN (though there was a push to get people into the CCP Blaze Ishtar SKIN, which you can see in the background of the screen shot above) we do have an official jacket.  The idea is that when we blow something up the kill mail will have a list of participants wearing the same jacket in front of the same background and in the same pose.

Almost the same pose…

However, in a previous purge our jacket, the Interbus Marshall model, disappeared from the store.  I think it was purged back in March when I had RL issues on my mind, because if I had noticed I would have bought a few to have around for new members.

So now we’re in a bit of a lurch on that front.  It is a bit like real life where, any time I buy something and end up liking it I wonder if I should go buy another because by the time I need another the item will have been discontinued and have disappeared.  This seems especially to be the case with shoes.  Oh well.

At least things that get retired from a virtual store front can be brought back I suppose… eventually.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spring Movie League – Player One Denied

With week eleven now in the past we are down to the final two weeks of our Spring Fantasy Movie League.

Week eleven saw the likely last of the reign of The Avengers as the summer blockbuster season looms.  After two weeks split into three days The Avengers consolidated into a single expensive pick.

Avengers           $580
Life of the Party  $225
Breaking In        $131
Overboard          $85
A Quiet Place      $50
I Feel Pretty      $33
Rampage            $26
Black Panther      $22
Tully              $21
RBG                $13
Blockers           $9
Truth or Dare      $9 
Super Troopers 2   $9
Bad Samaritan      $7
Ready Player One   $6

The Avengers still seemed to be the best anchor for the week.  Neither of the two new anchor priced titles on the scene, Life of the Party and Breaking In, seemed like they had the wherewithal to take on The Avengers and its likely $60+ million take.

Or so it seemed on Monday night, with the forecasts as they stood.  But then the week went on and people started getting more and more optimistic about Breaking In.  Originally slated in the low teens, by Thursday people were calling it closer to $18 million, with some of the more exuberant saying they wouldn’t be surprised if it passed both the $20 million mark and Life of the Party.

With its pricing, a low teens Breaking In wasn’t worth considering.  But at $18 million it was cheap enough that you could load up seven screens of it and it seemed very likely to get the best performance nod, giving it a $2 million boost per screen.

What seemed like a gamble on Monday turned into a stampede by lockout time on Friday as 440 of the top 500 cineplexes went with the lineup 7x Breaking In, 1x A Quiet Place.

I was on board with that, as were seven others in the Meta League.  It seemed to be a very good bet.

And then the weekend came and with both the Saturday and Sunday estimates had a different lineup as the perfect pick.  Both Pak and Vigo were probably feeling pretty good through the weekend as their pick of 1x The Avengers, 3x Breaking In, 4x Ready Player One was on top.

The Avengers were doing about as expected, Breaking In was up near some of the high estimates, but seemed to be good for only about $16.5 million, while Ready Player One popped up relative to its $6 pricing to loom as the best performer.  A film looking to only bring in about $850K suddenly had $2 million added to its value.

The estimates stayed there through the weekend and it wasn’t until Monday afternoon when final numbers started replacing studio estimates that the real winner began to emerge.

The Avengers rang in about as expected, Life of the Party didn’t get past the $20 million mark as was forecast, ending up at about $17.9 million, and Ready Player One managed to hold onto its best performer crown.  But Breaking In popped up almost a million dollars, finishing at $17.6 million, which was just enough to make the 7x Breaking In 1x A Quiet Place lineup the perfect pick for the week.

Spring Week Eleven – Perfect Pick

It does seem a bit odd that the winning lineup lacks the best performing picture.  I am sure it has happened before, but in checking back through this season and the previous three, I didn’t see a single occurrence.  Corr pointed out that Week 9 of the Spring 2017 season had such a case, so it seems on the order of a once a year thing maybe.

There was actually a bit of rage in the FML forums about this from somebody who didn’t seem to know what the phrases “group think” or “echo chamber seemed to actually mean.  They had the pick that got aced out in the end.  Such is life.

Another oddity for the week was the resurgence of A Wrinkle in Time, which showed up in 1,600 more theaters for week eleven for reasons that escape me.  FML missed it as well, so while it made 11th place in the box office it had nothing to do with us.  And then there was Isle of Dogs, which was in 14th place overall.  If the pricing lineup had had perfect information, Ready Player One, in 16th overall, and Bad Samaritan, in 18th place overall, shouldn’t have even made the cut for the week.

It feels like a week where there should have been a Best of the Rest option at the bottom.

So that left the Meta League scores for the week looking like this:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $134,867,391
  2. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $134,867,391
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $134,867,391
  4. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $134,867,391
  5. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $134,867,391
  6. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $134,867,391
  7. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $134,867,391
  8. Goat Water Picture Palace (T) – $134,867,391
  9. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $127,217,432
  10. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $126,539,630
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $126,539,630
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $116,022,807
  13. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $114,083,857
  14. Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $113,930,162
  15. JHW’s Cineplex (T) – $107,265,819
  16. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies (T) – $106,171,002
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $104,587,829
  18. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex (T) – $103,648,088
  19. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $103,474,232
  20. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $102,894,868
  21. DumCheese’s Cineplex (T) – $100,244,909
  22. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $81,531,546

The Meta League Legend:

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

The top eight were all the same pick, followed by Aure and the theory that I Feel Pretty would get a boost from mother’s day, an idea that got crushed in the end.  Still, at least that kept it from being nine with the same pick I guess.  Then the two who got robbed when the final numbers came out, but weren’t too far behind in the end, which gets us to the halfway point of the list.

Dan had the most unfortunate selection, betting heavy on Life of the Party, I Feel Pretty, and RBG.  No Avengers and no Breaking In make Homer something something, and Dan was the only one without either.

That left the overall lineup looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $1,277,151,284
  2. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $1,253,241,558
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $1,215,614,121
  4. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $1,200,573,162
  5. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $1,194,268,834
  6. Goat Water Picture Palace (T) – $1,179,218,312
  7. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $1,171,399,575
  8. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $1,170,388,468
  9. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $1,162,257,297
  10. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $1,138,672,100
  11. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $1,129,640,443
  12. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $1,097,787,239
  13. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $1,051,852,293
  14. Kraut Screens (T) – $1,043,291,814
  15. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $1,014,494,563
  16. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $1,008,757,400
  17. DumCheese’s Cineplex (T) – $1,002,097,397
  18. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $990,856,573
  19. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex (T) – $956,663,129
  20. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies (T) – $940,502,452
  21. JHW’s Cineplex (T) – $932,324,490
  22. Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $835,202,336

Now is the point in the season when I must again mention the seeming unassailable state of Ben’s lead.  Ben essentially has to stumble in the next two weeks.  But given his performance so far this season, with the perfect pick five weeks out of eleven so far, that seems a dim hope.

As for the rest of the list, when eight of us pick the same lineup, and most of those were in the top eight of the overall standings already, that doesn’t make for a lot of change.  Dan took the biggest hit, with a drop from sixth to tenth place.  A few other people changed a spot or two, but there was nothing like a shakeup.

The main competition seems to be for sixth spot overall, with four of us possibly in the running for that.

While leads us to week twelve, the penultimate week of the season and the options it provides:

Deadpool 2 FRI      $501
Deadpool 2 SAT      $452
Deadpool 2 SUN      $337
Avengers            $280
Show Dogs           $99
Book Club           $98
Life of the Party   $76 
Breaking In         $73
Overboard           $50
A Quiet Place       $45
Pope Francis        $25 
I Feel Pretty       $21 
Rampage             $19
Tully               $13
RBG                 $13

Deadpool 2 is the big dog this week, big enough to be split over three days.  In addition there is Book Club, which is literally about four women in their 60s reading Fifty Shades of Grey (Does them reading a bad book make for a bad movie?), Show Dogs, which is set in our world only dogs are sentient, and Pope Francis, which is, as you might expect, about Pope Francis.

With six slots being claimed by new films, there was a serious purge of the low end, with Blockers, Truth or Dare, Super Troopers 2, Bad Samaritan, Ready Player One, and Black Panther being dropped from the list.

Unless you have a serious counter programming inspiration here, it seems like some variation on Deadpool 2 is your anchor choice of the week, two screens preferred.  I have to imagine that The Avengers will tank all the more with another superhero flick hitting the box office.  It is just the usual decision about whether or not Friday is a mug’s game this time around.  For The Avengers FML was on the money for Friday, but underestimated Saturday and Sunday.  Will it go the other way this time around?

And then there are the changes to FML.

Go make your picks early just in case the new interface confuses you.  You now have the option to make different picks for each league you are in.  This will come into play next season when the special rules option shows up. (See Monday’s post about the options proposal.)  Once you see how to copy your picks from one league to the others it isn’t so bad, but if you want to keep all your picks in sync… and you change your mind a lot like I do… it can be annoying.

The new interface also means I can’t take the usual huge screen shot of my lineup.

The price of change.

So there we go, on to week twelve and Deadpool 2!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Age of Kings Continues to Expand

As I mentioned in the previous month in review post, I have been playing some Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings recently.

In part that has been because it is an easy game to fall back on.  I have a long history with it and it is one of the best RTS games I’ve played.  It is well balanced and the AI can be pretty good.  Finding myself without a burning interest in much else besides EVE Online of late, it is pretty natural that I end up here.

There as also a bit of achievement farming driving my return.  I don’t generally chase achievements on Steam unless I am really into a game (like Defense Grid for example).  But I was looking at the list for Age of Kings and had to ask myself things like, “Have I really never won against the Spanish?”  So I started using that as a guide for who I should face.

But mostly I am back because a few weeks ago I got a notice that the expansions for the game were on sale, so I decided to pick them up.

There are now three expansions for the game available on Steam.  These are all recent expansions, as the original 2000 expansion for the game, The Conquerors, comes with the base game now.

I actually already owned the first expansion, The Forgotten, but hadn’t had a lot of time with it.  But I picked up The African Kingdoms and Rise of the Rajas, which add empires from Africa and Southeast Asia.

I have to say I am actually pretty impressed with these expansions.  Even at their normal price of $10 they deliver quite a bit of content.  The all include four new empires to play, with structure graphic to go along with their themes.  I immediately gravitate to that.  But they also come with some new technologies, new units, new map types, new game modes, and four full on campaigns to play through.

I’ve always gone straight to the skirmish mode against the AI or friends, but with a dozen new campaigns to hand I might have to start exploring that aspect of the game.

Meanwhile, I have to say that the additions to the game are pretty good.  The new map types comes with their own biome, so rather than sheep you might have some other livestock to harvest right off.

Grabbing water buffalo on the Mangrove Swamp map

Everybody starts with the same Dark Age buildings, but once you get to the Feudal Age and beyond the buildings in the new expansions reflect the various civilizations.

Burmese in the Castle Age

The new map types have some interesting ideas.  Pictured above is the mangrove swamp map, which limits you to a modest patch of land.  The rest of the map is shallow swamp and trees.  You cannot build on the swamp, so you have to manage and hold your starting spot.  Also, additional gold and stone harvest spots, as well as all the relics, are located within the trees so you have to harvest your way to them or use a siege engine to tear out a path.

Mangrove Swamp map

This would be an interesting map to use against other players.  It certainly eliminates the whole “hide a villager and build a town center in some corner of the map” aspect of the game.  You have to stand and fight because you can’t build elsewhere.

Totally This

On the other hand, this was a map style that the AI wasn’t able to handle.  After repulsing the first attack from the AI and battling it again mid path, I arrived in the AI town to find all the villagers standing around idle.  The AI had harvested up everything on the land patch, used up those resources, and then stopped.

I suspect that the AI has something in it about being efficient, so it won’t harvest wood or mine unless it has a resource collection building close to hand.  However, since you cannot build on the water your villagers have to cross a fairly wide gap to start in on the trees around your land patch.  So despite the fact that the AI was surrounded by woods and had two exposed gold patches nearby, it ignored them as unharvestable.

Still, I have been enjoying some time back with Age of Kings, a game that launched back in 1999.  Thanks to the HD update, which itself is now past the five year mark, it is still very much playable and enjoyable after all this time.

Meanwhile I haven’t really heard anything about Age of Empires Definitive Edition that Microsoft was touting about a year back.  It was supposed to be out on February 20th of this year, a date that came and went without me noticing even a peep.  I haven’t seen any news and since I cannot even purchase it, not having Windows 10, I cannot tell how things went.  I guess it launched, according to Wikipedia, but didn’t make much of a splash.  That’s what making it a Microsoft Store exclusive gets you I guess.

Likewise, the hype around the otherwise vaguely described Age of Empires IV seems to have dissipated as no further news about it has popped up anywhere that I have seen.  So I guess I will stick with what I have.

Monday, May 14, 2018

New Fantasy Movie League Options

If you’re reading this you are probably aware that Fantasy Movie League has been a thing around here for nearly a year at this point.  Over that time it quickly became a weekly post and there is now a TAGN league you can join and all that.  It has been fun… for me at least… and has kept me more aware than I have ever really been about movie releases.

But there have been some problematic aspects to the way FML runs its seasons.  There are features that sit wrong with myself or others, things like the Friday morning lockout deadline which allows the canny to get the Thursday night preview numbers (which count towards Friday totals) and change their lineup at the last moment to account for any unexpected performance.

However, now just two weeks before the Summer blockbuster season starts up, FML has announced a big upgrade to their league features.  You will now be able to alter the parameters of the leagues you create.  The options include:

  • Lock Deadline. You can keep the lock time at the default Noon ET/9am PT Friday setting, or move it up all the way to 6pm ET/9pm PT on Monday (just an hour after new movies and prices come out!).
  • Season Length. You can keep the default 12- to 14-week long season that FML uses for the Season Showdown competitions, or you can select a shorter season length from 2 to 12 weeks.
  • Scoring Settings. You now have control over the following options:
    • Perfect Cineplex Bonus
    • Best Performer Bonus
    • Empty Screen Penalty
    • Worst Performer Penalty. This bonus category is new to FML! The Worst Performer is the Best Performer in reverse: the movie that had the worst box-office-to-FML-Bux ratio. The value can be set to whatever number is desired, or the feature turned off.

This seems to allow a league to be setup to cover all the various objections that people, including myself, have about the default way FML seasons are run.  There is enough there to make for some interesting scenarios.  What if, for example, you gave people a reverse “worst performer” penalty, that is to say, a worst performer bonus?  I am not sure you can do that, but that might shake things up.

Anyway I am going to propose a change to the TAGN league for the summer season.  This is what I am thinking of:

  • Earlier Lock Deadline

This is the obvious one.  Make people pick and lock their choices before Thursday night previews.  The question is how early is early enough but not too early.  Part of me would like to see a really early lock, before previews or theater counts are out, which would be Wednesday morning at the latest.

However, I wouldn’t want to lock too early as that makes it more likely that people will forget to pick.  As fun/funny as a Tuesday morning lock would be, I wouldn’t want to do it before my weekly post goes up to remind people that the game is on and that they need to pick.  So I think the earliest optimal time is Wednesday night.  (Or I could move the post to Tuesday, which might not be a bad idea anyway.  I generally have it done Monday night.

Anyway, if you’re interested, I’d like to hear what time you think it ought to lock.

Then the second thing I am considering:

  • No Bonuses

This is something that triggers a bit of my inner Bernie I think.  Giving a bonus to the person who got the best score strikes me a bit as the rich getting richer.  You already beat everybody and now you want more?  As a DM once said to me, “Gold is its own reward!” when explaining why he wasn’t dishing out xp with gold the way it said he was supposed to back in the era of AD&D 1.0.  Winning is its own reward.  You don’t need a bonus to extend your lead.

Or such are my thoughts.  I’d be good with other people’s input on this.  I’ll put up a poll about this in case you just want to click a radio button rather than write a comment.

There is a poll between this line and the word “comment” above.  If you do not see it AdBlock may be hiding it or you are using Firefox as your browser.

There are also some complications.  If you are in multiple leagues, as I am, you will need to make multiple cineplexes, since each may have to conform to different rule.  Fortunately, that is now supported as well.  If you’re only in the TAGN league I don’t think you will have to change anything, but we shall see.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Something Missing in Scarlet Gorge

Yes, I am still playing Rift Prime, though I haven’t spent much time there over the last few of weeks.  I’ve made a bit of progress, but events in New Eden and a growing sense of ennui has dominated my play time.

Tiger racing through the sticks, trumped by spaceship politics

While I was caught up in levels… or so I felt… I did linger about Stonefield for a bit longer to wrap up a few achievements.  Alas, I could not find two more quests to get the achievement for that, but I did find the torch up on the rocks above Granite Falls for the Dancing with Squirrels.

Stop… Squirrel Time

From there I headed into Scarlet Gorge, the next zone up the chain.

Looking into Scarlet Gorge

I did notice that, as I passed into the zone there was a quest giver standing off to one side who gave me passage through the portal into Iron Pine Peaks.  That was nice, and I filed that away for later, because in my head, IPP was a higher level zone and not something I would bother with at that point.

Scarlet Gorge started as I remembered and I ran through the initial quest chain and followed it northward up the valley until it sort of stopped at about the mid point.  It felt like I missed a chain or a turn somewhere.  I rode further up and ended in mobs that were four and more levels above me.  That wasn’t playing.  My brain seemed to insist that there was more to do, but wasn’t pointing me at anything viable.

I did recalled that I needed to go up the sky tram at the starting hub to an encampment up on one of the peaks.  There I found myself just within the right level range, but that quickly led me into Scarwood Reach.  I was still just level 27 so that did not bode well.

In looking at the map however, I noticed that I had another option.

Map of my area

I can still find references to Iron Pine Peak starting at level 41, but that appears to have been revamped somewhere along the way and was now right in the level range for me.  I took a side trip up there into the snow and ice.

So I headed through the local portal and went to play in the snow.

The quest chain in IPP seemed familiar in that way things do when you’re been away for five years but still have bits and pieces of bouncing around in your head.  IPP was not one of my favorite zones, but I hauled around there through level 28 and into level 29.

Level 29 in the snow

That done, I actually hit the portal at the west end of IPP and headed back to Scarwood Reach where I started in on the quest line there.  For some reason Scarwood Reach is another zone that I remember pretty well, so I have been following the chain of tasks there.

I’ve been here before… I know where the artifacts spawn

Scarwood Reach as a zone is pretty good and I have move through it well enough.

Overall however, momentum in Rift Prime has clearly slowed down.  The guild I am in, which was semi-active, with everybody playing at least a bit each week, has now pretty much dragged to a halt.  I may be the only one who has logged into the game in the last two weeks.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, activity in EVE Online has been eating up a good portion of my gaming time.  But the ennui bit is also a factor too.  I’ve probably played more Age of Empires II in the last week than Rift Prime in the last two weeks.  I also had a good game of Civilization II going over the weekend, though that has reached a bit of a “me vs. the world” stalemate… which I still played for a while rather than log into Rift.

I’m not calling it yet, but my nostalgia time here seems to be in peril.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

MER – Fruitful Farms and Fallow Fields

CCP has their monthly New Eden economic report out for April 2018 so it is time once again to see where the various regions rank.

I started doing posts about the monthly economic report (MER) in part to watch how Delve, the home region of the Imperium, was doing compared to that of competing coalitions.  By that sort of measure the whole things has gotten a bit dull with the repetition of “Delve wins again…” when it comes to various metrics, such as mining output.

One of the responses I figured would come in time would be the rise of some competitor, some group set to vie with the economic power of Delve.  Every month I look again for a challenger, but every month I seem to see much of the same instead, and April’s numbers seem true to form, starting with mining output.

April 2018 – Mining Value by Region

Once again Delve is at the top of the list, a point yet again accentuated by the accompanying bar graph. (As always, you can click in the charts to see them in full, or at least more legible, size.)

April 2018 – Mining Value by Region – Bar Graph

The region held steady it total value mined, though with a further dip in overall mineral prices, that may mean more actual ore, as measures by volume, was actually extracted from the region.

April 2018 – Economic Indices

Delve remains a happy place for those tending the asteroid fields, farming them for their ore, as this actual picture from Delve indicates.

Literally the Delve Standing Fleet

Perhaps more interesting these days is where mining output is going down.  Fade, Pure Blind, and Deklein, where we have been fighting a guerilla war against Guardians of the Galaxy, saw another down turn.  Deklein was especially hard hit, with output dropping from 1.36 trillion ISK in value in March to just 455 billion ISK in April.

But other places of recent conflict have been down as well.  Cobalt Edge, in the process of changing hands, saw a large drop.  Providence remains suppressed as part of the PL invasion of the region.  And even Querious, a holding of the Imperium, is down, likely due to NCDot deploying to Gehi to spur fights around there.

NPC bounties show a similar pattern.

April 2018 – NPC Bounties by Region

As the bar chart clearly indicates, Delve remains out in front on this measure as well.

April 2018 – NPC Bounties by Region – Bar Graph

While Pure Blind and Deklein both continue to decline due to our adventures in the north, Fade held steady though the number was small.  Branch, on the other hand, remained on par with last month.  Branch is the one GotG region outside of the reach of our deployment, so remains a safe(r) place for them to rat.

Meanwhile high sec saw a slight increase in its piece of the bounty pie.

April 2018 – Bounties by Space Sec Rating

In April high sec had 7.2% of the bounties, up from 6.3% in March.  That boost seems to have come as a dip in the overall amount of bounties as April wrapped up.

April 2018 – Top 8 ISK Sinks and Faucets

High sec activity, as measured by agent mission rewards, remains a constant while bounty payments fluctuate.

On trade value The Forge, home of Jita, remains the leader.

April 2018 – Trade Value by Region

It continues of dominate so hard that the bar graph is only worth looking at when you remove it.

April 2018 – Trade Value by Region – Bar Graph, Forge Excluded

With The Forge excluded Domain, with the Amarr trade hub, continues to rule. (Domain is also pretty strong for high sec mining, coming in fourth place overall and ahead of The Forge.)  Delve is behind that, but pretty strong for a null sec region.

When it comes to contracts though, The Forge’s lead dwindles.

April 2018 – Contracts Trade Value by Region – Bar Chart

The strength of Delve when it comes to contracts seems likely tied to production, as selling fully equipped ships (common for doctrine ships or when you order a capital or a super capital) boosts that.

April 2018 – Production Values by Region – Bar Graph

For whatever reason there was only a bar graph for production this month, so actual values are missing.  Delve stands out in front, though I suspect that if we were able to add up the regions around Jita, which include Lonetrek and The Citadel in addition to The Forge, we would find that those together out-produced Delve. (I could find this in the raw data, but I’m not feeling motivated enough to go download that.)

Anyway, production continues in Delve sufficient to outpace any null sec aspirant.

Then there is the regional summary chart, which I like because it stacks up a number of key items into one picture.

April 2018 – Regional Summary Stats

Last month I ended on some questions, which I guess I should try to answer.  They were:

  • Will Fade, Pure Blind, and Deklein remain down?
  • Will the Space Violence SIG showing up in the north push them down further?
  • Will the “Bee Control” attacks on Delve suppress its numbers?
  • Will the Locust Fleet boost Querious mining?
  • Will Delve production remain this high?
  • Am I going to have to bring up Fountain at some point?

I am going to call it, “Yes, yes, no, no, yes, maybe.”

And so it goes.  Another month and not much real change in who is doing what and where.

As usual, the actual monthly economic report contains more charts and all the raw data.