Sunday, November 29, 2015

Breaktime: Hearthstone

Another non-EVE post.  If that offends thee, I pray you skip ahead a bit.

The past few weeks I've been entirely addicted to Hearthstone.  I've been playing for awhile (just after the Naxx expac hit, I think) but it was never a primary thing, just something to monkey with during downtime hours, or when I had 20 minutes before I needed to make dinner, or whatever.

Since we've been back from Blizzcon, it's been a large time consumer for me.  Not because of anything that was announced at the 'con or because of the new single player expansion (though that doesn't hurt), it's just the way the planets aligned and this particular game at this particular moment has struck my fancy.

The dozens/hundreds of games of Hearthstone I've played in the past few weeks has, I think (I hope) actually increased my ability to play.  I'm still not competitive in any sense of the word, but I'm starting to play differently, anticipate my opponent, and plan more than 1 turn ahead.  However, lately my play sessions have been pretty binary - I can go several games in a burst of wins, walk away for a half hour and come back to a string of losses.

My losses, at least lately, are against what I call gimmick decks.  If you play Hearthstone, you know the ones -- the Priest deck that gets Holy Champion out and then buffs the hell out of him at a moment when I don't have a Hex or Sheep.  The Druid deck that does amazing things with mana crystals and kills you by turn 3.  The mage deck that does weird things with Mana Wyrms, secrets, and Archmage Antonidas.  There are some really powerful feedback loops in Hearthstone that can blow a game up very quickly.

I did something this morning that I really didn't intend to do - I built a couple of gimmick decks.  My decks are generally built around synergy, of course, but I try not to wrap an entire deck around getting a few cards in a particular order.  I'm incredibly unlucky when it comes to such shenanigans.  But I got up this morning to be greeted by the 5-win Rogue/Warrior daily and both of those decks in my collection were horrible.  I adjusted the Rogue slightly and got a couple of easy wins and one afk-er, but needed 2 wins to clear the daily.

So I deleted both the Rogue and the Warrior and started over.  I'd been meaning to anyway.

For once, it worked.

Rogue:  Unearthed Raptor is a new (rogue) card from the latest expansion.  It copies a minion's deathrattle.  I'd been meaning to build a deathrattle deck for giggles, so I started here.  Hmmm... what else do I have?  In goes Fuegen and Stalagg, the brothers that summon 11/11 Thaddeus if they both die in the same game.  Baron Rivondare doubles deathrattle effects, so he's in of course.  There's a gaggle of others, but maybe you see where this is going.

First game, I play a Druid who is giving me a run for my money.  It's mid-game, we're both about even on health in the 15-17 range, and there are a few things on the board on both sides.  Fuegen had hit the board on turn 5 and died instantly.  In my hand are the Unearthed Raptor and Stalagg.  My next turn I draw the Baron and put the Stalagg and the Raptor into play, using Raptor to copy Stalagg's deathrattle.  Use my other minions to clean up the board and done.  Druids turn, he kills Stalagg, summoning Thaddeus and plays a taunty minion.

Even with Thaddeus on the board, my victory isn't assured.  We're both near 10 mana and the Druid has a fistful of cards to my 2 or 3.  If I had been the Druid, I might not have even been all that concerned; one good turn, maybe two, and he can break me.

But I know where this is going.  The Baron hits the table.  My Raptor suicides into the taunt minion, killing both.  With the abilities in play, I get another /pair/ of Thaddeuses (Thaddi?).  I've got a total of 33 attack on the board.  Thadd #1 attacks, bringing the Druid down to a few hit points.  I'm still nervous that I've left myself open to some sort of crazy druid surge, but I get a well played, and the Druid concedes.

I sit there stunned for a bit; the perfect combination happens on the very first game.  I am now spoiled forever on this deck, and I don't even like playing Rogues.

Not wanting to press my luck, I put the Rogue on the shelf.  I go back to my collection and construct a Warrior deck.  Another gimmick deck, less obvious, built around Divine Shielded minions.  This one shapes up to be a meatshield deck, basically throwing a ton of minions at the enemy in a suicide wave and a few other means of board control, and Warrior armor buffs (a Pally might have been a better pairing for the Divine Shield gimmick, but I needed a Warrior win).

I'd had my eye on a particular card I'd gotten recently - the Blood Knight - a 3-cost, 3/3 that consumes Divine Shields in play and gains +3/+3 for each one eaten.  I have a pair of them, and both go in the list.

First game, I play a warlock.  He gets off to a slow start but I begin with an Argent Squire (1/1, Divine Shield) and a Blood Knight in my hand.  I go second and am intending to burn the coin and have a 6/6 on turn 2.  Squire goes into play on turn 1 and remains unmolested.  On turn 2, I draw another Squire.  Hmmm.  Here I take a gamble -- I armor up (warrior special ability) and wait a turn.  Turn 3 comes and I burn the coin, play Squire #2 and the Knight, who comes out as a 9/9.  The opponent quickly mouses over him, mouses over his cards in slow procession, mouses back to the Knight, and then concedes.

I am once again spoiled on my first outing.  Make no mistake, my deckbuilding skills are subpar, and I expect this warrior deck to get deleted in a week or two when I realize how truly bad it sucks.

But for one, brief, shining moment.  The planets aligned, and I got the cards I needed.  Not a bad way to start a Sunday.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winter Plans

Winter is the time of year when we start planning for the next Triathlon / Biking season.

(Yes, I know it's not winter yet, technically.  But it's damn near December, we've already driven through one major snow storm, and that's close enough.)

Our season wraps up in mid-September, when fall chores catch up with us and the weather turns cold on weekend mornings when we prefer to get out and ride.  At the end of the season, the idea of another event makes my stomach twist.  By the beginning of October, I'm burned out, tired, and very much wanting to spend a few Saturday morning snug in my bed instead of getting up to load bikes and drive to some race venue.

Something funny happens in November, and by December, the plans begin anew.  By late December, all kinds of crazy things are possible.  Charity bike ride the next town over?  Sure.  Triathlon series that bounces around the state - 7 races in 6 months? Sounds great. Half-Ironman Swim-Bike (no-run) a full timezone away with a $250 entry fee, 2 nights at a hotel, dinners (i.e. about a $1000 weekend for a 4 hour race)?  Well, I should do it this year since I'll already be in shape.  Multi-state thousand mile bike ride?  Sign me up.

Everything seems more plausible when it's 6-9mo away.  I was barely able to take the trash out this morning, and here I am plotting thousands of miles of training and races.  How exactly does that happen?

The first piece of it is of course the absence from the bike.  It's easy to forget why you enjoy the sport; getting some time away gives perspective.  Most seasons I end up taking most of Oct and Nov off so I can get settled for winter.  I spin a bit at the gym, but the long hours on the bike are done for awhile.

The second piece is the family events that pop up in the holiday season.  Chatting with friends and my brothers about all the great past events we've done makes me pine for events of the future.  It's not a competition thing - my brothers and I don't overtly compete with each other - it's the shared memories and the "wouldn't it be cool if...." factor.

Anyway, I typed all that so I can type this:  Next year, I'm looking at more bike distance, fewer Triathlons.  We did three multisport events this year, and I'd dial that back to one, maybe zero.  In exchange, I'm hoping to knock a couple of events off my biking bucket list.  Some of these are specific charity rides nearby that I'd been meaning to do.  The big one is the Imperial Century (100mi).  Most bikers hit this in their first couple seasons; it has eluded me.  Several times I've been trained up but the weather on the appointed day didn't cooperate.  A couple of times I punted in order to ride with family at a slower pace, knowing as I did it that it would put me off pace to finish the target mileage.  This year's plans are focusing around several possible Imperial Century attempts in case one or more doesn't pan out.

And we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

....About Those Daily Quests in EVE

EVE is going to have Daily Quests, and after a month since Vegas I'm a little surprised I still see it popping up in blog comments as a negative thing (said another way, of all the things the pundits could complain about, I'm not sure this one tops the list).

The system, as described, didn't sound all that blasphemous.  Players will get a bonus payout for the first PVE that they participate in that day.  Various activities will get a rank 1 through 5; the higher rank of content, the higher the payout.  

So, CCP wants to pay me for things I'm probably going to be doing anyway.  Uhh. Ok?

I wonder if some of the angst is the lack of clarity from CCP and the internet working itself into a froth.  (Wouldn't be the first time....)  When described at Vegas, most of the room kind of shrugged and waited for the next statement.  I leaned to the guys next to me and said something like "Uhhh... EVE is getting dailys?"  More shrugging.  It really sounded quiet harmless.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't like WoW dailys (I'm talking specifically about Wrath- and Cata-era dailys).  I'm not even that fond of GW2 dailys though I can usually ignore them.

I dislike systems that feel even vaguely mandatory; I don't want a laundry list of chores that I "must" complete each session to stay relevant in the game.  I don't want something that I "must" complete each session before I can go tackle whatever it is actually I logged in to do.  After a week or three of doing the same 'chores' every day, suddenly those 'chores' become almost the entirety of your online play, and burnout ensues.

But I don't mind a system that gives you a small boost for doing something you were going to maybe do anyway; i.e. flexible systems that let you choose the activity and lurk invisibly in the code waiting to surprise you with a boost.  Yes, there's an incentive, but it's not the end of the world if you skip a day or a month.  For those quiet times, though, the payout becomes another reason to maybe gang up when you otherwise wouldn't, or maybe undock and look for trouble instead of spinning your ship and chatting for the evening.  And I think EVE needs a few more good reasons to undock.

Anyway, I'm hopeful that some of this will get explained if CCP Affinity is able to get the PVE plans out in the blog post she promised.  Or maybe I'll reread it and light my torch and grab my pitchfork and join the angry mob.  

But right now... not so much.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Overwatch Stress

So, I got an invitation to the Overwatch stress test this weekend.

I am both excited and appalled.

I'm excited because I really want to like this game. In my distant past, I was a shooter guy. I attended college in the heyday of Quake. I belonged to a clan, when that was a thing. I almost didn't suck.

I have played only a few shooters in the intervening years, most notably Global Agenda.  I am rubbish at console games and very out of practice at it.

These days I am too old, too dumb, and too slow to compete with a generation raised on CS, Modern Warfare, and the rest. So I am appalled that I'll be tossed in the meat grinder for their fodder.

At Blizzcon, there were kiosks set up to log your demo feedback. My write up for them included one topic:  what will make or break this game for me will be the matchmaking engine. If its smart enough to put me into a game with a slew of other terribads, I might stand a chance of having a reasonable time. If its more random, then I will not be in a position to contribute much, and will leave frustrated.

I realize beta/stress testing isn't necessarily intended to demonstrate this one way or another, but I'll certainly be paying attention to how balanced the teams are. Demo lines at blizzcon failed us and we got face stomped both times. I need a redemption or I'll be hard pressed to spend any money on the title.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blizzcon vs. EVE Vegas

As I sometimes do, I was reading my own blog at lunch and reminded myself that I had meant to do a follow-up to the travel we've done.  I got home tonight and had the EVE Vegas Survey to complete, and it was another poke in the ribs that I needed to get some writing time in.

So here I am.

This isn't a "X is better than Y post," but I can't help compare the two events because they were so different.

And given the relative scale of the events (At 25,000 players, Blizzcon was roughly 35x larger than EVE Vegas at 700ish), the events were a much different experience.

EVE Vegas came first.  It was at a hotel conference center, and didn't quite use the entire area.  The event was well organized, but friendly, almost casual.  There were few lines.  Staying in the hotel a few floors above the venue was super convenient.  Food was expensive, but available (we ate at Earl of Sandwich all 3 days for lunch, hah) with an easy walk, as long as you didn't get lost in the casino.

Vegas as a venue is fantastic.  You can walk straight from Nerd Kingdom, descend an escalator, and be in a different world.  Everything you could want - from 5-star cuisine to chilidogs and beer feel like they're in arm's reach.  If you're wanting to step out to a show or do some non-EVE things in the evening, all kinds of shenanigans (from family friendly to very ... not family friendly) are there, all within easy walking distance.  Taxicabs are plentiful and will get you anywhere you're not willing to walk.  And the Strip itself is its own experience -- the beauty of the Bellagio fountain, to the shuffling masses of tourists, and the ever-present locals.  Vegas itself is a worthy destination, and the EVE content is just bonus.

Anaheim is a fine venue too, of course, but the Anaheim Convention Center (ACC) is a little more remote.  I mean, it's in the center of the LA metro area, so it's not like a ghost town, but  it's surrounded by a fairly bland mix of hotels and chain restaurants.  Our hotel was a 3/4 mile walk, and the route between was forgettable.  I couldn't get a room close to the ACC, and the time coming and going was a tax on everything we did.  The food at the ACC was okay (only marginally less expensive than Vegas) and the presence of the trendy food trucks was a real bonus.

Disney, of course, is just north of the ACC, and we certainly had fun there.  But again, it feels so spread out, even with our rental car (we didn't rent a car at Vegas), the logistics felt daunting.  Disney itself was great, but not superb.  I could visit Vegas once a year and still be finding new things to do.  Last time we were at Disney was in 2008 and it hadn't changed much, and I was bored by 1pm or so.
There were lines everywhere at Blizzcon.  Lines at Disney, lines for the store, lines for badges, lines for the men's room, lines for food, lines to get into the venue, lines to demo games.  With so many people, it's to be expected, and as I mentioned in another post Blizzard had their schiznit together with handling the crowd, but I still spent a LONG time standing in a queue.

Data point:  Tickets for the two events were roughly the same, as was airfare.  But we spent more at Blizzcon due to a) needing a car and b) more expensive hotel room.  And that's AFTER we paid for a super-cool balcony room at the Cosmo the first night in Vegas; Anaheim was still more $$.

The basic idea of both events are the same.  Open ceremonies, Keynotes, Closing Ceremonies.  Panels and pitches and briefings sandwiched in between.  After that the similarities kind of end.

EVE Vegas felt like a few of the professional conferences my old office team used to host once a year.  Timing was punctual and the A/V team did a good job with microphones and projectors, but it still felt a little home baked.  There were donuts and coffee in the morning, and cookies in the afternoon, just like a professional conference.  I'm not complaining (the cinnamon twists were to die for!) but it struck me as a little odd.

Blizzcon is a spectacle that's beginning to compete with Comic-con or GenCon.  There are multiple stages with content all at the same time.  Multiple simultaneous game tournaments.  Vendor booths and booth babes.  A live TV show being broadcast (DirecTV feed).  Life size statues of your favorite characters sprinkled throughout.  Tons of fans in costume.  The Blizzcon store had something like 144 cash registers (my rough estimate based on counting banks of 12), and the line for the store nearly filled an entire convention hall.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that the EVE briefs were a little more technical and a little more detailed than the corresponding Blizzard briefs.  The Blizzcon gang is attempting to sell a "philosophy" to millions of people, as in "this is the direction we're going next."  CCP is trying to talk hard numbers and detailed/complicated mechanics with a very savvy audience.

The Script and Message:
Blizzard employees walked out on stage confidently; the content was well rehearsed and it was apparent that the corporate goons had run the script through the corporate marketing machine.  Certain phrases and language kept reappearing in the Blizzard content; it was very apparent to me that it was part of an overall strategy for a "consistent message."

Contrasting this, CCP devs, especially early in the weekend, seemed apprehensive that they'd be boo'd off the stage, and seemed happy and a little surprised that nobody trolled them.

I found myself laughing and clapping at some of the EVE content while I didn't get very excited about the Blizzard briefings.  I don't know if that's a reflection of the briefing content, or the state of both games, or just how the stuff was presented.  Maybe all of the above.

A subtle thing, but my feeling is that CCP gives the vibe that they're using the event for feedback, as in "Ok, here's what we're thinking..."  With Blizzard, everything has been decided and set in stone.  Communication was one way only.

Schedule Stress:
EVE Vegas is 3 days.  The days are fairly short - late morning start and done in time for people to get ready for a night out.  You can plan your day around the things you want to see; since there's not as many simultaneous things you can easily pick a time to step out to the demo game line, or just go hang out at a table with some friends and chat.

Blizzcon was 2 exhausting days.  In line by 8, stay until the venue closes at 9pm, and active the whole time.  At any given point, there's at least 2 things you wanted to watch, and no matter what you pick you're missing out on something cool.  As a consolation, there are flat panel screens EVERYWHERE at Blizzcon, some of them showing things going on elsewhere at the venue so you can watch from afar instead of having to recap it on youtube when you get home.

Storytelling and meeting other players (and Devs) is VERY much a part of the EVE Vegas experience.  At Anaheim we were anonymous and had short conversations with guys around us, but no lasting friendships.  There's SO MUCH going on and it's so loud that it's hard to just relax and chat (and as luck would have it, the ONE group that I tried to chat up during lunch were from Korea and that was a language/accent barrier to overcome).

Bottom Line:
We enjoyed both events, and if I had it to do over I'd still attend both.  I came home with a greater respect for, and I think a greater insight into, both game companies.

The EVE event was more personal, and I came away with friends I hope to keep in game for some time, which is far more valuable than the trinkets we got at Blizzcon.  So, if I had to pick ONLY one for next year - it's Vegas, baby.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Back in the Saddle

I'll (hopefully)  have an EVE post tomorrow, but for now I'll ramble a bit about real life.

The title of the post refers to this being the first week that I'd really done any rigorous exercise in a long while.  Onyx and I are back to our regular 2 days at the gym a week, and I did body weight stuff at home on the off days.  At the gym, we did a fairly normal swim workout one day, and I put on my funny biker clothes and hit the spin bike the other.  Instead of making me feel tired, all the effort has made me feel more focused and alert.  I have aches and pains, but the colors outside are a little brighter, and I've been sleeping a little more deeply.

I spent a good chunk of the early afternoon outside.  It's cold, but sunny, and I enjoyed getting my heavy Carhartt jacket out of the closet for the first time of the year.  Here's a secret:  I actually detest warm weather and really love temps from the 30s to 50s.  I don't mind snow, and a decade ago I would have moved north if a job or two I applied against had actually hit.  So, all that to say that today was a good day to be outside, and the work I got done was satisfying.

I should probably sharpen the saw and tackle an offending maple that I intended to take out this fall, but I stopped after mulching an acre of leaves.  Perhaps tomorrow if it's not too windy.

It occurred to me that this has been the first 'normal' week since perhaps July or maybe June.  I'm not working extra hours, or sick with the plague, or travelling, or entertaining out of town friends or customers, or getting ready for a race, or dealing with contractors at the house.  I keep saying that this year has been exhausting and I'm glad that we're finally seeing things settle back down.  (The weather here meant that from April to maybe June, I was mowing 2-3 times a week just to stay ahead.  The rest of the time it was raining.  The grass grew absurdly fast; all other chores went out the window ... once it dried out, I was neck deep in work politics and a job change and the last 3 months we've been on the road almost every weekend).

There's a zillion things I could do around the property, but considering all that we've done, I feel justified in a little recovery before I get too concerned about my to-do list.  Hopefully Fall is a slow burn and winter is mild and I can make progress.

I need to get my weight and diet back under control.  I'm not crazy out of bounds, but I'm above a magic number, and about 10 lb over my doc's target.  Travel and entertaining are bad news for the way I eat, and overall 2015 has been a crappy year for my weight.  Although I've kept the damage to a minimum, as things begin to return to normal, I'm also reminded that I should look at the scale too.

In terms of bikes and triathlons, right now next season is very much in flux.  I feel like I need to scope out the season at least at a high level as it'll affect my off season training.  For example, if I'm not doing any triathlons then I can dial back the swimming.  Right now I'm leaning towards focusing on biking, and taking on a couple of my bucket list goals -- an Imperial Century (100mi) or maybe a Double Metric Century (200km).  I've been biking since 2008 and have yet to complete my first Century - this is a right of passage for most bikers, and over the years I've been thwarted by injury and weather whenever my attempts are made.  I didn't even plan an attempt for 2015, but maybe 2016 should be the year.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Allure of the Damsel

Abavus Durden

Category:  Other Things Just Make You Swear and Curse
Edit:  My submission was selected for FIRST PRIZE!

[MEANWHILE... at a secret enemy hideout....]

Zor strode triumphantly into the conference room, throwing both doors wide and not breaking stride as he entered.  He loved making an entrance and he knew he'd be silhouetted against the bright background, ominous and intrusive.  Those assembled stifled their conversations mid-syllable and turned their heads at him.  They blinked briefly, and then the doors behind him slid closed and the room returned to its normal dim.

He soaked in the moment, standing motionless at the head of the table, eyes half closed and chin down.  He took a deep breath through his nose.

Finally, he looked around at his assembled crew, acknowledging a few with a nod before beginning.  He was in his elder statesman mode, genuine and approachable. A salesman.  "Gentlemen, I have a mission for us," he said with a smile.  "Good money, and acceptable risk."

"Good," said Kruul, interrupting.  "Have you seen the price of PLEX?  If things get much worse, I'm going to have to go run incursions."  Kruul bounced back in his chair and laughed at his own joke, while a few others snorted.

"Kruul, you're so poor," said Elena Gazky, "the guys in Jita actually WILL double your isk."  Elena winked at Zor while the others cackled with laughter.

"Hey, it's tough for a pirate to live off of insurance money," Kruul countered lamely.

Just like that, Zor's moment had ended.  Those around the table took Kruul's bait and the room descended into banter.  A half dozen side conversations erupted.  Elena got up from her chair to fetch a cup of coffee from the dispenser along the wall.  Schmidt wadded up a piece of paper and threw it playfully at Dread Pirate Scarlet.  She deflected it, then flipped him the bird.  A Seven Deathguard was pantomiming two ships dogfighting with  his hands to the Seven Thug next to him.

But Zor was patience.  Minutes passed, but Zor remained standing at the head of the table, rolling his eyes at the ceiling.  Amatuers, I am working with friggin' amateurs, he thought.  He grabbed the bridge of his nose, attempting to ward off the headache that was brewing and then slowly raised his other hand for silence.

Anire Scarlet noticed first.  "Sorry Zor.  What's the job?" she asked.

"Settle down, everyone," Zor said .  "C'mon, put the chair down Oluf.  Seriously. Sit down."

Scarlet persisted, "What's the job?"

Zor sighed.  He had practiced the speech, and this was NOT how this was supposed to go. He'd need to win over the group.  Anire Scarlet would be the strongest opposition and might bolt solo, hoping to draw the others away. He'd need to tackle her first.  "Now Scarlet, look, before you start..."  The room grew quiet.

"Don't tell me.  It's a snatch and grab, then a ransom," she said. The room groaned.  "I simply don't understand the allure of the damsel."

"Scarlet, it's not that simple.  This intel is solid." Zor said.

"Gah, you're not denying it.  Which damsel is it this time?  How many times have we run this scam, and how many times has it paid out?"

Zor snorted, "Ok, fine.  I'll say it.  It's a snatch and grab, then a ransom.  It's respectable bad guy work, and a solid gig.  It works once, and we're all made."

Kruul turned to face Zor squarely, looking surly.  "With respect boss ... No, Serously, no. Here's what happens.  We get the girl, take her to wait for a ransom, and make her scrub some dishes at the pleasure hub.  Half a minute later, there will be some chucklehead in a Caldari Navy Raven knocking on our door, and he'll blow our crap up."

Zor shrugged, deciding to let this play out, "Well, I suppose I understand how you can feel that way.  But you're jumping to conclusions. Let me back up and tell you the whole plan."

"Go on then," Kruul said.

Zor chewed his lip for a minute, then said, "Ok, it'll go like this.  We have a brief window where we will have access to the daughter of a senior executive within Joint Harvesting...."

Kioran Jeraulek elbowed Yarl Uzbeki and said under his breath,  "JOINT Harvesting.  Always cracks me up.  And gives me the munchies."

"They have the best stuff," Yarl agreed.

"Gentlemen, please," Zor said.  "... a daughter of a senior executive.  We grab her..."

"... and take her to the Pleasure Hub." Kruul completed slapping the table in anger.  "Krikey, Zor. At least try a little."

"It will work this time," Zor insisted, shrugging.

"How are you getting around the door?" Schmidt asked.

"What door?"

"WHAT door??" Schmidt fumed. "You know what door... we dock up at the station, you get shoved in your captain's quarters, and I in mine, Kruul's in his.  To link up, we have to get past that damned door that's always locked to get out into the station hallways."

"Oh, that door," said Zor.

Schmidt responded only by batting his eyelashes.

"Don't worry about the door," said Zor.  "We'll hack our way in."

The room groaned again. Oluf said, "Gawd Zor, I hate that mini-game. I always get my ass blown up."

Zor smiled, "Then don't suck."

"Frikkin' hacking.  Frikkin' Incarna," muttered Schmidt.

Zor was suddenly very serious.  "Schmidt. Don't utter that word around me. Ever."

"What? Incarna?"

"That's twice. I beg you to stop," pleaded Zor.  Schmidt sat back in his chair, puzzled.

Elena explained quietly, "Dude. Everyone knows... it's like Beetlejuice.  Say the I-word 3 times and 500 forum warriors show up and troll your thread. Pipe down, we don't need that kind of visibility."

"Oh, sorry.  I thought people were finally over it.  That was like, years ago."

"You'd think ... but no."  Elana looked up "Zor, I have a dumb question.  Why not get one of those Anomic Taloses to cover our six for this op?  Or that anomic Guristas Worm that has been working these systems?"

"They're dead. Word is, Sisters of Eve put out a hit and that guy from Dog's Breath dropped them."

"Poor bastards."  There was a quiet pause for fallen comrades.

Zor continued,  "Ok, so to review.  We grab the young lady, retreat to Kruul's Pleasure Hub and contact Joint Harvesting ... stop giggling Kioran ... and collect the ransom.  Any questions?"

Kruul raised his hand, "Can I fly the raven this time?"


"No? Come on."

"No. Standard doctrine applies.  You provide close support in your your cruiser and signal the rest of the fleet if there's trouble."

"You just like flying the raven, orbiting out there."  He pantomimed, "Look at me, I'm Zor. I'm orbiting you and I'm immune to target painters."

"Careful, Mr. Kruul.  Or you might find yourself waking up in a clone bay," said Zor with a grin.  Kruul responded with a chuckle and a waive of his hand.  He'd won Kruul back.

Scarlet jumped up, "Look guys. Respectfully, I'm out.  I have to go deal with some Pithum.  I've got a bounty on my head and an implant to deliver.  Wish me luck."

"Fine Scarlet," Zor said unsurprised. "We'll get you in on the next one.  Fly safe."

"Always do," Scarlet said as she was heading to the door.

"What about the rest of you?" Zor asked.

Kruul looked around the room, eyeing each of his compatriots.  Finally, he looked at Zor and said "We're in.  When do we start?"

"X up for fleet, we undock in ten minutes."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blizzcon Day 2

Sitting at the airport waiting for our flight back to cold dark November reality (as I type it is 28 deg F back home), trying to wrap my thoughts and feelings around what we just experienced.

I am running on 3-4 hrs of sleep and the Starbucks is only marginally helping so don't expect any long winded dissertations just yet.

I will say that I am leaving happy. WoW's evolution is swinging back to my preferred play style, with more emphasis on real world content and questing instead of instances. Things that I said wow needed years ago are now being implemented. It's not all love and hugs for wow, but I feel vindicated in many ways.

The past 4 days have been so full and so busy that I feel like we've been gone for two weeks instead of a few days.  We turned in the rental car this morning and it hit me that our arrival at LAX on Wednesday feels so very long ago.

I did want to correct something from yesterday (or whenever).  Our last trip to Blizzcon was in 2008 and according to Wikipedia had 15,000 attendees.  More recent years, and presumably 2015 included, are listed at 25,000 attendees. I kept saying the event felt bigger, and I was right. ;).

That many people requires a different approach or bad things happen. The biggest shift we noticed was that instead of Blizzcon being a homegrown house party of an event, it has gotten serious. Gone are the Blizzard staff "volunteers" running everything. In their place are hired security and professional temporary workers manning all posts. Staff were good with supervisors magically appearing anywhere there were issues. All staff we encountered knew their schiznit and had well rehearsed answers. When changes like this happen, often the result can be a very "corporate" feel, but the overall event retained most of its charm. When we weren't looking, Blizzcon became a professionally run event, and for the $$ we're forking out, it had to.

We are done travelling for awhile and I am thankful. After the past few weeks I am looking forward to the relative calm of the holidays. (Which is saying a lot, as our holidays are always too busy to truly enjoy).

More later on this topic... // Aba

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Blizzcon Day 1

Day 1 of Blizzcon is done.  The movie trailer is out. We attended several panels but didn't walk the show floor very much.  Today we'll remedy that as I want to demo a few of the games and Onyx wants a few more trinkets from the Darkmoon Faire area.

I am here as a former hardcore Wow raider. Currently, I dabble in Hearthstone.  I play Diablo3 in spurts, but actually haven't messed with it in awhile. I poke WoW with a stick but cant call myself active. I am rubbish at RTS and didn't buy the last StarCraft expac and probably won't buy the upcoming one.

I am interested in where they take WoW. It's far too late for big risky innovation on that title, and they'll continue to milk it for cash while they can. That's not me being bitter, that's just where the title is in its lifespan.  I actually liked what I heard in some of the talk - in particular wow is getting GW2 style dynamic level scaling for the new continent.  Monsters and quests will scale to you and you can just go play where you want without ever worrying about getting off track. I like dynamic stuff, and I really like this.

The D3 presence here was small, and the one panel on it we missed. We did walk past it and it was PACKED. Like, all chairs full and people standing 5 deep all around the perimeter, call the fire Marshall PACKED. I was happy to see so much interest in D3. I hope Blizzard was watching.

The big focus is on esports (bleh) and Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch in particular. Next year will be a big year for Blizzard on this front, they recognize it and I wish them well, but my days of being halfway decent at fast paced shooters and clicky games are long over.

The last time we were here was 2008. They say the crowd is about the same size at 25,000, but I don't believe it. It feels much much larger than it did before. The venue is the same but there are more stages and more vendors and people just absolutely everywhere.

We are having a good time. Blizzards management of the crowd has been superb. There are so many flat panel screens around that as you walk or wait on a line your not really missing anything. As I mentioned, my gig was EVE Vegas and this was Onyx's.  But I'm finding things to check out and get excited about and that's why we come.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Blizzcon Day 0

Back on the road already, this time to Anaheim and Blizzcon. We got in yesterday and went straight from LAX to Randy's Donuts, which is made famous of course in Iron Man 2. The donuts were great and the local landmark was fun.  But yesterday was a 20-21 hour day, and we collapsed early LA time. I slept for 11 hours.

Badge pickup is today, and I assume underway as I type.  We are up the street waiting for entry into Disneyland.  We'll walk around a bit, then get badges, then decide if we want to come back for fireworks. 

Surreal moment of the day was standing in line for Disney (and now in full Star Wars toy onslaught), on a trip for Blizzard, talking about EVE.

Nerds rule.

EVE Economic Data Dev Blog

Attempting to link from my phone. Bear with me.

One of the sessions at Vegas that I personally enjoyed most was the economic report.  The corresponding dev blog is now up. A quick scan suggests this is the same data and dialog as presented in Vegas (I.e. not updated data).  But its an interesting read, and I'm sure will stoke the fires on some of our "favorite" debates.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy Monday

It was a good EVE weekend.  One of our rare weekends off and an oddity in that we traveled less than a handful of miles.  Saturday was  a day of yard work, but I mildly overdid it and declared Sunday to be a no-work zone.

And thus, aside from a brief foray into Hearthstone, Sunday was an EVE day.

Mrs. Durden (aka Onyx) resub'd her account to chat with EVE Vegas friends and I lured her into the world of Burners -- we dropped the Blood Ashimmu anomic together a couple of times.

We also found the Blood Raider gauntlet for her and managed to get the BR skin for her before the event expired.  We kept it in highsec (she'd been back ingame all of 15 minutes after a ~4 year absence), and roaming around as a small pack was fun and made me pine for the good ol' days.

I moved a few things around, but mostly I ran missions and had a very healthy spawn rate of Burners.  Sansha and Angel (single) frigate were offered several times each.  Team Jaguar, Team Enyo, and Team Jaguar again.  I had the new Guristas Mothership Burner offered a couple of times, but it was late and I was half-watching TV (Dr. Who, new episode) and decided it wasn't a good time to play with a new fits and I punted it.

Last night I docked up for the night after almost losing my Golem to World's Collide.  My large orange tabby decided it was time to sit on my lap.  I had no vote in the matter, and was only half paying attention to the encounter anyway.  With his fuzzball blocking part of the UI, I lost track of both capacitor and the fact that I was aggro'ing the entire pocket.  Incoming damage got away from me at the same time that I noticed I had one pie sliver of capacitor left.  I was able to use a delicate touch on the shield booster and kept it out of armor.  Phew.

We leave at o'dark early on Wednesday for Anaheim and Blizzcon.  You may get a few Blizzcon posts, but I've done my best to keep this an EVE blog.  Will be interesting being there -- Onyx (Mrs. Durden) is more of the Blizzard fan these days than I am.  (Vegas was my event, Blizzcon was hers.)

I bought a couple shirts at EVE Vegas to wear at Blizzcon to see if I get any sort of a response from the crowd.  If you're there (long shot, I know), look for EVE shirts and say hi to me.

Alpha State

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."  That's one of my favorite quotes from the Matrix 2.  It has to do with the ...