Elder Scrolls Online: Nameplates Coming

skyrim mod

While playing Skyrim, I miss my ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) high elf Templar.

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of ESO. Most reasons I left the game I know are still in place: no real Auction House, only four classes with a very limited skill bar, and a super-obtuse UI that’s difficult to navigate.

I’d almost forgotten about the missing nameplates.

I remember when the ESO devs were showing off their game pre-launch, practically thumping their chests proudly at their amazing non-existent interface. Apparently they hadn’t noticed how much players don’t like their interface.

SkyUI – the super-popular interface-fixer mod for Skyrim, has over eleven million downloads. That’s a shocking number, apparently about one download for every two copies of Skyrim sold on all platforms (22 million) worldwide.

Last month the ESO devs actually announced they are planning to make the ESO interface a little less painfully opaque. They are planning to put back nameplates, which have been gone since beta. (I saw them – they weren’t glorious, but they worked.)

Apparently it only took two years of begging from players (I was one of them early on) and even a Change.Org petition!

I’ll probably give ESO another try in subscription mode as soon as I finish Skyrim.  I miss my elf, and I miss open world cooperation.  ESO has a strong focus on open world coop, i.e. Delves.

In the Orsinium preview last fall, the Creative Lead said public dungeons are a place they want to get more characters to, so they increased the experience rewards.  I love public dungeons.

Rift also has excellent grouping, public and otherwise, but I’m not ready to return yet.  Archonix put out a producer’s letter this week.

Rift has introduced login rewards, and intends to roll out multi-core and 64 bit client support this year, along with new souls, and new Carnival content.


Hearthstone


In other news, Blizzard announced a major change to Hearthstone – new ways to play. Casual and ranked play will be broken into an official tournament division using only the most recently released decks of cards, while a “wild mode” will allow all cards from all sets.

I think it’s a great and needed change for various reasons. The players get a lot more new cards. The devs are less constrained, so they can do more creative things.

The game is free, so the amount of money that players spent on the retired cards (Naxx and GvG initially) in “standard” mode is not that much money over a two-year time period, unless they spent far too much in the first place. The real catch is the amount of money needed in the future to keep up with the pace.


Gaming Stocks


Stocks today (Friday) are giving up on their attempt to rally from Bear mode, and are dying in a fire. Even companies announcing great results this quarter (Google, Facebook), are being pummeled (down 4% and 6%).

That’s not wild mode – that’s crazy mode. Blizzard’s stock is continuing to get killed, and I’m now back to break-even.

I sold my Electronic Arts last week at break-even after they reported lackluster results, and the stock dropped 8% in one day. So I’m happy enough to see it drop another 10% this week.

I also sold Alibaba last week because I realized it’s a liquid trading proxy for China, and it no longer trades on its own merit. So that means I have to play that game, so I’m looking for the chart of the China ETF (i.e. FXI), to break out of the downsloping pattern before buying back into Alibaba as a proxy for China.

I’m just holding Activision-Blizzard and Microsoft until hell freezes over. Blizzard debt is even more of a potential albatross with the rising interest rates (I think?) but clearly no one else understands characters and can create new IPs and cross-marketing like they can.

The Electronic Arts CEO was going on (in their conference call) about Star Wars Battlefront’s great visuals, and how they are trending for a younger demographic. Apparently their new direction isn’t working well for them, since they drastically missed their revenue estimates, which actually fell from last year according to Zack’s.

So happy Friday! This went longer than expected, so next time I’ll try for an update on my game project. I’m programming this weekend. Last weekend was art.

I’m puzzled a little trying to make elves look like elves, and not like humans with pointy ears. If anyone has a genius observation, I’d love to hear it! The below portraits need a few touches still.

Professor Aspen is supposed to be an homage to Professor Snape (Alan Rickman, who passed on last month), but the semblance isn’t exactly brilliant.  The elf naming needs research and decisions.

elf ports


Torment: Tides

torment: tides of numenera

Brian Fargo tweeted a short while ago that early access for Torment: Tides of Numenera beta backers will be available tomorrow. I suddenly wish I was one of those people!

Maybe I should start beta backing, especially when Brian Fargo and Shanna Germain are involved. Shanna is the bona fide award-winning erotica writer on the Torment project.

The image small print says “coming to Steam 1/26/2016“, but I don’t find anything on Steam right now. This kitty is confused as usual. I bought a small solitaire game called “Quill tonight instead, which involves letter-writing in a medieval setting.

It looks like a very interesting study in game design.

Quill requires six-sided dice though, and I possess no solemn equipage of antique, romantic hexahedrons. The digital download didn’t come with a game box of course, so.

I’m off tomorrow night to pay real money at the game shop for a bag of six-sided dice, I suppose. Back in the days, I could find six-sided dice hiding on the floor of grandma’s game closet, or in the Yahtzee box. Not so anymore.

The good news is that I’ve created a Drivethru account, and after I purchase six-sided dice, I can finally use my Tunnels and Trolls rulebook. Drivethru also offers T&T adventures. We’ll see.


Game-Related Stocks


This week is another tide of torment in the stock market. Clearly by the time I decided to pool my resources and invest in the stock market (last year), the markets of the entire world were on the brink of collapsing and dying in a fire.

Yesterday a tweet mentioned that the Vanguard (mutual fund) website was turning away customers due to no available representatives. Last night the evening news mentioned that you, yes you, lost $7000+ so far this year if you own an average 401k.

Tonight they featured the same report, but the pain number was more like 8k.

Today the market entered mom and pop half-panic mode, however, and big money stepped in to create a massive turn up. Time will tell whether it will be enough, but consensus on CNBC is clearly that the bottom can’t be in due to China, oil, and currency, and five other things.

So far I’m still holding my original Blizzard and Alibaba, and I’ve pushed 50% back into Microsoft and Electronic Arts. That’s all. I’m cheering every day for the markets to self-destruct as much as possible, honestly, so I can buy.

Today Alibaba announced a big deal with NVidia to build out its cloud, including a second data center on the U.S. west coast. That’s good news for NVidia.

On another scary down day today, Nvidia and Microsoft ended in the green and were the strongest-performing tech stocks I follow, except for Twitter.


Personal RPG Project


Last week I had my final kidney stone surgery, I hope. I survived. I’m no longer sustaining constant pain and blood loss. I’m starting to feel more energized.

I upgraded my animation code to more object-oriented code. I re-worked file structure to accommodate a longer-term vision of modular expansion. Mostly I’m working on more art and scenes.

I really need to firm up my campaign setting.

Like a novice writer/adventure designer, my cat brain has been scattered all over the place with elves, pirates, vampires, Mayans, Greek monsters, and an embarrassing mish-mash of poorly considered architectural styles.

So I need a strong, consistent, sensible, constrained setting. I need a consistent political structure, social expectations, and a thoughtful style of architecture, constructed with logical local materials, in my case forest, sea sand, and volcanic stone.

Those sorts of things.

Tonight I started reading the Oxford Book of Ballads at Project Gutenberg. Just the first short ballad, Thomas the Rhymer, is completely intense. The fairies seem really right to me, especially since my game is mostly an English-speaking educational game.

I was thinking and pacing all day on how I don’t want to be a stupid human tourist, a user of mythology for entertainment or self-serving spiritual narcissism. I needed to make a serious commitment, a reverence to one magical faction, and I hope that faction is the elves and fairies of Brittania.

Maybe I can have just one vampire, and just one pirate? I wanted my pirate to be a rabbit wearing a waistcoat, though! I think I need to do my due diligence and read more fairy and elf lore, and then maybe things will fall better into place.

As always, blessed be and happy gaming.


Mighty Blizzard: Meet Stock Market Meltdown

S&P500 image
This week was one of the worst in stock market history. Major indices lost over 6%, with the Dow losing over 1000 points.

China’s growth is slowing down. The U.S. dollar is strengthening. Prices of oil and other commodities are still in decline. This brings a risk of financial triggers for countries that rely on oil and raw materials exports, which brings risk to the world financial system.

I watched oodles of CNBC this week, and I’ve never heard the Wall Street boys so defeated. Even the bullish opinions sound like slick salesman B.S. or clinging desperation. The pessimism is actually a plus. If everyone is already out, how much more money can leave the market?

More. Large U.S. outflows have been observed from foreign countries. Some analysts suggest heavy European selling. Every Joe and Jane will see their 401k funds melting, and they’ll pull their money on Monday. Today some analysts mentioned that the market never bottoms on a Friday.

Jim Cramer talked about Blizzard on Mad Money on Tuesday. He said Activision-Blizzard’s 27 billion valuation was undervalued and even “ridiculously cheap”. Cramer spoke highly of Bobby Kotick, who he knows from the old days.

Cramer also spoke highly of NVidia. I personally thought Microsoft and NVidia were played out in terms of news catalysts. I was wrong.

Microsoft popped today on an announcement of a plan to make their own SIM cards for a new phone service for Windows 10. Jim Cramer thinks there is still positive news ahead for Nvidia, at least for two more quarters.

On Wednesday, Cramer spoke on Electronic Arts. He called EA “more problematic”, and said to stick with Blizzard. This general idea was echoed in an analyst report on EA yesterday. Cowen predicted a very strong quarter for EA in mobile, however, with possibly 50% sequential revenue growth.

Cramer is not always right of course. A valid trading strategy is to do the opposite of everything he says. A year ago this month in January, he was recommending Kinder Morgan (KMI) and recommending against Valero (VLO).

Of all the bad CNBC stock advice I saw in 2015, only Karen Finerman’s repeated recommendations of SunEdison (SUNE) ended worse.


Video Game Stocks As “Sin Stocks”


I’ve heard a few Wall Street analysts recommend RJ Reynolds this week, a stock which has risen strongly this week while most other stocks fell. It has a good dividend, but I assume the real reason is because it’s a traditional “sin stock”.

Sin stocks are supposed to do well in a recession. According to the article, they are “businesses that provide an outlet for consumers”. They also have deeper margins than traditional consumer plays.

Sin stocks include alcohol, tobacco, gambling/casinos, and weapons. Really? It sounds like a new category of sin stock needs to be added, since that’s pretty much a definition of video games: addictive, with lots of gambling mechanics and as many guns as possible.

As Jim Cramer mentioned today on Mad Money, Constellation Brands (the brewer of Corona, etc.), reported a stellar quarter and the stock rocketed yesterday. I don’t see why video game stocks shouldn’t also outperform.

I sold Nvidia, Microsoft, TAN (solar ETF), and Electronic Arts in previous weeks closer to their tops. The question is when to buy them back. Yesterday I pushed 50% back into EA, but it’s important to have major patience.

The solar ETF is a trickier trap since it’s influenced so heavily by politics, oil, and having 25% of its holdings in China.

Some big name money managers are calling this another major financial crisis, on par with the 2008 Great Recession, which lasted 18 months. That seems as good as anything for a worst-case scenario timetable.

Other people are saying the severe oversold conditions are a setup for a “multi-week rally”. I don’t see why the S&P should break the “crowning top” pattern until other bearish patterns, like oil and Dow transports, are broken first, but anyway, that’s enough of that.

Happy Friday, time to stock up on sins.


New Year 2016: Looking Forward And Back

Pink Bed

I spent New Year’s on social media. I didn’t feel too alone. I was in bed with my computer. One time I told my guild in LotRO that I couldn’t do a dungeon run because I was ‘playing in bed’.

This image is what I mean, boys.

Last week I purchased Divinity: Original Sin on sale on Steam. It’s a really polished game, and I was having fun exploring and solving puzzles. At level two I was suddenly told that I was the saviour of the world, and the enemy is a void dragon.

I haven’t played Divinity in several days. I was also dying too much in fights. The same formula made me quit Skyrim: dragons, dying, and ‘chosen one’.


Looking Back At 2015


This was Activision Blizzard‘s year. They were called out yesterday on CNBC as up 92% on the year, the third best performing stock in the S&P 500. They were also cited on Bloomberg as the winner of Christmas based on Call of Duty sales. COD won’t match Star Wars, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Meanwhile, EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront debut was a critical fizzle, a disappointing lump of pretty-looking mediocrity according to this kitty’s most trusted Jedi of truth-telling.

Acti-Blizz also bought King Digital for a ridiculous sum of course, and the breaking news today is their purchase of Major League Gaming.

I’ve mentioned on this blog the large amount of debt Blizz is carrying already. Can they really crush it as the 1000-pound gorilla, or can nimbler studios pull the rug from under Blizzard’s efforts to counter the outflow from WoW?

Even though EA’s stock has sold off on their latest (perceived) IP fumbling, it might still be a better long-term investment, especially if Star Wars sales numbers are solid with casual console players.

Some high-profile Wall Street analysts are making this prediction, calling EA a strong buy in its current trough. I sold at 72. I’ve learned to not sell Blizzard.

Of course, the stocks will now probably go in opposite directions because that’s what happens to the stupid kitty.


What I’m Looking Forward To In 2016


Mafia 3 ~ Not. I’ve been looking forward to this game for two years, but Take Two ruined it. They turned the classy, artsy feel of this game into a knuckle-head brutality fest.

I can’t even bear to watch that trailer again to compound this kitty commentary.

It looks like they just GTA-ified this great franchise. That means it’s GTA, but they changed the Italian ‘family’ into a ‘family’ Lousiana style – or something.

I just know I won’t be playing as that bicep-busting caveman. Goodbye forever, handsome Vito. Thankfully we have another shooter –

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 ~ Yes! I recently found out the game offers a choice of gender! Can this kitty love Acti-Blizz even more? I hope so. Thank you Blizzard. I’m looking forward.

Dogma: Eternal Night ~ The Kickstarter for this vampire-themed labor of love failed miserably this month, and it’s looking more like a shiny pipe dream. I hope those guys get hired by the big companies with zero balls to spend real money on vampires.

You know who you are. (Massively coverage.)

Everquest: Next ~ Who knows! You’re better off watching kitten videos on Youtube than watching EQN news.

More Hearthstone ~ More Hearthstone unless I have heart failure. I hit rank 15 again and quit this month. I feel like I can go a lot higher with my Dragon Priest (yes, I’m aware of the irony).

Hearthstone is giving me a panic attack. That’s the problem. I wish I could just relax and play Hearthstone, with no more anxiety than tossing a ball at a wall for an hour.

The World of Warcraft Movie ~ I’m skeptical I can enjoy this without knowing the lore but who knows. Blizzard is already building a movie studio so this first film needs to be profitable, right? Otherwise a movie studio would be a bad idea.

In other news, this was an all-time record year for Hollywood with 11 billion box office sales in North America. So maybe Blizzard is crazy like a goblin, a very wealthy goblin.

Since I’m ‘meh’ about Black Desert, Blade and Soul, and Camelot Unchained, that’s about it. I’m still working on my ‘bi-adventure’ game project. Here is an image of my first map.

Happy gaming and best wishes for the new year.

adventure map

More Reading: Massively’s 2016 post.


Devilian: Placing Flowers On The Grave


 
Sunday night I hit level 50 in Devilian, and it seemed like a good place to quit. I really enjoyed this game. Whenever it was dull, new surprises, game modes, or pretty landscapes kept the interest level going.

The many dungeons were fun and well-tuned.

I chalked up Leonore on my Hall of Fame (characters) page. I went back to Hearthstone last night, still with a return to WoW on my mind. The action RPG genre isn’t a world I want to live in.

Hearthstone has a simpler, gentler enjoyment. There are no Brazilians calling me a stupid whore. There are no evil clown guild masters telling me to either get on Discord, or I’m kicked.

Devilian swept me into a beautiful dark world, and just as quickly to the cliff of looking down my elf nose at the human-kind, and just wanting to leave it all behind.

I’m sure Devilian’s social schemes work better in Asia.

So I don’t have too much to say, but I wanted to write a post-mortem. Syp also wrote a progress report today. I tried to friend Syp in-game (I think, unless someone took his name), but I couldn’t because the chat box drop-down bugged out.

The dropdown disappeared every time I tried to scroll down and click to add friend. The bugs really weren’t a killer. Everything is good and recommendable for what it is.

Like Syp, I really liked the floppy-ear pet that picks up loot for you. I could see myself wanting to pay for that service full time.

The most memorable bug was when I left the game running on the start screen for three or four hours, and the devil-girl’s breasts started heaving at some point with machine-like 10 x speed.

This was the nature of most bugs I saw – they only occurred after hours of playing.

I wish Trion the best of luck with success and profitability on Devilian. I’ve noticed a significant uptick of Rift guide traffic since Devilian launched, maybe showing that Trion’s ecosystem (Glyph) is also working well for them.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers