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Blog Side Bar Experimentation December 5, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment, Feeds.
Tags: ,
14 comments

Not a gaming post

In what was a bit of a conjunction of two things, I started tinkering with the side bar of the blog last night.

The first thing was my ongoing insane jealousy over the side bar blogroll feature that bloggers who use Google’s Blogger have access to.  The bit that shows the latest post, sorts by date, and so on.  This turns the blogroll into a living thing that people actually look at and use.  My referral stats bear out the idea that blogs that have this feature correctly implemented deliver more traffic than comparable blogs that do not.

I am dying for WordPress.com to implement something similar.  Instead, they seem content to break things and every so often rework the user interface if somebody mentions it is working well.  Seriously, I spend most of my time doing three things with the interface; writing posts, viewing comments, and glaring at stats.  WP has taken it upon themselves to make sure that moving between these three things is as awkward as possible, forcing me to just keep three tabs open.

So, to make up for the fact that I have a very static and boring blogroll… if you get more than 10 referrals a month off of my blogroll, you are doing well… or are at the top of the list… I have used the blogs RSS feed from VirginWorlds as an addition to me side bar.  VirginWorlds remains a great resource!  Pillar of the blogging community!  A few cobwebs are starting to appear around the place, but there is still nothing like else like it.

It is a site of extraordinary magnitude.  Brent has our gratitude.

Unfortunately, Scott Jennings… who I am going to cast in the role of the villain here, because every story must have a villain, so if he show up and twirls his mustache be sure to hiss at him… looks to have been tinkering with his RSS feed.  Once it delivered only posts from his very-quiet-of-late blog to the feed at VirginWorlds.  In the last week, however, his feed began dumping updates from his forum… the Broken Forum… like so much toxic waste flooding the blog feed at VirginWorlds.

Okay, maybe “toxic waste” is a bit strong.  But Scott Jennings does have an active forum… good on him… and every topic update appears to generate an entry in the RSS feed.  The end result was that I found of the 15 entries from the VirginWorlds feed I had displayed in the side bar at any given time, 12-13 of them would be updates from the forum.  Again, good for Scott and his active forum, but not exactly what I want in my side bar.

So after thinking about doing something about it for a couple of days… and ~20 seconds of actual Google work… I set about implementing something different.

The Google search returned a site called RSS Mix as the top unpaid result.

They don't really have a logo...

They don’t really have a logo…

The site is simple.  You paste in a list of RSS feeds.  The site validates them, adds them to its database, and spits out a URL for a feed that combines them together.  Easy times.

I then took this feed and put it in the side bar of the blog using WordPress.com’s rather limited RSS feed display widget.  It works… it was what I was using for the VirginWorlds feed… but it doesn’t have a lot of options. (And, frankly, though I love this theme for some unfathomable reason, it does have pretty narrow side bars which do not help.  My search for a viable replacement continues.)

I would, for example, like the blog name to appear with the entry.  But all it will give me is author’s name and post date.  I would also like it to display only one entry per sub-feed at a time, but then we’re getting into “what I really want is the Blogger blogroll widget” territory, and that just isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, most bloggers would have just made the change and moved on.  But me, I have to tell stories.  You might have noticed this.  Plus, I do wonder if the half dozen of you who actually show up at the site regularly think of it.

I am also interested to see how well the aggregated feed from RSS Mix performs.  It appears to do batch processing to get feed updates, and rightfully so. But that does mean that updates do not show up the moment right away.  We shall see how long the lag is on that.

After I set that up, I did go back and look at the next few results returned by my Google search.  They all seemed to be down or no longer in service, so I guess I didn’t have many choices.  So here we are.  (And I am sure, in my hurry, I missed some blogs that should be in the feed.  I’ll make a 2.0 feed at some point.)

The Seven Year Kvetch September 12, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment.
Tags: ,
9 comments

kvetch [kvetsh]   -  /k(ə)veCH,kfeCH/

noun
noun: kvetch; plural noun: kvetches

-a person who complains a great deal.
-a complaint.

verb
verb: kvetch; 3rd person present: kvetches; past tense: kvetched; past participle: kvetched; gerund or present participle: kvetching

-to complain.

Yes, one of the joys of being an American is pissing all over the English language by letting in any damn word we please.  I love our language, how it changes and evolves over time.  I think it is the hallmark of us, as an immigrant nation, that we embrace people and cultures into our so-called melting pot, but that we also swipe some of the best words people bring with them as well.  In contrast,  I remain appalled by countries that have official government departments that dictate and enforce proper spelling and usage.  Color me the anarchist in that regard I guess.

Sure, the chaos makes the language difficult to learn fully, being so full of idiom and context, but it is great fun.  Straight from the fridge daddy-o.

So here we are at my 7th blogiversary (ha ha, suck that purists!), where I celebrate my continued deliberate and premeditated abuse of the language.

WordPress sends their regards

WordPress sends their regards

And since I love linking back to past posts (recycling!) you can find, if you are so inclined, posts marking this date from past years.

Now that I have gotten past that irrelevant introductory exuberance, it is time for the usual dreck.   Beyond this point lies list after list of pointless data followed by my usual summary of events, complete with dubious and/or obvious conclusion.  There is the story of my life; always able to summarize the data, but lost when actually trying for some sort of ending or closure.  I am never quite sure what it all means, and I try not to pretend otherwise.

If you are like me and like numbers and lists for the sake of them or want some sort of quantitative look at what happens at this blog, you may find some of this interesting.  It includes my usual reveal of actual traffic numbers.

On the other hand, if you are expecting to find an amusing anecdote about how I screwed up or got lost again, a nostalgic look at some past game, or an incoherent rant about some bit of gamery that is annoying me at the moment, you will likely be disappointed at what you find after the cut.  You have been warned.

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Summer Reruns – Fumbling with Questions that have No Easy Answers July 15, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment, MMO Design.
Tags:
9 comments

I was away over the weekend, so I did not get a chance to write anything last night.

Plus, it is summer, the MMO scene is pretty quiet right now, and nothing being added, changed, or launched this year looks be set to change the MMO market in the slightest.

MMOs have become pizza. They vary a bit from vendor to vendor. You might not like the ingredients from one, and another might not keep their place very clean. But they are all round and share about the same set of toppings and what not. And if you like pizza, you will probably find a place that suits you.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would recycle some of my attempts at serious thought about pizza… erm… MMOs. Some of these are more than five years old. Have things changed that much since?

Or is it more a matter of the more things change, the more they stay the same?

Anyway, this is an open invitation to comment on some old posts if nothing else.

Gold is Where You Find It – Blogging and Community July 9, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , ,
41 comments

If there is one offer I have heard repeatedly over the soon-to-be-seven years I have been blogging, it is the one where I am asked to join a community.  The offer inevitably requests that  I make this community my blogging platform, that I give up my independence.

Sometimes the offers are heartfelt and genuine from members of what I would consider my own “block” in the MMO blogesphere, for lack of a better analogy.  Certainly GAX Online, despite how it turned out, was an honest effort to try and bring some MMO people closer together.  Gary and Ryan invested a lot of time and effort in something that never quite got a life of its own.

Sometimes things have been more ad hoc, like Beau Hindman’s MMO gamer/blogger group on Ning, which likewise became more of a burden as time went along until he had to let it go.

There was a big push at one point in the name of “gamer social networking,” a concept that was never quite clear to me.  GAX Online was part of that, but there were certainly other groups out there.  Xfire and Raptr both aspire to take their game tracking and IM service into that realm.  I would be interested to know what percentage of their active users on either service ever posts or comments on their main sites.

And sometimes the offers are crass attempts to find people to create free content to drive ad revenue.  Not that I think such sites should be run as charities.

Certainly I never had a problem with services like Blog Top Sites and their business model, though I took down their tracker and stopped using the site eventually more out of a desire to clean up my side bar than anything else.  And I genuinely miss Massive Blips nearly three years later.  But they never asked for the serious buy-in of giving up my independence.

But a good chunk of the personal appeals are from site that want to be your blogging platform.  They always spell out the ill-defined benefit of greater exposure for your writing (my nothing blog usually has a better PageRank and Alexa numbers) while neglecting the fact that your writing will be placed outside of your control on an ad infested hell-hole of a site that likely to fold up the moment the kid running it figures out that it isn’t a path to easy money.

And all this time, I have never jumped in, not for the genuine nor the crass.

This has been in large part because of stubborn desire to maintain my independence.  And that has been mostly a desire to preserve my ability to post about whatever I feel like, to not feel constrained because I am on a site that is just about a single game or genre or whatever.  I want to be able to post about Pokemon events or dead cats or Memorial Day or whatever hell I feel like on a given day.  And I am not keen to give up control to somebody else who can lock me out or take down my work.  Granted, to be on the internet you are always at somebody’s mercy.  But I trust more in WordPress.com than most; more than I do in Google at this juncture, and certainly more than I do when it comes to some stranger cold calling me about their new community and platform.

However, that is not the only reason.

The other main reason is that I have never felt a lack of community.

Now, to a certain extent, I have been fortunate.  I wandered onto the scene at just the moment when Brent at VirginWorlds was coming into his MMO podcasting prime, was swept up in that moment of MMO enthusiasm, and became one of the blogs in orbit of his site.  Michael Zenke even put me in his “MMO blogs” addendum to the “Blogepelago” in the XKCD Online Communities cartoon from 2007.

Some still thrive...

Some still thrive…

Looking at the original cartoon, that was a long time ago in internet years.  But those bloggers and quite a few more were my community, my peers, my betters, my co-conspirators, my friends, my enemies, and quite a few states in between.  We commented on each others posts, or took offense and wrote scathing responses on our own blogs.  We appeared on podcasts together.  We played the occasional game together.  A few of us even met up in person now and again.  I have photographic proof from GDC 2010, GDC 2009, and GDC 2008 (which also shows my full range of facial hair options).

Dinner at Le Colonial

At GDC in 2010

Dinner at Le Colonial

The same place, GDC 2009

GDC 2008, more modest eats

Things have ebbed somewhat from the high point of the blogs clustered around VirginWorlds.  People have moved on.  Blogs have stopped being updated or have disappeared altogether.  Podcasts have faded.  And we have all grown a few years older and probably a couple pounds heavier.

Furthermore, there are more distractions and more options for community.  That XKCD cartoon from 2007 was redone in 2010.  During the intervening years we saw the rise of Facebook and Twitter.  They were barely things at all when I started blogging.  Tumblr has come along for a different style of blogging, while Google+ showed up to try and grab some of Facebook’s domination of frustrating interface design.  And I don’t even know what to say about live streaming, except to say that I do not get it.  Why would I want to watch you play a game rather than just playing it myself?  Sure, sometimes there is a big event worth watching… or Jita Cam (which is down… damn… will Freebooted idle cam suffice?)… but most of the time it strikes me as a “so what?” sort of venture.  But then I consistently write summaries of what I did in game.  Why would you read that rather than playing?

And all of this new stuff has drawn off people that seven years ago might have been reading or writing blogs.

Psychochild asked where the bloggers have gone. (A good posts that links to some other good posts on the subject.) Certainly in our little corner of the internet numbers have declined due to media fragmentation and burn out.  But bloggers still exist.  And new ones show up on the scene.  The mortality rate is high, certainly.  The New Blogger Initiative saw 110 blogs start, but only 30 were going a year later, numbers which matched up to my own survey of linking blogs from the a while back.  But new blood does show up.

And there is still a community of bloggers and commentors and readers who frequent our little cluster of blogs.

All of which makes me sigh in that oh-so-very-tired way when a doomsayer crawls out of the woodwork and attempts to set the narrative with a “join or die” style pronouncement about their idea of community.

This revolves around a bit of EVE Online drama… and what is EVE Online some days but a drama generation engine masquerading as an online game… wherein Marc Scaurus, who at a past time took over the operation of the the EVE Blog Pack and evebloggers.com decided to hand over the reigns.  He announced this a couple of weeks back, asking for volunteers to take over the two.  His own view was that the two might be past their prime and that he might not get any interest.  The EVE Blog Pack just turned five years old and evebloggers.com, a blog feed aggregation site for EVE related blogs, has likewise been around for a while, making them both children of the pre-social media blogging era.

Marc was wrong however, and actually had multiple candidates from which to choose, eventually picking Cyberin to take over. (Some words from the new host.)

The drama comes from a condition he set for the hand over, which was that past proprietors of either of the two services were ineligible to apply.  Alexia Morgan, the previous owner of evebloggers.com, wanted to get the site back and, when denied, began to spin a conspiracy theory about Marc actually planning to kill both services to the greater glory of his work at The Mittani.com.

Par for the course in the land of EVE.

But Alexia Morgan has a plan.  He has evebloggers.net (not to be confused with evebloggers.com!) which he plans to turn into an EVE Online blogging community.  And you’re welcome to be a part of it, as long as you do your blogging on his site and basically hand over control of and access to your work to him.

Did I mention that he HAD evebloggers.com and gave it up?

That is not a glowing recommendation in my book and part of the reason I was personally on board with Marc’s restriction on no past owners.

But there is more, which is all laid out pretty well in an interview over at Warp Drive Active.  And the key for me is Alexia Morgan’s apparent anger at and/or anxiety about independent blogs in the EVE Online community.  He clearly doesn’t like them and thinks they should all just surrender control to him in the name of community.  You are in or you are out.  If you are in, you are pro-community, and if you are out, well you are clearly anti-community.

Key quotes and reactions that pretty much mirror my own have been posted by Nosy Gamer and Marc Scaurus.  You should read both of those, along with the interview that prompted them, if this interests you.

For me, it mostly just indicates a misunderstanding of what community really is (exclusion, and telling independent bloggers to “go screw themselves,” certainly doesn’t enter into my idea of community) piled on top of my past experience with such ventures as detailed at the top of this post.  I would clearly be out, were I an EVE Online blogger.  (I don’t think my other blog really counts, being all pictures.)

And so it goes.  This might have been something worth getting worked up about had this been my first rodeo.

But it does get us back to an ongoing discussion about the place blogs hold in the community.  It is certainly true that some MMO companies, like SOE, used to pay much more attention to the blogesphere just five years back (I was even linked on EQ2Players.com a few times), though others, like Blizzard, never officially acknowledged that such a community existed outside of their control.  Even some MMO news sites like Massively, which used to reach out to the blogging community now and again, have now largely turned their backs on blogs.  But is that the end of things?

Where do you think blogs in general, and MMO gaming blogs in particular, are headed these days?  Has progress passed them by?  Are they relics of a bygone age?

Or have they just gone from being the latest “new” thing to being just part of the norm and have settled down?

And is there really a blogging community out there?  Am I just making that up in my head, or do you feel like you are a part of it as well?

Addendum – Some responses, indicating that our little blog cluster is still functioning.  Look, community!

Marc Scaurus: Blogging Lives On

Morphisat: MMO Blogging

Ravious: Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

Liore: The Future of MMO Blogging Collectives

SynCaine: The Blogs Reflect the Genre

Jeromai: Blogging Cowboys of the Modern Age

Tobold: Blogging is Dying

Game by Night: Bloggers disappearing and why I’m one of them. But not really

Bhagpuss: Please Yourself

Random Waypoint: Where have I gone?

Jester’s Trek: Ancillary Conversation Booster

GamingSF: Navel Gazing

Blessing of Kings: The End of MMO Blogging

Anjin: The Winter of our Blogging Lives

Healing the Masses: Blogging Diversity and Growth

MMO Gypsy: The MMO blogosphere is here to stay – if you want it to

Going Commando: MMO Blogging

T. R. Red Skies: MMO Community Trends

Five Years of Spaceship Pictures May 23, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: ,
3 comments

Every so often I get the urge to run off and start another blog, as though this one wasn’t enough.

Sometimes I think I have a funny idea.  Sometimes I repeat something I have already done.

And for some reason, I always feel the need to make up yet another pseudonym.  I don’t know why.

But over the last seven years of blogging (because there was a blog before this one) I have only stuck with this blog and one other.  The rest all sit, neglected.  I didn’t even get past the creation stage with some.

Aside from this blog, my only other… success… is EVE Online Pictures, which turns five years old this week.  And I am surprised it has made it that far.

The first and only banner for the blog

The first and only banner for the blog

For the last five years I have posted 2 or 3 pictures a week, every week, all from EVE Online.  And since I do a yearly anniversary post here every year, I thought maybe I ought to do one for my other blog after five years.

I am doing it here, because this is the “words” blog.  That is just the “pictures” blog.

The big question is why does that blog even exist?  I could have easily done picture only posts here as a regular feature.  That is certainly my thought in hindsight.  It surely would have made things less complex.

I think I wanted to see how a picture only blog would fare on its own.  By the time I started it, I was nearly two years into this blog and had, thanks largely to VirginWorlds, garnered a regular readership beyond any reasonable expectations.  So I decided to see what would happen with another blog… kept scrupulously separate for about a year… with a different sort of format.

So EVE Online Pictures was born.

As noted above, I am also surprised that I have kept it going for five years.  Compared to this blog, traffic has always been sparse (despite what WordPress.com said at one point), and fell off precipitously with the changed to Google image search back in February.  Feedback is rare unless I misidentify a ship.  I keep words to a minimum, so there are few opinions expressed to go back and review later on.  And, as much as I go on about blogging for myself, traffic and comments do help in keeping this blog active.

Then there was a gap from mid 2009, when Potshot and I gave up on our wormhole expedition, through to Incarna, when I wasn’t really playing the game.  I held a contest to get pictures to post.  The contest entries make up 111 of the 580 posts on the blog.  So at least 20% of the posts on the blog are not even my screen shots.  And that does not include pictures I have borrowed from other sites. (Always with acknowledgement and a link back.)

And yet I have carried on.  The last year has been especially fruitful for pictures.  Being in null sec has let me take lots of screen shots of battles and ships of the sort you never get in high sec.  And so the blog carries on.  And I expect it to continue on as long as I am playing EVE, and then for a while after that as I mine through the thousands of screen shots I have amassed.

There are more details about EVE Online Pictures, including statistics similar to the stats I have been keeping for my yearly posts about this blog.

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New Blogger Initiative a Year Later – Who Survived? May 9, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment.
Tags: , , , , ,
26 comments

It was just a year ago that Syp kicked off his Newbie Blogger Initiative plan.

nbimediumedit

The idea was to inflict blogging on as many newcomers as possible by getting a bunch of old cranks to give semi-useful and often contradictory advice about blogging.  And link whoring.

As is clear from that, I went for a humorous/cynical/sarcastic spin on the whole thing.  That was because, in the past, I have read so much horrible, inappropriate, or just bad from all rational perspectives advice on blogging that it practically puts me at the laugh/cry fork in the road.  And I always choose to laugh, which doesn’t make me very popular at funerals I must admit.  I end up thinking “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants” and it is all down hill from there.

Yes, there are a lot of nuts and bolts things you can speak to about themes, fonts, statistics, comment moderation, spam, and the like.  But when it comes to the actual motivation and philosophy of blogging, the only universal I could come up with is:

Be the blog you want to read.

Which isn’t very helpful.

And I have nothing for any subsequent existential crisis which might result from realizing that you don’t actually want to read your own blog.  But it seemed better than telling somebody they need to put a picture of a cat in every post or whatever the SEO experts are saying of late.

Anyway, there was much enthusiasm.  Lots of people trotted out advice of all sorts (a list of some of the posts here), some of which was actually more useful than I expected.  Nobody actually told people to post pictures of cats.  The usual wet blankets had to chime in that it was all a wasted effort, because that is what wet blankets do.  Why deny them their place.

In the end, by my count, 110 new blogs were created and were being blogged on by new bloggers here in Blogsylvannia.  I have them all listed and linked in another post.

But now that a dozen months have flown by, I thought I would take a look at the mortality rate for NBI blogs.  Of 110 who started, how many are still active?

The answer is 30, or 27% of those that started.

Active is, of course, subject to interpretation.  My bar for being considered an active blog was still being at your URL (or having noted a forwarding address) and having posted something on or after April 1, 2013.

That leaves the following blogs, which you should go visit and congratulate.

  1. Adventures of Danania, Supergirl of Lorien
  2. Ald Shot First
  3. Altaclysmic
  4. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
  5. Bloodthorne
  6. Casual Aggro
  7. Casually Vicious
  8. Conveniently Placed Exhaust Port
  9. Dreadblade
  10. Elfkina vežička
  11. Funsponge
  12. Game Delver
  13. Goetia’s Letters
  14. Mighty Viking Hamster
  15. MMO Juggler
  16. MMO One Night a Week
  17. Neurotic Girl
  18. Ravalation
  19. Red Neckromonger
  20. Sephora’s Closet
  21. stnylan’s musings
  22. That Was An Accident!
  23. Unwavering Sentinel
  24. Vagabond Goes for a Walk
  25. Warlockery
  26. Warp to Zero
  27. White Charr
  28. Why I Game
  29. Wynniekin’s Adventures
  30. World’s End Tavern

Is that a lot or a little, good or bad?

I suppose it depends on your point of view.  The only other data I have on the subject is from when I did The Great Survey of Linking Blogs back in September 2011.  During that I went back and checked on all 281 of the outgoing links for blogs that at some time put me in their blog roll.  I found that of 263 unique blogs, 74 were still active, which totals up to about 28%.

So 27% from that sample size seems to be about par for the course, as far as I can tell.

New World Tavern and Casual Aggro did similar round up posts, though their criteria was a bit different (as were their counts), so they came up with 40% and 25%  respectively.  As they say, your mileage may vary.  Avatars of Steel also has a post about the NBI, while there is a class of 2012 badge up for participants over at Ravalation.

And what of the other 80 blogs?  A bit on that after the cut.

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The Blog ‘Banner Art’ Post May 3, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment.
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2 comments

One of the reasons I chose the current template for the blog way back in 2006 was that it had a nice little area at the top where you could put your own graphic as a banner.

And so I took to this idea and have, over the last 6+ years, created any number of graphics to fit into that banner space.  Some I have been quite happy with.  If you have visited here very often, you have probably seen the EverQuest chessboard banner which I put up when I am feeling nostalgic.  Others have been less pleasing.

But one of the challenges of creating a banner is the size.  To fit in that space at the top of the blog, the graphic has to be 730 pixels by 140 pixels in size.

Size Sample

Size Sample

When I picked the template, I did not give the size much thought.  Later, when I was trying to make banners, I began to realize what such mail slot-like dimensions really meant.  Basically, any banner graphic is very heavy on horizontal relative to vertical, with the ratio being more than 5 to 1 in favor of the left-right bias.  That is a wider ratio than Cinerama.

So I have to find pictures or screen shots where what I want to capture is in a very narrow vertical zone, but spread out on the horizontal plane.  So I have, over time, developed a sense of what pictures might work and which will not.  There are a lot of screen shots where I have to shake my head and move on because the vertical element required to get across the message or feeling I want is too much.

And if the aspect ratio were not enough, the template itself works against me.  I have to take into account that there are two tabs that stick up into the banner at the bottom left.  So I cannot let anything key to the image get covered by that.

And then there is the name of the blog itself, which the template superimposes over the image.  I don’t want anything key being covered by that.  Plus, I need to make sure that the banner contrasts enough with the blog name so that it can be read.  I do have the option of turning the blog name off, in which case I can lay it out myself on the banner image.  I have done that a few times, but I do not make a habit of it.

I also have to maintain the banner images manually.

Today, with many of the new templates, you can upload banners, crop and edit them, and even setup a list of banners from which the template will draw at random.  However, way back when I started, WordPress.com templates required you to provide a URL to the banner.  No storage, no editing, and no randomizing.  And while they have updated some of the templates, the one I use (Regulus) is still pretty much stuck in 2006.

All of which has left me with a collection 730 by 140 images saved away in various directories of my hard drive.  I have tried to collect them all together in one post.  If you are interested to see what I have created over the last few years (or what a few other people created as part of a contest at one point), all the ones I could find are after the cut.

There are about 90 in the gallery at this point, but I keep finding more.  And I know there are still more store away somewhere.  I used to put them up on Image Shack, but I cannot find many.  I did not adopt the convention of putting “banner” in the image name until I was well into making them.   So I suspect the list will grow over time.

Banner mania after the cut.

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Reviewing My Questions for 2012 December 18, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, Diablo II, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Torchlight II.
Tags:
14 comments

At the beginning of each new year I have a special post.  Sometimes if it predictions.  Some times it is demands.  Last year I decided it should be questions.

2012pic

I asked 12 questions of the new year.  12 questions for the year 2012.

I think it is time to see if I received any clear answers.

1. What fate awaits the Old Republic?

Love it, hate it, see it as a revolution in MMOs or as a symbol of that all is wrong, Star Wars the Old Republic is now a force to be reckoned with on the MMO landscape.  It has everybody’s attention for good or ill.  Where will it lead us?

That was the position at the beginning of the year.

Unfortunately, the answer since then seems to be “Over a cliff.”  That cliff was described by the chart showing ongoing drops in total subscribers every quarter after launch.

Apparently story and voice acting will only keep people interested for so long.  That works for a single player game.  For a subscription game, not so much.  And so the Tortanic began to sink, and it was heralded as the death of the subscription model for MMOs.  They did announce an expansion, so they will have some content to sell along side action bars and raid access.  But there do not seem to be clear blue skies on the horizon for SWTOR yet.

2. Can Blizzard stem the World of Warcraft subscription trend?

Sort of.  The annual pass option, which got you a shiny mount and a free copy of Diablo III, kept at least a million people locked into their subscriptions.  And while numbers still fell, they rebounded some with the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.  The peak of “over 12 million” appears to be in the past, but 10 million isn’t so bad.

And, of course, WoW still rakes in cash like no other MMO out there.  Reports of the death of the subscription model may be a bit premature.

3. Will Free to Play continue to be the gold mine/panacea for subscription games?

Panacea?  It certainly seems so.  SOE has thrown in fully for the free model, bringing all their titles save the original PlanetSide into the fold.  And certainly SWTOR is looking to that model to rescue it and revive their fortunes.

Is it a gold mine though?  Early reports from the LOTRO transition to F2P seemed to indicate that there was indeed gold to be had.  However, since then, there appears to have been some iron pyrite mixed in with the real thing, leading companies to try and cast an ever wider net to get players to buy their RMT currency and then turn around and spend it in their cash shop.

LOTRO, which at least lets you earn their RMT cash in-game, went towards the odious prize boxes and started suggesting things like the hobby horse mount.

SOE screwed up their RMT currency so badly with heavy discounts that they had to stop selling premium memberships and expansions in Station Cash.

And reports I have read indicate that SWTOR might not have figured out the magic formula for F2P success quite yet either.

So there appears to be a lot more work to be done on the F2P front.  Merely being F2P is no longer enough, as there are a lot of choices out there.

Companies keep bringing their games to the F2P altar, but that alone is no longer enough.

4. Who will really win the “Just Like Diablo” battle of 2012?

It depends on what you value.

I started to write a full post about it with the objective of declaring Diablo III the winner, but only on technicalities.  Basically, it does more to capture the atmosphere of Diablo II, while at the same time doing the most to destroy the game.  It just feels more like Diablo II, if you ignore the auction house, the always online aspect, the need to play through the game repeatedly in order to get to the most challenging game play, and a few other things.

That said, I think Torchlight II is, overall, a better game if you take the “heir to Diablo II” aspect out of the picture.  It doesn’t get anywhere close on story or atmosphere compared to Diablo II, but it managed to avoid the manifold mistakes of Diablo III while being light, fun, and full of options denied the players of Diablo III.

Basically, the answer for me is that neither game really wins the “Just Like Diablo” crown, mostly because it just isn’t the year 2000 any more, so neither game could really have the same impact.

5. When will we lose a game to hacking?

We seem to be safe from this still, at least on the MMO front.  Lots of security breaches, but  I haven’t read about a game completely brought down and destroyed, never to run again because of hacking.

So the only answer here I suppose was, “Not yet.”

6. Will SOE remain the only player in the MMO nostalgia game?

This stems from the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, about which I have posted often.

And my answer up until last week would have been “Yes.”  SOE is the only purveyor of MMO nostalgia.  I even got impatient by mid-year and went after the issue in a blog post.

After all, it seems like WoW could make a bundle with a similar scheme.  There are literally dozens of private WoW servers out there trying to recreate the “old” WoW, that being anywhere from day one to before Cataclysm.  I spent a bit of time on the Emerald Dream server and can vouch for the cathartic effect of playing an old-school version of the game.

But no such official venture looks to be forthcoming.

And then Turbine showed up with Asheron’s Call 2, fresh from the crypt, electrodes bolted on firmly in an attempt to create life where there was none.

I am not sure if it is quite the same thing, but it is something.  And it is nostalgic.

So SOE does not own the MMO nostalgia market completely.

7. Will Guild Wars 2 be the game changer in the MMO market in 2012?

Well, a lot was promised for Guild Wars 2.  But did it really change anything?

I have seen a number of GW2 fans lauding The Secret World for adopting the GW2 revenue plan, conveniently ignoring all the details that prove that they did no such thing.  Yes, there is the “buy the box” aspect for a free to play game that sure sounds a lot like GW2.  But what about the continuing monthly subscription model that unlocks things and hands out RMT currency as a reward?  That sounds a lot like an SOE game, doesn’t it?

I suspect that the “buy the box” aspect was a requirement only because they admitted they did not make their sales numbers, so it is either throw away all those boxes or find a way to keep selling them.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, the “buy the box” plan was from Guild Wars, not GW2, so rationalize harder please.

Anyway, I think it is too early to tell.  GW2 only launched at the end of August, which didn’t leave a lot of time for anybody to react to anything they did in 2012, conspiracy theories not withstanding.

Maybe next year?

8. Will CCP ever be anything but the company that makes EVE Online?

Of course, they also helped make Lazy Town, right?  Next question.

Okay, yes, DUST 514.  It looms.  It seems like it could be something some day.  But that day was not this year.  So I can only say, “We shall see.”

Call me when DUST 514 is a thing and maybe I will be able to build enough enthusiasm to download it.

9. What will the earth shattering MMO announcements be in 2012?

I have to go with NCsoft shutting down City of Heroes, SWTOR going free to play, and Turbine reviving Asheron’s Call 2.

Oh, and that 38 Studios fiasco.  An MMO that never was will never be.

Anything else?

10. Will MMOs get redefined in new and interesting (or bad and annoying) ways?

No, nothing new here, move along.

Okay, maybe PlanetSide 2 moved the ball a few inches down field with a really massive online shooter.  But what else was there really?

11. Are we every going to get another decent MMO news podcast?

No.

12. What will Lord British do next?

Apparently jump on board the Zynga train just as it drives over a cliff.   Timing is everything in comedy!

So those are my questions and the answers as I see them.  I am sure somebody will remind me of a few items I missed… or will want to argue about Diablo III vs. Torchlight II.  But that is about it for me.

Now to consider next year’s post.

But Now I am Six, I’m as Clever as Clever September 12, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment.
Tags: ,
12 comments

When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

From Now We are Six, by A. A. Milne

Back to our regularly planned post.

Here we are again, another anniversary.  It has been six years and I am still here.

Needs a haircut, just like me

As I do every year, I am going to try to summarize the story so far in terms of statistics and other such nonsense, all while attempting to overlay a completely inappropriate theme over the whole thing.  Cue Christopher Robin.

For those who want to read the past efforts, here they are.

As the years have gone along, these posts have become longer and sillier.  But I have tried to keep some consistency year over year for comparison.  Each year the same base stats get updated, while I try to add some new aspect into the mix.

This is long and boring for those who are not interested in the site for the sake of the site, so it is mostly hidden after the cut.

(more…)

August in Review August 31, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment, Month in Review, Rift, World of Warcraft.
4 comments

The Site

Here we are at the 72nd monthly review post, and it still lacks in substance to the same degree that it did nearly six years ago.

Ah well, it is a habit by this point.  I even created a category for these posts.  I just have to go back and add that category to the first 62 monthly review posts.  I’ll get to that some day.  Now to come up with something about the site.

Well, there is the turning of the seasons… last month’s spam was all about Brazilian email list scams, this month it turned to Guild Wars 2 gold selling sites.  Always a sign of change.

My email inbox however seems to be primarily devoted to WoW related scams.  I will be happy for Mists of Panderia to ship if only because the phishing scams will have to find something besides panda beta access scams to send me.  I am at the level of more than one a day on those right now, all to an email address that isn’t associated with my Blizzard account.  Always amusing.

Well, maybe not always.

One Year Ago

Blizzard announced some crazy idea that you would have to be logged on to Battle.net at all times to play Diablo III.  Glad that never came up again.  Oh, wait

SOE finally got a comprehensive server status page, and Scars of Velious opened up on Fippy Darkpaw.

I hit 70 million skill points in EVE Online and prepared to check out after the summer or rage.

I was back playing LOTRO for a bit.  I made it into Moria, then went looking for hoes.  I also wrote a post summing up my relationship with LOTRO up to that point.  It’s complicated.

Wargaming.net announced World of Battleships.  They have since changed the name to World of Warships, because we cannot have enough games we can shorted to WoW yet.  This got me musing on battleships and related games.

Meanwhile, World or Warplanes (another WoW) got a web site with cool pictures and stuff.

David Reid was telling people that Rift had ONE MILLION CUSTOMERS.  How one actually defines a customer was left as an exercise to the student.

I was still playing some Need for Speed World.  I was enjoying destructible terrain, though the weekend the police broke lead to some different destruction.

I mentioned some of the little things I liked in MMOs.

I was wondering about World of Warcraft Magazine issue 5.  It seemed to be very late.

And Namaste put out a Very Short History of MMOs video.  Wasn’t there a follow up video?

Five Years Ago

I won something in a contest!  A Warp Drive Active Shirt!  I still haven’t been to any sort of EVE Online event where it would impress people however.

And speaking of EVE, I started down the training path to get my alt flying a Hulk.  As with most such ventures, it began with mining in the modest Bantam frigate and the oddly shaped Osprey cruiser.  Also, our corp, the Twilight Cadre was founded.  I also wrote up a piece on how to find an agent in EVE Online (without external resources) that has become one of the most viewed posts on this site.

I received a copy of the first issue of EQuinox, the official EverQuest II magazine.  It was… thin.  And it had a dark elf on the cover.  You would think there were no other races in EverQuest with all the play dark elves get.

Meanwhile, Qeynos harbor was full of rumors about Sarnak!

Legends of Norrath was announced at SOE Fan Faire 2007.  I was not there, but I listened to the presentation live while IM’ing with Darren about what we heard, which included an interesting offer from Leonai of Online Gaming Radio.  I still have not actually played LoN.  I am just not the collectible card game kind of person.

I purchased the Richard Garriot’s Tabula Rasa Pre-Order box, only to find that getting into the beta, as was promised on the outside of the box, was not as easy as I had hoped.  You had to get access to the beta forum to get the information, and the beta forum was not letting people in!

In a strange turn of fate, I happened to take a look at PlayOn on the very day they posted their WoW Random Guild Name Generator.  So I posted a quick link to it, which in turn has become my most viewed post ever.  The popularity was related to some Google algorithm which put up this site on the first page of searches related to guild name generators.  And so, for a year, that post has been on the top of the list in my month in review.

I also put up what would become my second most popular post for quite a while, How to Find an Agent in EVE Online.  It only took CCP four years to make the whole thing less convoluted.

CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson stirred up the “why so much fantasy?” discussion about MMOs and I put out my own views, to which I now just link back whenever the discussion comes back up again.

And, finally, it was a year ago when TAGN hit the 100,000 page view milestone.  We have had a few more since then.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in August

I discover that being SynCaine is being successful, as my attempt to emulate him became my most popular post of the month.  And no Pokemon on the list.  How did that happen?

  1. Tortanic to Offer Custom Deck Chairs
  2. Diablo III vs. Torchlight II – A Matter of Details
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. Revised Roles and Mining Ship Memories
  5. Today’s Conspiracy Theory – The WoW 5.0.4 Patch
  6. WoW Drops More Subscribers Than SWTOR Has Left
  7. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  8. Free to Play and the Implied Social Contract
  9. Will Nostalgia Be Solely the Domain of EverQuest?
  10. Crazy Train out of Barstow
  11. Rift – Population Problem? What Population Problem? Factions? What Factions?
  12. CSM7 Minutes – Quantity Has an Annoying Quality all its Own

Spam Comment of the Month

Yes, and you can’t sig tank against a tengu with a scimitar and keep up with it. Even base sig is like 70 something and CN HMs have like 84m ER.
[I have no idea if this is true, or what it has to do with the SEO link that came with it]

Search Terms of the Month

Who still subscribes to WoW?
[A question Blizzard might have to work on soon]

pics of half open pokeballs
[Rule 34 in action I am sure]

are the asilomar conference grounds haunted?
[I have it on good authority that they are]

terry prachet noobs
[They have only read "The Color of Magic?"]

EVE Online

Life continues on in null sec, with one war ending and another beginning.  This latest war seems to be taking place mostly while I am still at the office though.  Or at least the fun bits.  Damn Europeans.  Anyway, I have shot a lot of structures lately.  Well, I haven’t even done that.  I have flow logistic for a lot of structure shooting, which is like being on the medical team for a miniature golf tournament.  Sure, people get hurt once in a while, but do they really need reps.  I was able to passive tank the POS guns last night while flying slow and in a straight line. (FC orders)

My high sec industrial alt has been plugging away.  I may have to tell his tale some day.  He has been on a mission.

Oh, and my main character, Wilhelm Arcturus, just celebrated his 6th year since creation this past Wednesday.  That seems like a long time ago.

Guild Wars 2

It launched.  It has sold a lot of boxes.  A lot of people are playing it.

Just not me.

Not yet, in any case.  I am going to let this settle down a bit before I jump in.  Yes, I missed out on the baseball cap and the super low priced karma weapons (limit, 49 per customer) and the bans.  And I probably will have to create characters with super cryptic names, since names have to be unique game-wide.  But I am willing to sacrifice.

My target point:  I’ll buy in when I can get a box (virtual or otherwise) for $40 or less.

It might be a long wait.

Rift

I have been spending my swords and sorcery play time in Telara for the most part, and I have been quite enjoying it.  I have another character at level 50 now, so that is a warrior and a rogue.

Sanperre Level 50

Meanwhile, the instance group is coming back together in Rift and the group is just 11 levels away from 50 as well.  We should be there long before Storm Legion arrives.

I might have to go work on a mage.  I have one.  He is level 12.  It would be something to have one of each at level cap.  But I have never really been a mage person.  We shall see.

World of Warcraft

Despite not playing much (I have been doing Darkmoon Faire every month with a couple characters and that is about it) I did download the nearly 8 GB of data that came with the dread Patch 5.0.4.  I then logged in all of my characters to consolidate pets and mounts and achievements across characters.  This caused Raptr to erroneously report that I had somehow earned 75 achievements the other night.  Industrious.  With nearly two months left to go on my annual pass,I figured I ought to see what there was to see.

Coming Up

Next month.  Well, Torchlight II launches, which I absolutely will be getting, as will Mists of Panderia, which I have no plans to purchase at all.  Heck, I will be able to create a panda if I want without it.  I just won’t get any new content otherwise.  But I still have a lot of Cataclysm content left undone, so why bother?

There might be another expansion unlock on Fippy Darkpaw.  We shall see how the vote goes this time.  Gates of Discord had a hard fight.  Will Omens of War face similar resistance?

Riders of Rohan rode on out of September and into October, so that will get saved for another day.

Fall is approaching, the traditional time for deep nostalgia here at TAGN.  What will it involve this year?

And, finally, people who did some math up at the top of this post will realize that another regular tradition of this blog is looming next month.  Now I just need to come up with a theme for it.