Category Archives: EverQuest II

The Night the Lights Went Out in Norrath

A memory of the Great December Downtime in EverQuest II

It was just about ten years ago.

EverQuest II had be live for a little over a month.  There were troubles.  After having a couple weeks to itself in the market, World of Warcraft launched and the harsh comparisons began.  It wasn’t that EQII didn’t have some better features than WoW… for example, I have always felt that EQII’s version of in-game maps was superior… but in a market that, up until that moment, had been dominated by EverQuest, it was something of a fight to see which of the two would become EQ’s true successor.  After all, EQ was more than five years old at that point, and who plays a five year old game?  It was practically on death’s door, waiting to hand off to a new generation.

And in that fight, EverQuest II was not faring well.  Some people I knew who came from EverQuest had either gone back or moved on to WoW at that point.  EQII was down, but not out.  The game was still growing, this still being the age of the slow ramp rather than the sudden spike.

SOE was trying to fix things that were becoming a hindrance to players.  We were destined to get floating quest markers over NPCs and changes to the woefully inadequate quest log and the first of many revamps to the crafting system.  SOE knew they had to adapt.  They could see WoW.

In our guild, a mash-up of players from the EverQuest guild Knights of Force, the TorilMUD guild Shades of Twilight, and a few fellow travelers from the Old Gaming Veterans clan, things were holding on.  A few players had dropped out of the game, though they were mostly the non-MMO players from OGV who went back to playing Desert Combat.  But for the most part we were holding in there, grouping up to run through zones or crafting away.

On voice coms we mocked those who ran off to Blizzard’s cartoon MMO, though there was a feeling that maybe EQII wasn’t the true successor to EQ.  The early buzz around Brad McQuaid and Vanguard had started.  That was going to be the real deal.  But for now, EQII was the best we had, so we put up with locked encounters and experience debt and system requirements that burnt out more than a couple nVidia 6800 GT cards in our guild. (I was running with a 6600 GT card, which meant I had to keep the graphic settings modest, but I also didn’t need to replace the damn thing… or my power supply… over and over like some.  There is probably a post in “video cards I have run” some day.)

We were coming up to a good stretch of game play.  The holiday’s were coming.  Like many people in our guild, I had a stretch of time off and was looking forward to some good, solid chunks of game play time.

Then, as we were headed to that first weekend, SOE applied some updates and restarted the servers.

And they did not come back up.

Here is where the details get a bit vague.  I recall the game, or at least our server, being down pretty much Friday night through Sunday, a huge patch of premium gaming time washed away.

But concrete details are not easy to come by.

The SOE forum posts, all the status updates and such, have long since been washed away by changes to the forum software.  The conspiracy nut in me suspects that they change the forums every few years just to dump bad memories and excess baggage.

I mentioned that Massive Magazine did an article about the incident in their first issue.  That was just about two years after the event, when memories of the whole thing were sharper.  I think I still have a copy stuffed away in a box.  But we packed up and moved houses since then, so if it is in a box somewhere, it appears well hidden.

Digging around the web, I found some references to what happened.  Terra Nova mentions the event, but links the SOE forum thread, long since gone, and a site called MMORPGDOT, also a distant memory. (And looking at the internet archive only shows them making a very brief mention of the event.)

Likewise, there is a mention of the even happening at Slashdot, written by Michael Zenke, which links to a few sources, including the SOE forums, all of which are long gone save the Terra Nova post mentioned above.

Other news sites that cover MMO don’t go back that far (Massively) or went through changes or otherwise appear to have purged their archives beyond a certain point.

This is one of those points when I wish I had started blogging sooner.  Two years earlier and I would have written something about this, as I wrote about the great Sony hacking of 2011 which brought down both the PlayStation Network and SOE. (Not to be confused with the great Sony hacking of 2014.)

PSNDownSo I started nosing around at various blogs just to see what people were writing about when the downtime occurred.  A lot of the self-hosted blogs from that era have disappeared, or have had database problems, but a few still linger. (My Great Survey of Linking Blogs post helped out.  I will have to do another of those at some point.)

However, it did not seem to garner much attention.  The event coincided with Raph Koster’s book, A Theory of Fun, hitting the shelves.  There was a discussion of niche games in the MMO market, which still seems relevant today, and something about what WoW would mean to Dark Age of Camelot. (Or something of a contrary view.)

The only real mention I could find amongst the few blogs remaining from the time was by Tobold, for whom the server down time meant moving to WoW ahead of his initial plan. (Poking around also got me to this then-so-current WoW vs. EQ2 post at GameSpy.)

So here I sit, vague memories swirling, wondering how big of a deal the whole thing really was at the time.  Certainly evidence of the event has faded from the internet and worse things have happened.  Didn’t Arche Age just have a similar incident.

I think our own guild was emotionally entrenched in EQII at the time, so we just carried on once things were up again.

Do you remember the Great December Downtime of ten years ago?

Can you find anything else about it on the net?  If you find something I’ll add a link to the end of the post.

Suddenly I Had 280 AA Points

I knew that the patch was coming to EverQuest II yesterday, the patch that included the change to how Alternative Advancement points would be awarded.  I mentioned it in passing earlier in the week, how the game would now award some AA points with levels so as to make sure that by the time you hit level 90 you would have 280 points.  The whole thing was detailed over at EQ2 Wire.

What I did not expect, a few minutes after logging in… because it takes the system a while to catch up with you… was to get the achievement for having earned 280 AA points with Sigwerd, who was 27 levels shy of the guaranteed 280 points at level 90.

280AAAs I read the release notes, it seemed like the change would only boost you up to a minimum floor amount of AA points for your level, which according to the chart at EQ2 Wire should have put Sigwerd around 175 AA points, a boost of 65 over the amount he carried into the patch.

My immediate thought was that SOE had made a mistake and that they would be taking away these AA points if I didn’t spend them right away.  So I went and spent 170 AA points.

I like spending AA points on things that enhance skills I already have or that boost my character in specific ways.  I do not like spending AA points on things that add a new skill to my book.  I already run with three full bars of skills visible at all times and another two full up of things buffs and other rarely used items, and I will be damned if I can tell you what even a full bar of them specifically DO… aside from “some damage” or the like… so the idea of adding in more skills, which just get lost in my skill book, has little appeal.

As I was spending, I started to wonder if perhaps, yet again, SOE had taken my trade skill level into account.  SOE has often been rather indifferent to any distinction between trade and adventure level.  Back in the day, when you had to complete a special quest in order to get to Zek or the Enchanted Lands before level 30, I was able to wander in with my guild well before that because my trade skill level was past 30.  Sigwerd, thanks to doing the Frostfell crafting quest, had just become a level 88 armorer.

To test this, I logged in a few other characters who also had an imbalance in trade and adventure level.  However, nobody else hit 280, though one hit 200.  But he also had a lot of AA points already.

So my theory then became that, for this transition to the AA granting process, SOE was just going to give you the total number of AA points that was set as the floor for your given level, regardless of how many AA points you may have had already.  That theory was born out later when I actually looked up the release notes, which appear to say something that could be interpreted as thus.

So Sigwerd had 110 AA points and then had his the floor amount for his level, 170-180 I would guess, dumped on top of that, stopping at the grant cap of 280.  He will, thus, be granted no more AA points as he levels, having already hit 280, and it looks like he might have missed out on 5-10 free points in the bargain.

On the bright side, he has his 280 AA points NOW and can continue to earn AA points as he moves forward to 90.

And he is moving forward.

I decided to follow the advice of Gnomenecro in the comments and have been splitting my time between the Cloud Mount series of quests and some activities in Frostfell. (I had also forgotten how much better ZAM’s EQ2 site is compared to the official, SOE supported EQ2 section at Wikia.)

The Cloud Mount quests, done while ignoring other quests in the area, are something of a whirlwind tour of the Kingdom of Sky expansion that sends you almost every island exactly once.  So you get discover XP, you open up the map, and you get a bit of a feel for the place.  I have been doing a few of those quests every night, and am about a third of the way through it, well into the Barren Sky part of the quest line.

Islands of the not-so-Barren Sky

Islands of the not-so-Barren Sky

The run has given Sigwerd some decent equipment upgrades as well as some furniture for his home… he might need a bigger house at this rate.  And, of course, adventure experience.  Last night Sigwerd hit level 64, officially making him my highest level character… in adventure levels… in EverQuest II.

Hitting 64 in a narrow canyon

Hitting 64 in a narrow canyon

And, as mentioned, I have also been doing some of the Frostfell quests, which has been enhanced by SOE’s holiday double status special.  While somewhat vague about what gets doubled, as an All Access subscriber I appear to be getting double Frostfell E’ci tokens with each quest turn-in.  That, at least, has made the Frostfell Decoration Committee crafting quests, where you must craft 48 things in an instance without leaving or going to the bathroom or logging off, somewhat more worth it, as the turn-in grants 20 tokens.

That quest also grants a decent amount of crafting experience, boosting Sigwerd up to a level 88 armorer, which I think puts him in contention for my highest level crafting character.

So the return to Norrath nostalgia run seems to be off to a decent start.  Gaff even logged in to see what was going on, though he was struck by how dated the game felt.  And that is a hard part to argue with, especially since we have both been playing Warlords of Draenor content recently as well.  Despite years of updates, there is still very much a sense that this game was released before everybody felt they had to follow so many of the conventions cemented by WoW.

But, in its way, the dated feel of the game is part of its charm for me.  EverQuest II hasn’t always aged well.  Recently I felt especially odd heading back into the Echoes of Faydwer content, which when it was launced was an amazing revitalization of the game, but which now strikes me as an awkward and disorganized jumble.  Bits of it are still good.  I like the Butcherblock dock area and a lot of the dungeon content still feels fine.  My attempts to quest in Lesser Faydark and the Loping Planes were just frustrating.

But then I wander into some really old area, like sewers under Qeynos or the Isle of Zek or… and I am loathe to admit this because I did not like the expansion at the time… some parts of the Desert of Flames expansion and things still look as good as they did a decade back.

We’ll see how I feel when I get into the 2007 content with Rise of Kunark.

My MMO Outlook for 2015

Another of those regular end of the year posts where I either try to reflect on the past or peer into the future.

I don’t do this post every year, but once in a while I am driven to it for one reason or another.  Last year it was because I could come up with five good candidates for what new things I might be playing in 2014.

Granted, one of them was a new expansion, Warlords of Draenor, rather than a new game.  But at least I had four potential new games.

Okay, three potential new games, since I had EverQuest Next on the list, and that was beyond a long shot even a year ago.

Or maybe really two potential new games, since Landmark, still burdened with the EverQuest handle at that point, was also on the list.  Sure, it was available to the public, for a price.  And I even played with it a couple of times.  But it isn’t even feature complete yet, so SOE calling it beta is purely a political move.

And that will be... December?

And that will be… when?

There simply wasn’t enough “there” there to call it a game.

But there were two potentials, two new games coming in 2014 that raised enough interest in me that I could imagine myself perhaps playing them.  The were The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar.

And I did not play either of those.  I downloaded the beta for TESO, and while it felt like it had an Elder Scrolls vibe, an opinion based entirely on my few hours of playing Skyrim, which shouldn’t be viewed as being at all definitive, it did not really enchant me.  I was more interested in whether or not it and WildStar could pull off the monthly subscription model and last through to the end of the year without going F2P.  They made it, though things look grim for WildStar on that front.

So, in the end, I played one game on my list, which was just an expansion to a game I was already playing and which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.  I also played EVE Online, which passed the 11 year mark this year, and started in again on EverQuest II, another title in the double digit age range at this point.

I suppose I could throw War Thunder on the list, but that really isn’t an MMO in the sense I mean.  That, and World of Tanks are more lobby based battle match making games than persistent world.  I did take another shot at Star Wars: The Old Republic, but that passed quickly.  I’ve already spent more time in EverQuest II this week than I did in SWTOR all year.

So that was my year in MMOs  2014 was completely rooted in old standards.

And, as I sit here, it looks like that might be the way 2015 rolls, all old school.  Gaff, having patched up EQII and then balked at how dated it feels… and it does feel dated, though for me that is part of the charm… is talking a bit about Lord of the Rings Online.  But I don’t think LOTRO is going to win many points on the fresh-O-meter either.

I cannot, at this moment, bring to mind any new titles for 2015 that I might play.

Sure, I could go do a bit of research and come up with a few.  I know there has to be a few persistent, virtual world-like, MMORPGs slated for 2015, but I figure that if I do not know them without a Google search, then they are unlikely candidates at best.

Yes, I could put up a list like:

  • Landmark
  • EverQuest Next
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Shroud of the Avatar
  • Star Citizen

But I am not feeling it for Landmark really, and of the other four we might see something really playable (not just a badly branded open play test or bits and pieces) from Shroud of the Avatar or Camelot Unchained by next December, given the current state of progress.  Might as well just save those for the 2016 list.  I’m not really interested in doing beta any more.

So there it stands.  My likely slate of MMOs for 2015 appears to be:

  • World of Warcraft
  • EVE Online
  • EverQuest II

Not that such a list is bad.  As long as I am enjoying my time playing, it doesn’t matter if I am playing something new of something I started playing a decade back. And, at least in the case of EVE Online, it is an exciting time to be in the game as things are changing.  But after years of being able to name at least some new stuff coming in the next calendar year, it seems a bit odd to only be looking at the same things for 2015.

Of course, the golden age of the big MMO launch seems to have passed.  It has been a while since there was a list of strong candidates.  The market is too crowded, there are an almost unbelievable number of second or third tier titles, and going forward we seem to be entering the age of the niche title that focuses on a specific strength catering to a specific demographic.

Or so it seems.  I might have missed something.  Is there a new title coming in 2015 I ought to be excited about?  Is there one that you are excited about?

Addendum: And now that I have written this, Massively has a “what are you looking forward to in 2015” post with a list of titles… and most of the staff mention Landmark or EverQuest Next or both.  Their poll lumps the two together in a blatant display of SOE bias. (And the two titles together are still losing to Camelot Unchained, though Mark Jacobs is all over the comment thread, so he might have called out the cavalry.)

How to Succeed in Norrath Without Really Trying

Be patient? Don’t you realize I’ve been working here… well, two whole hours now?

-J. Pierpont Finch

As I mentioned last week, the 10 year EverQuest II anniversary has stoked a bit of nostalgia for the old game in me.  It was one of my choices to install after the big drive disaster.

So there it is, installed.  It is also free to play, so I need not even get out my credit card in order to return to post-cataclysm Norrath.  I can jump right in.

And yet I am wary of an uninformed jump back into the game.  There is a history here.  I have a rather large slate of characters sitting in the 48-60 level range.  From launch through each return to the game, I have found myself stalled there.

At one point, of course, that range was, or was at least close to, the level cap.  But as the years have gone by and one expansion has lead to another, the cap has crept further and further away, sitting now at 100.

I have taken a number of runs at the game at various points in its history, and I always get bogged down in the same spot.  I am good through the classic content for the most part, which gets you to about level 50, I am okay with the content from the Desert of Flames, which will get you close to 60, but after that I just fall flat.

In the Pillars of Flame

In the Pillars of Flame

Kingdom of Sky content has never clicked with me, while Echoes of Faydwer, the expansion that revived the early game for many, just runs down at about the same point.  I get lost, the quests get scattered all over, and momentum dies.  There is also some content in The Fallen Dynasty area as well, but as with EoF, I always seem to end up at a dead end, lost and forgotten.

The map of place, most below my level now...

The map of place, most below my level now…

Basically, I am good with the 2004 content and the 2005 content, but once I get to 2006 content I fall of the horse and never get back on again.  And I would kind of like to see some more recent content in Norrath.

Yes, there is an easy out for that.  I could take up SOE’s offer and just boost a character straight to level 85.  I already used their freebie offer on a whim, but the cost is only 3,500 SC, and I have 10K sitting around… still.  I could boost one of my old favorites.  That would gear them up and push them right into content from 2010.  Sentinel’s Fate raised the cap to 90.

The problem is that while I want to get past the content that has stood as a barrier to me for so long, I am also interested in playing through the content just on the other side of the, the Rise of Kunark expansion.

I think that might be the last expansion I purchased for EQII.  I would like to play through it at level, which means playing to it.

So I need a plan.

I have a character picked out.  My berserker Sigwerd, on the Freeport server.

Sigwerd in New Halas

Sigwerd in New Halas

He is level 60 at the moment.  He is wearing the full set of cobalt armor that I made him back… when was that when we actually played this game last? 2011?  That will serve him for a couple more levels, but at 62 he will have to completely refit because… does gear in EQII completely lose value still when it is 10 levels down?  Anyway, I’ll need to find a pile of xenogite to make a new suit soon.  Berserkers are… or used to be… crazy good for beating on stuff.  He has a healing mercenary if he needs it.  I should be set, I just need to plot a course.

SOE is helping to narrow things down for me by removing experience from Dungeon Maker this week… today, actually… so that will no longer be an option.  Another system SOE invested in and then abandoned, or at least turned into something akin to second tier housing.

Surrounded in a farming dungeon

Surrounded in a farming dungeon

Though, honestly, if my only option was to do Dungeon Maker for 10 levels I would probably just quit right now, so that being removed isn’t going to change anything for me.

SOE is also helping me out by changing how Alternate Advancement points are earned.  Going forward you will be granted AA points as you level up, so I can leave the experience slider set to 100% for adventure and 0% for AA… if I subscribe.  Which I think I will, since that gives you a small experience boost and removes what Bhagpuss described as something of a tax on free players, with half your exp being siphoned off into an unnecessary pool.

So with that set, should I just try to plow through some combo of paths through Kingdom of Sky, the Loping Planes, and the Isle of Shin?  All of those have defeated me before.

Should I try to press into some of the open dungeon areas, like New Tunaria, with my healer in tow and make my way on heroic mobs?

New Tunarians were not happy to see me...

New Tunarians were not happy to see me…

Or is there another path through to 70?  I still have every single experience boost potion SOE ever granted me as a veteran reward.  I could use those to speed things up and ease the pain, though I hate to drink too many at what is now the mid-levels of the game, as I understand the experience curve spikes up sharply later on.

But then, my goal isn’t necessarily to get to 100 so much as it is to get into some of the newer content.

Where would you head in my place?

The Great Installation

After the hardware mess of Thanksgiving week, I was presented with a new challenge… or a new opportunity if you prefer.

I had to figure out what to games to install.  This was something of a test, as it determined what games I really want to play and which I keep around “just in case.”

The first two were easy, as they are games I have been actively playing on a daily basis.

World of Warcraft
Of course WoW had to get installed.  Warlords of Draenor is still new and reasonably fresh and my friends and family are playing.  An install from scratch wasn’t too bad either.  I don’t use many addons and I do not modify the UI much.  Even so, I was surprised at how much the game saves on the server side of things.  I only had to make a couple of tweaks and download a few addons and I was back and running.

EVE Online
EVE Online is the other one that was a no brainer, a game that appears on the “Games I Play” section of the side bar of the blog.  Getting EVE installed was quicker than WoW, there being simply less assets to download.  I think WoW was 24GB while EVE was less than 8GB.  But after the install was another story.

There are a lot of finicky little settings that EVE stores on your system.  I spent a lot of time fiddling with chat channels and the overview and what appears on the Neocom bar and so on.  Every warning or alert that I ever dismissed and told never to bother me again is back and live.  And so many notifications.  I had this about under control and then CCP launched the Rhea expansion this week and all the icons changed.

Not that the changes were necessarily bad… I no longer think “what does the Pentagon have to do with the market?” when I go to buy something.

Visual closure does it...

Visual closure does it…

But learning the new icons at a point in time when they were also mixed up from the order I was used to wasn’t helping me much.  And logging into my alt restarted that whole process.  At least there is a utility out there to copy settings from one account to another, so once I have my main set, my alt can be molded in its image.  I’m just not sure when my main will be set.

Installing EVE also meant installing a few helper programs, like EVE Mon, the GARPA Topographical Survey, and EVE Fitting Tool.  That’s the way things roll in New Eden.

With those two installed and running, the question of what else makes the cut came up.  The next choice was actually easy.

Steam
Technically not a game, but it enables the ability to play a lot of games.  I have around 120 in my library, though 40 of those were from the time I bought every PopCap title during a Steam sale because I wanted Peggle. The price for everything was the same as the Peggle list price.

Of course, with Steam installed, I had a long list of choices.  From them I chose:

Total War: Rome II
The current staple of our somewhat on hiatus Friday night group.

Defense Grid 2
The fruits of a Kickstarter campaign.  I still have a few levels to get through.

Shroud of the Avatar
Another Kickstarter game.  This one is hardly done yet, as the large yellow letters at the top of the window indicate.  But Lord British has put the whole thing on Steam now, so I can let that take care of keeping it up to date rather than the native installer/patcher, which has been a bit wonky.  And it relieves me of having yet another set of log on credentials to remember.

And that was about it for Steam.  Just three games.  I will probably install Civilization V again at some point when I get the urge to play, and maybe War Thunder, but I didn’t feel the need for either right away.

After those, I only installed one more game.

EverQuest II
I have been telling myself for a while now that I am going to go back and play EQII again for a bit.  I have some nostalgia welling, what with the 10 year anniversary and all.  There is a whole post exploring HOW I should go about that in progress, probably for next week.  But in order to get there I have to have the game installed.  Fortunately, I long ago gave up on modifying the UI for the game, so the defaults were pretty much what I was working with already.

And that was pretty much it, which leaves some games I write about, or claim I pay attention to, not on my system.

Those not installed included:

EverQuest
The high holy of games when it comes to nostalgia, I am so lost and so out of touch with the live game and the current expansion that there is little point in my installing the game.  At some point, if SOE decides they are going to create another progression server or farm nostalgia in some similar fashion, I may go back.  But for now I am out.

Lord of the Rings Online
I think it is time to admit that there has been a parting of the ways between myself and LOTRO.  Buying a Lifetime subscription to the game was the best MMO deal ever for me, and I got my money’s worth and then some out of it.  But after the last class revamp I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back and relearn the game.  Add in the fact that I haven’t been more than a few steps beyond the far side of Moria in all these years, and it might be time to admit I am done.

Rift
While I loved the original game and the instance group made their home there for a while, the Storm Legion expansion never clicked with me.  While their free to play model is the most generous around, I still have no real desire to go back and play, much less so with Trion’s Glyph client now a requirement.

There is also a pretty long list of games I wasn’t really playing or paying much attention to, which did not get installed again.

  • World of Tanks – Haven’t played it in ages
  • GuildWars 2 – Never really clicked with me, plus I lost all my account info
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – Gave it a run again earlier this year, but never really got into it
  • Need for Speed: World – Our some-time driving game diversion, haven’t logged in for over a year
  • Diablo III – Played through it twice, liked it post patch, but not enough to play again
  • Path of Exile – Was a good Diablo clone, better than D3 probably, but network issues chased me away a long time back
  • Torchlight II – Since I am listing the other pretenders to the Diablo throne, in the end this was the most disappointing of the three, as Runic released it then pretty much walked away
  • Neverwinter – Home for our group for a bit, not a bad game, but down the priority list
  • PlanetSide 2 – I tried this at launch, but it quickly became a hack-fest, so haven’t been back since
  • Dragon’s Prophet – SOE’s Asian flavor of the month, didn’t really hook me

That is about the state of my games right now.  I suppose this leaves me plenty of room to install whatever great stuff shows up in 2015.

Is One MMO Enough for a Studio?

CCP was on the cusp of becoming a respectable multi-MMO studio, but then it jettisoned World of Darkness and pledged undying loyalty to the EVE universe.

Syp, MMO studio report card: Where are our leaders?

Syp had a post a while back about MMO industry leadership that had a strongly implied and, to my mind, not well supported assumption about what such leadership amounts to.  Subscribers/customers wasn’t a factor.  Not to pick on Syp, but he does tend to see the negative in all things Blizzard, so he would have to either throw that out or say something nice about Blizz.  The latter may have stuck in his throat, thus leadership has nothing to do with audience size or the influence that goes with it.

Nor does it have anything to do with who is following whom, a simple definition of leadership.  That way lies madness… or Blizzard again.  Lots of people have been following Blizzard, adopting features haphazardly over time like EverQuest II, setting themselves up as alternatives with “WoW Plus” games like Rift at launch, or just copying chunks the game wholesale like Alganon.

No, not Azeroth!

Mentioning Azeroth acknowledges its leadership

Whether or not World of Warcraft being viewed as a leader… it is by outsiders if nobody else, and they seem to have all the money… has been good for MMOs over the last decade is an open sore of a topic.  Are the stifling aspects of Blizzard’s behemoth on the industry (go into any MMO beta and count the number of times somebody is essentially complaining in general chat that the game in question isn’t WoW) worth the players that WoW brought into the genre and who went on to play other titles?  So goes the debate.

No, the only aspects that seemed to count on his list was having multiple MMO titles in play and who was making new MMOs.

But are more MMOs better for a company or not?  And do more MMOs really mean leadership?

Perfect World Entertainment, which includes the perennially troubled Cryptic Studios and the “disappeared off the map for two years and not making a Torchlight MMO” Runic Games, has many MMO titles available.  However, aside from the output of Cryptic, their titles tend to be Asian imports that do not play well in the west.  And even the Cryptic titles are not all that strong.  Neverwinter has a following and some features of note, but I rarely hear much good about the rushed to market due to contractual requirements Star Trek Online and almost never hear anything at all about their “let’s remake City of Heroes” title, Champions Online.  Maybe PWE isn’t a good example, especially when they are pointing at their US operations as hurting their bottom line.

How about NCsoft?  Again, they have a range of MMO titles from their home studio in South Korea along with titles from ArenaNet and Carbine Studios.  Certainly GuildWars 2 is a strong candidate, though the financials indicate that the execs in Seoul will be forcing ANet to ship an expansion box to boost revenues.  And all focus at ANet is on GW2, with GuildWars left to run out its days unsupported.  WildStar though… I haven’t heard any good news there.  And when it comes down to it, NCsoft gets most of its revenue from South Korea, and largely from its 1998 title Lineage.  Meanwhile, it has closed a lot of MMOs, which could be bad news for Carbine if they don’t get their act together.  Is this the multi-MMO company model we want others to follow?

And then there is Funcom, which has shambled from disappointment to disappointment.  They launched LEGO Minifigures Online a little while back which, true to Funcom’s history, has failed to meet expectations.

Okay, maybe we should ignore all those foreigners and look at a US-centric company like Sony Online Entertainment.

I love SOE, but at times they seem to be the MMO studio embodiment of Murphy’s Law.  If they can do the wrong thing, they will, and in front of a live studio audience.  Granted, they do tend to fix things in the end and do the right thing, but sometimes getting there is painful to watch.  However, they are the US champion for a multi-MMO company, at least in terms of number of titles.  But has this made them better or just spread them too thin?

They have two flavors of EverQuest and a third on the way at some distant future date.  There is LandmarkMinecraft for people who don’t like pixels, and the engine on which the next EverQuest will someday ride… in progress.  They have PlanetSide, PlanetSide 2, and H1Z1 (Zombie PlanetSide) in development.  And then there is the Asian import flavor of the month, previously Wizardry Online and currently Dragon’s Prophet.

That list of titles feels like too much stuff, and all the more so when you consider that SOE also cranks out an expansion for both EverQuest titles every year.  While those expansions mean revenue, SOE could be operating with as few as 50K subscribed players on EverQuest II and probably less still for EverQuest.  That is a big investment in the past while we wait for EverQuest Next.

Then there is Trion, which does a respectable job with Rift, which remains their best received title.  But Defiance has been problematic.  ArcheAge, which had the potential to be a big hit, has been mishandled. And then there is Trove, which seems to Minecraft for people who want bigger pixels and brighter colors.  Multiple MMOs hasn’t been a stellar success for Trion.

And, finally, on the US front there is Turbine which, inexplicably in hindsight given the size of the company, has the rights for Dungeons & Dragons AND Lord of the Rings and which has manage to turn both huge franchises into awkward niche titles.  Other than that they have Asheron’s Call, the distant third of the “big three” break-out MMOs from the end of the 90s, and Asheron’s Call 2, revived from the dead because… I still don’t know why.  I think it speaks volumes about Turbine’s outlook in that they are betting on a MOBA to save their flagging fortunes.

Stack those up against companies with just a single MMO.

Blizzard.  Do I need to say more about the very, very rich company in Anaheim?  One MMO has been very good to them.

CCP.  They seem to get into trouble only when they wander away from EVE Online.  When they focus on their main product, which in the past meant stealing resources from World of Darkness, things tend to go well for them.

EA.  Okay, EA has three MMOs, but they bought two of them and have farmed them out for another company to run, leaving them with just the BioWare MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It was never a WoW-killer, and it has its problems (roll stock footage about subscriber retention and selling hotbars), but it makes money.  Not as much as EA would like, but that may be as much because Disney gets a cut as anything.  That is the rub with a licensed IP, they come with more overhead.

Zenimax.  The Elder Scroll Online might be the weak point in the single MMO theory.  I don’t know how the game is doing, other than things are still being fixed and that the console versions of the title, a big part of the plan, have been pushed out into 2015.

And then there are the MMO-ish niche titles of the future, Star Citizen, Shroud of the Avatar and Camelot Unchained.  Those are being made by small companies that can only afford to invest in a single game.  And while those titles are playing the nostalgia card for all it is worth, they are also potentially mapping out new paths in the MMO world as smaller titles are able to do.

All of which is just so much talk, punctuated with some admittedly unfair characterizations both of various companies and of Syp.  I am not saying that companies should run one or multiple MMOs.  Clearly some companies do well, or well enough, running multiple games, while others seem best suited to focusing on a single title.  But I wouldn’t categorize any company as not being a real MMO player just because they only have one such title.

What do you think?

November in Review

The Site

It was actually a pretty busy month here, traffic-wise.  You might think that odd, given that I spent nearly a week without a functioning computer and, thus, put up very little in the way gaming posts.  But Google seemed to take a shine to me this month, making November the month highest average daily page views this year.  It would have had the most page views as well, if it had 31 days.  That was all mostly thanks to people searching for Warlords of Draenor related topics, as you can see by the “most viewed posts” section below.

On the WordPress.com front, they continue to annoy me in various ways.  They broke a couple of things badly early in the month, but have since fixed them.  And they do persist in trying to push their new “improved” editing interface.  It is dumbed down and not very responsive to boot, so I remain with the old one and pray that they won’t make the new one mandatory.  And, just in case I forgot who I was, they put my portrait in one of the navigation menus.  I guess if you use multiple accounts that might be helpful, but it just wastes space for me.

WACircleSquare

Also, what is it with putting rectilinear avatar pictures into circles?  Google+ is big on this as well.  I made a square portrait with a white space around it so the horns on my helm would appear to be escaping the picture, but putting it in a circle ruins the effect.  I will be glad when this fad passes.

One Year Ago

TorilMUD, measured through its lineage via Sojourn MUD, hit the 20 year mark.  So I was playing that before there was any sort of Warcraft.

Time was running out on Warhammer Online, but they were going to give people a last chance to see the place… for free.  A pity I couldn’t get my account to work.

There was a scathing quote of the day about what “social gaming” had come to mean.

The Tears of Veeshan expansion launched in EverQuest II while we said farewell to EverQuest: Macintosh Edition.  Meanwhile, EverQuest veteran Aradune was back in play talking about a new MMO he had planned.

The Rubicon expansion for EVE Online went live, complete with lots of stats.  The update did not save us from the node crash at E-YJ8G.  Big fleet battles, with thousand of drones in play, were taxing the servers beyond their limits.  Meanwhile, there was the Long Guy Fawkes Day… another node crash, but only after 6 hours of crushing TiDi… and we were headed back to Curse again.

EVE Online community site EVE Bloggers found a new home at last.

BlizzCon rolled around, generating much excitement for WoW players with the Warlords of Draenor announcement, though few thought it would take a year for them to ship it.  I was already back and binging on the game, but the rest of the instance group came back as well after the announcement… and we basically did what we should have done a few years back, we got out the old group and picked up where we left off.

I was dropping bombs in War Thunder.

And, after having read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire at its 20th anniversary, I got around to reading the other two books in the series.  The title of that post is a spoiler.

Five Years Ago

I was writing about how I had not changed the blog format since I started.  Sound familiar?

Our Thanksgiving entertainment was Rock Band 2.  While I was really bad at it, it was a lot of fun.  The next year we played Super Mario Bros. Wii, which I was also really bad at, but which isn’t nearly as much fun.  However, the kids liked it.  I rode along in a bubble most of the time.

And while Tech Crunch was exposing the odious practices favored by Mark Pinkus to get FarmVille and Mafia Wars profitable, the New York Times was gushing over this wonderful new virtual goods market, which I summarized and provided links to here.

I managed to get some playtime in with the original Torchlight, though there were some problems.  It turns out that if you bought the game from the wrong vendor, you could be a while waiting for patches.

The first LEGO Harry Potter game was announced, which I had anticipated would come to pass almost two years before it was announced.

Warhammer Online announced that levels 1-10 were going to be free, making me wonder if they were just going to breed a mass of level 1 twinks.  I think that is what the end result was.

In EVE Online, PLEX was off to a booming start.  The price of a PLEX has risen some since then (~300 million then, over 900 million ISK now).  Meanwhile, the first Hulkageddon was on and even I noticed something was amiss.  Eventually somebody pointed me in the right direction in the comments.

I wondered if fishing was really the secret ingredient for MMO success.

I got all nostalgic for Star Trek because of Star Trek Online’s impending release.

World of Warcraft and EverQuest II both hit their five year anniversaries.  Then I had the temerity to say that there were things that EQII didn’t do very well in my opinion.

On the WoW end of things, somebody was suing because they felt the game wasn’t easy enough.

Then there were Mr. T Mohawk grenades and a 24 slot Portable Hole, outrages both along with the $10 vanity pets.  And I was complaining about not getting the Headless Horseman’s mount during Hallow’s End.  Again, sound familiar?

I wrote a very short post about Pilgrim’s Bounty which went on to become the most viewed post on the site November of five years ago.

And the instance group started in with Ragefire Chasm, Wailing Caverns and Deadmines on the RP-PVP server.  Actual PVP occurred since we had to walk to the Deadmines.  We get called griefers for daring to engage in PVP on a PVP server.

New Linking Blogs

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

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in November

Search Terms of the Month

nobody likes to carol with yoda
[Because he’s all “With boughs of holly the halls be decked, yes! Hmmm?”]

photo tiger playing bagpipes
[I could find dogs playing, but no tigers]

tube tv vertical punctuation
[I prefer Zero Punctuation]

EVE Online

After coming off of a busy October, with deployments down south, I tapered off my time in New Eden a bit for the Warlords of Draenor launch.  It just so happened that we finished up our first post-Phoebe deployment just in time.  Phoebe has made travel more tedious in null, which both sides in the CFC vs N3/BL conflict of the moment have been trying to take advantage of.  Lots of talk about the CFC being forced to move between fronts via gates, but no mention of the Reavers reinforcing structures and knocking down towers in Querious while N3 is busy in Delve.

EverQuest II

I actually spent some time in post-cataclysm Norrath for the 10 year anniversary.  I didn’t adventure or even ear a single experience point to my knowledge.  But I did play around with housing and the new Isle of Refuge prestige house/zone we were given as an anniversary present.

Pokemon

Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire launched.  My daughter and I got our copies right on launch day thanks to oppressed workers in Amazon’s Fernley, Nevada shipping facility.  With this and Warlords of Draenor, I was wondering who would win out for play time.  WoW seems to have won for the most part.  The new Pokemon is good.  I am about 10 hours into it.  But the draw of WoW is stronger.  Gotta check up on my garrison!

Total War: Rome II

I managed to miss every Friday night game in November.  I was really tired this month, so it was tough to stay up past… 9pm.  It must be some urge to hibernate now that we have a bit of cold weather. (Cold for coastal California anyway.)

World of Warcraft

Big expansion launch.  Lots of players back in the game.  A beautiful new set of zones to play in.  Plenty of orc bad guys leading us on a merry chase.  But a lot of people are already level 100 in Warlords of Draenor.  Even with some down days and a meandering pace where I try to see it all, my first character in is already closing in on level 99.  I hope Blizzard has a game plan for dealing with most everybody at level cap in two months, or it is going to be a long 700+ days until the next expansion.

Coming Up

It will be December shortly, which will mean all sorts of end of the year, what in the hell happened sorts of posts.  I have some predictions to score and all that. (Plus more to write.)

CCP will be springing yet another new expansion on us in the form of Rhea.  Coming December 9th.  That will mean the end of skill point loss, the start of tier 3 destroyers, new wormhole space, and a bunch of things I have already forgotten.  I don’t know how things feel at CCP, but it is exhausting just keeping up with the changes on the outside.

We are in the midst of the Steam Holiday Sale, and I have purchased nothing so far.  And why do the Steam sales, summer and winter, seem to be coming earlier and earlier?

And, having been given a clean slate when it comes to… well… all the software on my computer, it will be time to decide what gets installed again.