Category Archives: Star Wars: The Old Republic

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.)

Reviewing my Predictions for 2014

Here we are, racing towards yet another new year.  We have gotten into the holidays, a mass of releases and updates have hit so far during November and December, and even another Steam Holiday sale has come and gone.  That was their Holiday sale, right?

It is about time to look back to January and a list of half-ass predictions, most of which I pulled out of… well… my ass.

DruidWoW2014_450pxYou can find the full predictions post here, along with reactions to what I predicted in the comments.  I am not going to quote all of it here, but I will try to get most of the relevant bits in.

I – Ship Dates

When I figured things might land.  10 points each with 2 points removed for each week I was off, plus 10 extra points if any of the names I came up with were used.  None were.

  • Hearthstone – April 1 –  Actual: April 16, 6 points
  • The Elder Scrolls Online – April 22 – Actual: April 4, 4 points
  • EVE Online 2014 expansions – (working names Excursions and Magellan) May 13 & November 18 – Actual: They changed their whole expansion method, and didn’t use my names, 0 points
  • WildStar – June 10 – Actual: June 3, 8 points
  • Warlords of Draenor – September 9 – Actual: November 14, 0 points… but I was a lot closer than most back in January!
  • EverQuest Landmark – October 15 – Actual: Despite being called beta, this is still pre-alpha development and nowhere near live, 0 points
  • StarCraft: Legacy of the Void – October 15 – Actual: Ha ha, is Blizzard ever going to ship this?  0 points
  • EverQuest II expansion #10 (working name Cheese of the Ratonga) – November 4 – Actual: November 25, 4 points
  • LEGO Minifigures Online – November 4 – Actual: October 1, 2 points
  • EverQuest expansion #21 (working name Return of Lady Vox) – November 25 – Actual: November 11, 6 points

Point total: 30 out of 100, no bonus points

II – Missed Dates

Project I said would not ship in 2014, and by ship I mean live, no “beta” tag, real and honest to goodness shipped.  10 points for each, pass/fail.

  • EverQuest Next
  • Heroes of the Storm
  • Line of Defense
  • Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  • World of Warships

Not one went live.  Hell, EverQuest Next isn’t even a bare-bones pre-alpha yet.  I’ll be putting that one in the 2016 basket going forward.  The rest… it was not unreasonable to expect them  Shroud of the Avatar, as an example, listed October 2014 in its Kickstarter.

Point total: 50 out of 50

III – Changes, Offers, and Upsets

Predictions about things that would come to pass in 2014.  Each is worth 10 points, with partial credit for things that are close.

  • World of Warcraft will report a small boost in subscriptions for Q4 2013 based on BlizzCon and Warlords of Draenor.  Subs will then resume a slow down trend until the expansion ships.

Mostly right.  There was a surge at the end of the third quarter that seemed to buck that trend.  Three out of four quarters right though, 7 points.

  • Blizzard will announce that WoW subscribers will get special benefits in Hearthstone.

Well, we got a mount for playing.  I am giving myself half credit on that.  5 points.

  • Blizzard’s World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary gift will be a mount for those subscribers who log in during the right time frame.

No, it is only another pet.  The whole mount/chopper thing was another gig, and I am not all that happy on that front.  0 points.

  • Blizzard’s insta-90 option will be available as a service for $35 by December of 2014.

The service is available… remember, it wasn’t even a thing in January… but the price is $60.  5 points.

  • SOE’s naming decision with EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark will come back to haunt them with some headline grabbing rage as people outside of the hardcore fan circles download Landmark and discover that this was not the game they were expecting.  One (or both) of the products will end up with a new name.

Oh, hey, EverQuest Next Landmark is now just Landmark.  Not a completely new name, but enough for 3 points I think.

  • ArenaNet will slow down their continuous content update plan and announce they are working on an expansion for GuildWars 2.  Off the record, Anet will report that their master’s in Seoul demanded this.

It isn’t clear to me where this is headed.  There was a cut back on the living story for a bit, but now that is back.  On the other hand, there is also something more than a rumor about Anet working on an expansion for 2015.  0 points.

  • WildStar will be off to the races with a smooth launch and a huge initial spike, but it will fall into the dread “three monther” category as subscriptions will trail off dramatically.

This wasn’t really a stretch, but it feels like WildStar dumped hard on the subscriber front, with the usual NCsoft treatment; big layoffs.  How long until the second NCsoft shoe drops and it gets cancelled?  10 points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will have a rocky launch, starting with a delay for the PC side of the house.  But the game will manage to capture enough of the Elder Scrolls franchise to sustain the game, making it one of the rare recent MMORPGs, one that doesn’t peak in the first month and go downhill from there.

Yeah, shipped on time, things were a bit rocky, but subscribers seem to have faded as well.  0 points.

  • WildStar will announce plans to move to a free to play model before the end of the year.

Hasn’t happened… yet.  But clearly there is talk and rumor of problems and low subscription numbers.  The real question will probably end up being will NCsoft allow them to change business model… possibly good money after bad in the eyes of Seoul… pare them back to profitability, or just put a bullet in them in 2015?  0 points for me.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will not budge on to the monthly subscription model in 2013.

Well, at least I won on that.  I suspect that no major change will come to their business model until the console versions ship… some day.  10 points.

  • Turbine will remove the 500 Turbine Points per month stipend from Lifetime subscriber accounts in Lord of the Rings Online.

They actually did not do this.  The future of the game is dim as Turbine tries to jump on yesterday’s bandwagon (MOBAs) looking for a cash cow, but they left us lifetime subscribers alone.  0 points.

  • Turbine’s Gift of the Valar insta-level option will be revised after the trial run.  The new version, with a new name, will boost players at least 10 additional levels and include all of the pre-Helm’s Deep expansions.

Nope.  Once Turbine comes up with a half-assed idea, they stick with it.  0 points.

  • With no support/budget for any raise in the level cap featuring fully voiced content, Star Wars: The Old Republic will follow on the Galactic Starfighter mini-game with more of the same.  First up will be Droid Battles.  Somewhat akin to Pokemon and WoW Pet Battles, to which it will be immediately compared, it will be far more focused on upgrading parts and abilities on a small set of droid models.  Cosmetic options for droids, as well as special models, will be the cash shop aspect of this feature.

Again, no biscuit.  SWTOR even got a level cap increase, which I guess means more fully voiced content.  I still think the Droid Battles is a great idea though.  0 points.

  • CCP will announce new areas of space to explore, as they have hinted at since Rubicon.  The new areas will be a cross between null sec and wormhole space.  Local chat will work like W-space and there won’t be any sovereignty.  You get to keep the space you can hold.  But there will be none of the mucking about with wormhole stability.  Jump gates will be the mode of travel.  And this new area of space will be just our of capital ship jump range.

You know, I was almost on to something with this, compared with what Rhea ended up giving us.  Maybe a little something for the effort?  2 points?

  • CCP will severely restrict drone assist in 2014.  However, it will be done in typical CCP fashion and will pretty much break drones for all purposes until they do a big drone revamp as part of the second 2014 expansion.

They nerfed drone assist, but they did it in the other typical CCP fashion and put a quick band-aid on it then walked away while various devs denied it was them who touched it last.  5 points.

  • Funcom will finally have an unequivocal success with the launch of LEGO Minifigures Online.

Erm… I couldn’t tell you really, which I guess means no.  Plus, the usual “failed to meet expectations” talk from them.  Couldn’t even win with LEGO.  0 points.

  • The inevitable rough ride for Chris Roberts will come when Star Citizen needs to start generating revenue beyond the donations of the faithful and features begin to get trimmed down to a more realistic target.  It doesn’t mean that the game(s) won’t be good, but they won’t be everything ever promised by Chris Roberts.  That will make a few big spenders rage.

Nope, Chris Roberts is still out there selling the full on dream that Star Citizen will be everything any fan boy has ever projected on the title, with the addition of space bonsai.  Granted, it helps that nothing substantial has shipped, just a couple of teaser modules.  0 points.

  • The Brad McQuaid “challenging epic planar high fantasy” Kickstarter won’t fund if he asks for more than $500,000.  I just don’t think he has the reputation/following of Mark Jacobs or Lord British.

Pretty much on the money.  If he had asked for $500K he would have made it.  10 points.

  • 2014 will be the year of the “insta-level” option for “levels” focused MMOs successful enough to ship an expansion that boosted the level cap… which, honestly, isn’t that many games when I think about it.  I will count this as fulfilled if I get EverQuest and Rift and one other game.

Fulfilled.  Even Funcom has something for Age of Conan running now. 10 points.

  • The near-ubiquity of free to play as an option for MMORPGs will start to take its toll on those games for which “it’s crap, but it’s free!” was the prime competitive advantage.  Expect to see more than half a dozen Asian imports fold up shop in North America in 2014.

First on the list appeared to be, Lunia, then Legends of Edda, then ArchLord, then Wizardry Online, then Rusty Hearts, and finally… crap, I couldn’t find a sixth.

I bet there is one out there.

I thought somebody said RF Online was going down, but the site is still up.  And I keep expecting Silk Road Online to falter and die.  I suspect it is sustained by the mistaken belief that you can buy drugs there.  Still, close enough for, say, 7 points.

74 out of 200 points.  The future is murky at best when you lack actual, first hand knowledge.

IV – Scoring

  • 30 out of 100 in the first section
  • 50 out of 50 points in the second
  • 74 out of 200 points round up the third

That gives me 154 points of out 350, which would be a failing grade in most classes I took in college.  That psych class with the hilariously altered curve might be the one exception.

On the other hand, getting as much right as I did… and I could have spun the news to make myself seem more on target than I was, but I chose to be conservative on that front… would clearly put me amongst the ranks of those such as Jeane Dixon.  I could re-brand as The MMO Psychic!

Now I have a couple of weeks to bend my mind once again towards the future for a January 1st post.

V – Predictions of Others

Of course, I wasn’t the only one to hang it out there and make some wild guesses about the future.  I counted the following blogs jumping on the futurist bandwagon in one form or another:

While it isn’t a competition, it is always interesting to see what comes to pass. (Their own prediction reviews linked as well, where available.)

SWTOR and a New Twist on Insta Levels

Star Wars: The Old Republic continues trucking along, successful by all reasonable measures save comparisons to the Azerothian behemoth.  It is arguably more successful than Star Wars Galaxies ever was.   Somebody likes EA’s fourth pillar.

Yes, SWTOR has to walk the free to play path, the reality of the current market, while trying to coax people back into subscribing lest they have to purchase their hot bars a la carte.  But it is still moving along some of the more traditional paths, to the point of some still counting it as a subscription MMO.  It has had expansions and increases to the level cap and what not.

And so it is just part of the normal MMO cycle that they have a new expansion (or new DLC according to some… what is the border between the two?), Shadow of Revan, coming out December 9th.

Revan, sans shadow...

Revan, sans shadow…

I suppose we should be thankful that they decided not to drop in November like all those other MMOs.

But 2014 is shaping up to be the year of insta levels.  The growing trend is to give your players a way to vault past a lot of early and middle content in your game in order to line them up to be able to experience the new hotness that is your latest expansion.  As Tom Chilton said:

By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back. But by including the level 90 character with this expansion, it gives people the opportunity to jump right into the new content.

Of course, Blizzard wasn’t the first to market with that idea.  SOE was out there ahead of them with a level 85 boost in EverQuest II before the Warlords of Draenor announcement.  But the World of Warcraft insta-90 boost made the bigger splash, and sells for the bigger bucks, weighing in with a $60 toll to get to 90.

The alleged price of level 90

The reality in Azeroth

Anyway, insta levels have become a thing and you can get them by one means or another in EverQuest, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, Rift, and Lord of the Rings Online if the moon is in the right house and you think getting to level 50 in a 100 level game is a worthwhile purchase.  And EA needs to live in the ecosystem.

Which brings us to the Shadow of Revan expansion.  People more knowledgeable than I are talking about the expansion in general and features like dumping talent trees.  You can find some of that at:

While I played a bit of SWTOR this year, it wasn’t enough for me to feel that I know squat about the game or how important a new expansion and five more levels might be.  But I am interested in one pre-order aspect of the whole expansion.

Revan12xBoost

In case you cannot read the fine print, EA is offering subscribers who pre-order a 12x boost to experience earned by class story quests. (Some details on what that means.)  While that isn’t handing out levels, it is making them much less difficult to obtain, though that might not be enough for some.

The interesting/awkward bit is that this is a limited time offer, and the boost expires on December 1st.  That is definitely pushing people to subscribe and buy the expansion sooner rather than later in order to take advantage of the boost.  And if you do roll with this you will no doubt know more about your character and class and the storyline of the game, even having played through at high speed, than you would have if they had just given you a level 55 boost.  The problem comes on December 2nd, when the talent tree system you just spent all those quick levels getting acquainted with goes away, to be replaced by the new discipline system.  That seems like kind of a misstep, but maybe most people don’t have as much problem re-learning how to play a character as I do.

Now, up to this point, you can make a strong argument that this 12x boost doesn’t belong in the same bucket as the other insta level schemes I mentioned.  While there is the whole “but you have to play those levels, even if they are fast” aspect, I think that is much weaker than the limited time nature of the boost.

But if down the road a ways EA puts that 12x boost to level 55 in the cash shop, I am going to say it pretty much falls in the same category, being clearly intended as a way for the player to pay not to play as much of the game as you otherwise might have to, as opposed to the garden flavor of xp boosts most free to play games offer, which I cannot recall ever exceeding 2.5x.

What do you think?

A Busy Thursday in August for MMOs

Here it is Wednesday night and I am wondering what I am going to post about tomorrow.  I have several choices, as tomorrow appears to be a busy day in the MMO world.

Blizzard

At 9:30am Pacific Time (16:30 UTC) Blizzard is going to do their big announcement for the date for the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

Save the date! Which date?

Tell us the date

That is the date people have been waiting for… and predicting would come early or earlier… since the beginning of the year.  My own pick back in January was September 9th, a date judged as pessimistic by some.  Now I am going to guess November 18th, right near the 10 year anniversary but just before the holiday season begins in the US.

Blizzard will also be showing us the cinematic for the expansion, which will no doubt be much discussed, but won’t tell us much more than the story behind the whole thing.

CCP

Then just a couple hours after that, at 20:00 UTC (13:00 Pacific Time), CCP will be holding their own live stream on their Twitch channel to present the next expansion for EVE Online, Hyperion.

No Hyperion graphic yet...

No Hyperion graphic yet…

So far this has been billed as the big “fix wormhole space” expansion.  I didn’t even know W-space was broken, but players will work whatever system is in place.

Sony Online Entertainment

Then in the evening, at some point past 19:00 Pacific Time (2:00 UTC) SOE will be having their SOE Live Welcome Keynote address.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

This will also be on their Twitch channel, though  SOE is trying to get people to put down $20 for their channel, so I am not sure what you get for free.

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

While we probably won’t get much in the way of details, this is the likely point during the event for any big announcements.  This will produce news, and I will be watching the EQ2 Wire blog for a summary. (And they have a list of streamed SOE Live events.)

BioWare

And at some point today BioWare will be launching the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Galactic Strongholds.

Housing!

Housing!

This will be the housing expansion for SWTOR and I will be interested to hear what path they have chosen for this and how players react.

Addendum: Or maybe not.  I thought there was a live stream planned for today about housing, but I must have dreamed it.  Probably for the best.

Others?

Meanwhile, Gamescom is still running in Germany and I haven’t checked to see if any other developers have decided that the second Thursday in August is THE day to announce something, but I won’t be surprised if somebody else is on board.

Which announcements will you be paying attention to?

What Does It Mean to be a “Subscription MMO?”

I am on the press release list along with a lot of real media outlets, so my inbox is often stuffed with the raw material that is barely recycled for content a lot of places around the web.

I skim through them every day, but don’t bother to mention 99% of them as they tend to be rather thin on things worth talking about.

This morning through there was a press release from SuperData Research pointing at their June factoid report.  Lots of little bits of data in that from which you can barely come up with to points to draw a line about anything.

The highlight of the report though was a chart listing out revenues for the top subscription-based MMO titles for 2013, worldwide.

Top Subscription MMO Revenue

Top Subscription MMO Revenue

The top spot is unsurprising.  WoW, even down to something like 60% of its peak, still rakes in money like no other.  Then there are a couple Asian MMOs which you might have heard of if you have been paying close enough attention.  Lineage 1 is still NCsoft’s biggest money maker.

And then you come to Star Wars: The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online, where you might legitimately ask a question like, “Hey, aren’t those free to play?”

As the title of this post asks, what makes for a subscription MMO these days?  Because if we are talking about needing a subscription to play, several of those titles fall off the list immediately.

But if, as the list here suggests, merely offering a subscription option is enough to be called a subscription MMO, then aren’t we missing a title or two.

Specifically, I would expect EverQuest II to make the list.  I don’t have any hard data to back up that expectation, but my gut impression of the game is that it ought to be somewhere on the list ahead of Lord of the Rings Online, something that is backed up, in my mind, by the fact that EQII has no problems cranking out expansions and interim content for all ranges of player while LOTRO is publicly giving up on raiders for now and doesn’t seem to be able to scrape it together for an expansion in 2014.

But maybe EQII isn’t doing as well as I thought.  Or maybe SOE’s model somehow falls outside of what SuperData considered a subscription MMO.  Or, most likely, maybe SOE just didn’t cooperate with SuperData and its information requests.  And one could also ask about Final Fantasy XIV.

Otherwise, I am somewhat surprised at where LOTRO ranks.  SWTOR is still popular, if not WoW popular, and that its revenue is only 1.65x what Turbine gets for LOTRO seems odd, given the downtrodden way Turbine seems these days.  And Rift seems way down the line.  But that does seem to mostly line up with the 2013 end of year summary for the Digital Dozen over at The Nosy Gamer.  EVE is generally higher on the list than LOTRO, but otherwise it seems about right.  Does that give this chart more validity?  Or the Digital Dozen?

And, of course, one key item missing from this chart is how much subscription revenue played into the totals listed.

Because the follow up chart points out that subscription revenues have been decreasing since their peak in 2010.

Subscription revenue

Subscription revenue

Subscriptions are trending down, while microtransactions are… well…  sort of flat really if you look at that line.  They are not not rising up sufficiently to off-set the loss of subscription revenue overall, which seems to go against what some cheerleaders for the model would have us believe.

Which might be why we saw a couple of subscription based launches this year.  SuperData pulled out the very exact number of 772,374 for The Elder Scrolls Online subscriptions.  That would make for a nice revenue stream.  WildStar was mentioned, but since it just launched in June, there were no numbers.

I would really like to know how much of the revenue for a game like SWTOR or LOTRO comes from subscribers.  If that chart is to be believed, subscriptions still make up most of the revenue.

And what does all of this mean?  This isn’t the range of data I would like, but you look at the industry with the data you have, not the data you want.  But I am not prepared to go all Massively comment thread, where the trend seems to be “lying liars lie!” for everybody whose pet theory is not supported by the data provided.

Anyway, as noted, the full report is here.  If you want more data, you have to pay.

Addendum: Azuriel makes an interesting comparison between the above chart and other MMO data available.

Addendum 2: And Flosch takes the numbers and extrapolates a bit.

May in Review

The Site

Let’s talk about spam comments!  Won’t that be fun?

The ratio of spam comments to legitimate comments here has been pretty consistent over the years.

98PercentSpam

 

Yes, 98% of the comments that hit this blog are spam.  (But if 99% of everything is crap, what does that say about half of the legit comments?)  The numbers are ~26 thousand real comments to ~1.2 million spam comments.

When you read that number, 1.2 million, you probably feel sorry for me thinking that I somehow have filtered out all those spam comments on my own.  The mere thought of that  is probably enough to put someone off starting a blog.

But it is not that bad.

Comment spam here is filtered through a Akismet, a WordPress plugin, and it is pretty effective.  For me, comment spam comes in three flavors.

The first is spam that Akismet knows is spam.  I never see any of that.  It just gets disappeared, never to bother me.  Most of the time that represents 90% of the 98%.

The third is spam that completely gets past Akismet.  These end up in the moderation queue and I deal with them individually.  Over the life of the blog there have been 1,318 comments up for moderation which I have had to mark as spam myself.  Not bad out of 1.2 million I suppose.  Legitimate comments, usually in the moderation queue because it is a first time comment from somebody or because Bhagpuss has come up with a new way to spell his name, get cleared and posted to the blog.

And then there is the middle zone, the second flavor, the comments that Akismet believes to be spam, but not with enough certainty to just delete outright.  It keeps than for me in a spam queue so I can review it.  Legitimate comments do sometimes end up in there, 167 in total over the life of the blog.  This is why I try to go through this queue regularly rather than just emptying it.  Most of the time I could safely, but there is on occasion a real comment mixed in.  And there are usually only somewhere between 5 and 30 comments in this queue on any given day, so it is no big deal.

However, for about the last three weeks there had been a change in the balance.  According to Akismet’s stats, there was a big spike in spam in May, but that was because April was unusually low in spam comments.  Otherwise May hasn’t been that out of line with the three months before that for total spam.  And there were months in 2013 that saw as much as three-fold greater numbers of spam comments.

But the spammers must have been re-arming with something new for May, because the middle zone, the spam comment that gets queued up so I can review it has gone up dramatically.  Just today there were 600+ in the queue for me when I got up this morning, and less than eight hours later there are 700+ lurking in the queue.  And I do not appear to be alone in seeing this.

Given the total spam numbers Akismet is showing for May, it appears to be literally putting all spam in the queue for review.

So I have had to change my review process for the time being to just search on the names of a couple of people who comment regularly, but whom get stuck in the spam queue for reasons unknown, and dumping the rest of the queue sight unseen.  And even that has problems.  WordPress craps out about half the time when trying to dump more than a couple hundred spam comments from the queue.  It is annoying.

Anyway, that has been the administrative fun time here this month.  If I missed a comment of yours in the spam queue accidentally, I apologize.

One Year Ago

I celebrated the five year anniversary of a blog.  No, not this one.

EVE Online turned 10 (I even made a movie) and reminded us of its true nature, while DUST 514 finally went live for real.

Somebody was saying that there had only ever been two successful MMOs, EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

I checked up on the Newbie Blogger Initiative to see who survived their first year of blogging.

Camelot Unchained made its Kickstarter goal one day before their campaign ended.   Success at the last minute is still success.

The project code named Titan was rumored to have been pushed out to 2016.  Meanwhile Activision-Blizzard announced that WoW had shed 1.3 million subscribers, dropping to 8.3 million total.  And then there was the problems with the Diablo III economy.  Rough times.

The XBox One was announced.  Or the name was.  I didn’t like it.

I made a chart about the relative natures of MMO economies.  I was also musing about dangerous travel.

We were starting to peek into NeverWinter as a possible game for the instance group, in hopes that we might have a hiatus from our long hiatus.  We also played a bit of Need for Speed: World.

Rift, ostensibly the game the instance group was playing (and which I was still playing a bit of), announced it was going free to play, which made me mutter about revenue models again.

Our EVE Online corp decided to go play some Lord of the Rings Online, and so my relationship with Middle-earth continued and I was quickly in the Lone Lands.

And finally, I wrote a bit about the first computer game I ever played, which lead to some charts about my video gaming timeline.

Five Years Ago

I was able to expose the true conspiracy behind the EuroGamer Darkfall review.  Powerful forces have been suppressing this story ever since.

Meanwhile, EverQuest was celebrating its 10 year anniversary by putting up a new server.  Polled on what it should be, people chose the 51/50 rule set.  I’m sure that, somehow, that say something about MMOs and nostalgia.  And did anybody go play on that new server?  How did it work out?

I went back and played some Blizzard classics, Diablo II and StarCraft, both of which have patches now that mean you do not need the CD to play.  This was prompted by Blizzard’s pushing people towards Battle.net and the announcement of the opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  I opted in right away.  I hear that some people got in to the beta almost a year later. *cough*

In New Eden, it was new ship time, as I picked up both an Orca and a Buzzard.  I also managed to lose my Cerebus.   Oops.

And speaking of EVE Online, it was a year ago that I announced my one year experiment, EVE Online Pictures.  That site is now six years old.

The instance group was moving along slowly.  We did hit Azjol Nerub, but vacations and such kept us down to four people, so we spent a bit of time back in Burning Crusade doing heroics and generally messing around.  That included our run into Ogrimmar to do Ragefire Chasm.

Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.  The site for the game was still there (go Google it, not sure if it is still around) but it still mentions signing up for beta invites.  Casual might refer to the development plan I guess.

New Linking Blogs

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

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Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. A Consolidation of Empires
  2. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  3. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  4. Is the Learning Cliff EVE’s Biggest Problem These Days?
  5. Worst Sith Ever – Escape from Korriban
  6. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  7. Pantheon: Just Brad has Fallen
  8. Tackling in Syndicate
  9. Quote of the Day – Getting the Dev’s Attention
  10. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  11. Civilization – The Big Map
  12. Pandaria – Jade and Ale

Search Terms of the Month

Unstinting porn galleries
[Totally! Screw those stinting porn galleries!]

did blizzard cancel warlords of draenor?
[No, it is just in a timeline far, far away.]

“oculus rift” “clockwork orange”
[Pretty much Facebook’s plan, I’m sure.]

bio break
[How does that even get you here? It should get you there. Wait, are you using Bing?]

gratuitous linkage
[We love nothing more around here!]

Civilization V

The multiplayer game of Civ V, now on the big map, continues forward.  The couple hours a week that the group plays tends to whet the appetite rather than sate it, so I have been playing more Civ V during the rest of the week.  Single player matches do not really lend themselves to a blog narrative though.  What would I say?  The AI is erratic, the game is bloated and slow, and while I like the game, the way certain mechanics like happiness were handled this time around annoy me.  I think Civ II still might be my favorite.

EVE Online

Lack of a war in null sec would seem to mean lack of things to do… or at least a lack of things to do that  I enjoy.  I enjoy operations that have a mission, a goal.  Sitting on a gate to gank random passers by seems dull by comparison.  Just me, I know.  Lots of people enjoy gate ganks.  Fortunately, there has been no shortage of nightly ops of late, generally to clean up bits of null sec in our area of influence that were infested by NPC null sec players while we were away in the south.  That may eventually wind down though, and then what will happen?  If there is nothing, then boredom will prompt an implosion or two.  That alone can lead to war.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I actually downloaded this and played through the starter zone.  I got up to level 11 and to the next planet.  And then I sort of stopped.  I still log in a bit, but I do not find the game very compelling.  I do not come home aching to log in.  Rather, I log in after I have played some WoW and when there is no op current for EVE.  It isn’t bad, I just don’t find it very engaging as yet, though I have to admit the obligatory voice acting for every quest does wear me down some, even when I space-bar skip through them.  I will give them points for using in-game art assets for that, but the animations look awkward and wooden when used for long stretches of dialog.

World of Warcraft

I have been playing a bit more WoW this month, though mostly solo.  The instance group is heading towards its usual summer hiatus with people going on vacation.  The patch update that brought in more levels for gear got me to get out my level 90 hunter and return to Timeless Isle.  That has been fun.  And the current “double your valor points” buff has a lot of people out and playing.  And it looks like “scenarios with level 90 alts” might be part of the summer plan.  We shall see.  It is still a long way to Draenor from here.

Coming Up

The WildStar head start launched at some point this morning.  Good luck to those who were there for the first moments of the live game.  The timing for the launch seems just about perfect.  It is still month from Warlords of Draenor but just in time to catch those disillusioned with The Elder Scrolls Online.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative new blogger campaign for 2014 is wrapping up.  I barely contributed anything, though I had one more half-done post on the topic of blogging.  I will probably save that for next year.  I will have to post a list of the class of 2014 tomorrow, if I can find a definitive listing, to help spread the word.

I should finish up the Pokemon Y story line… tomorrow.  I tend to play on Sunday afternoon.  Then I will write up what I thought about it.  Lots of good new things, though a few mixed blessings in the bunch.

And somewhere in the not too distant future looms a Steam Summer Sale.  What else could I possibly need though?

 

Worst Sith Ever – Escape from Korriban

As part of my “planning for the coming hiatus” operation, I started on my list of candidates to see which MMO might serve for a summer vacation spot.  The first on the list, because it happened to be May 4th, was Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Plus I happened to remember my account name and password.  Also, due to EA’s usual ability to keep a tight rain on their data, my account was flagged as preferred despite my having never given EA or BioWare a nickel for the game.

Preferred

Preferred

I am not sure what that gets me beyond an additional crew slot.  BioWare was more interested in telling me what I would get if I subscribed.  The up sell started immediately upon logging in after downloading the client.

Preferred vs. Subscriber

Preferred vs. Subscriber

Not that I want them to pop up more alerts, but throwing this in front of my face in the first minute after logging in was something of a wasted effort.  The game would, of course, go on to remind me to subscribe in various ways, but this chart was no longer part of the pitch.

And, while we’re here and staring at that blurry screen shot… it gets better if you click on it to view it full size… I have to ask if I missed a memo somewhere that said that science fiction MMOs must have a blue user interface?  Star Trek Online was blue.  Blue was a significant color in some parts of the the UI for Star Wars Galaxies.  I think WildStar trends blue doesn’t it?  And if I recall right, Clone War Adventures trended to blue as well.

Anyway, the SWTOR UI is in blue by default, which made me feel they were trying to tell me “hey, it is a space game!”  But then, I guess it is a space game of sorts, so why not?

More after the cut.

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