Once Upon a Lifetime Subscription…

A Blaugust leftover post; started during but finished afterwards.

Lifetime subscriptions were on the agenda for a moment, with Syl listing not getting one for Lord of the Rings Online as a regret while Tobold took the opposite view.

I am the third result, having purchased that option and feeling no regret,

In fact I remain very happy with my LOTRO lifetime subscription, but I played enough when it was subscription to break even, and then enjoyed VIP level status, with a 500 Turbine Point per month stipend, after it went F2P.  That has allowed me to play, buy things from the store, including the last two expansions, and never spend another dime on the game.  But I also played a lot of LOTRO over the years.  It is easily on the top 5 of my MMOs in terms of time spent.

The list of things attached to my account...

The list of things attached to my account…

I am not sure where to get that listing anymore on the LOTRO site, as it has grown by a couple of items since I last looked at it.  Though if you go to Turbine’s site they still list Infinite Crisis as one of their games, at the top of the list no less, so who knows what is going on there.

However, I also went for lifetime with Star Trek Online and barely played that at all.  I opted in on STO largely based on my LOTRO experience.  If it is good once, then it ought to be good twice, right?

It was even more money than LOTRO

It was even more money than LOTRO… also, I went to Del Taco once…

But STO never caught my fancy and all my attempts to return to the game have ended in minutes… well, hours if you count trying to figure out how to access my account after all the changes that have hit the game.

So I am only batting .500 on lifetime subscriptions.

My experience with STO, with LOTRO, and with MMOs in general have made it unlikely that I would ever invest in a lifetime option again.  And I write that with the world circa 2009 as context.  I would likely not by another lifetime subscription again, even were we still deep in the era of monthly subscriptions.

Is that a squirrel or what?

Well, maybe if it was this cheap… and for a game with a future

Here in the age of F2P and cash shops, the age of PLEX and WoW Tokens, the age of lockboxes and nuisance barriers, the age of business model changes and broken dreams, the age of too many indistinguishable choices in the genre, the idea of sinking a couple of hundred bucks into an MMO on the hope that I might play it enough to get my money’s worth out of it… well… the idea just falls flat.

So color me surprised that Champions Online still had a lifetime subscription as an option… and that it was on sale for “just” $199, a third off of the usual $299 price.

Who knew?

And maybe that is a bad game to pick as an example, never having lived up to its predecessor, City of Heroes, and being run by a company that faltered and was acquired by another company that looks to be faltering, at least here in North America…. and which also happens to be the same company that owns STO.

And what does that say about lifetime subscriptions in this day and age?  Is it just another desperation move now?

I mean, if World of Warcraft offered lifetime subscriptions for $299 I am pretty confident that they would sell a million of them pretty quickly, that the store interface would go down in the rush to buy one.  But WoW is an ongoing success and the top game in its genre even with “only” 5.6 million players.  Pretenders has to get creative with things like “registered users” to get close to that number, a number is less than half of WoW at its peak.

And why would Blizzard do that?  It would be a short term boost to revenue and there would now be a floor of one million “subscribers” since lifetime is forever as long as the game is still running.  But that million would also likely be the same people who never unsubscribe from the game.

So what is a lifetime subscription for these days?  Is it a concept past its time?

Would you buy one under any circumstances today?

GuildWars 2 and What Free Really Means

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…

Me and Bobby McGee, most famously sung by Janis Joplin

ArenaNet seems to be hitting some sour notes with its installed base.  First there was the announcement that anybody who purchased the upcoming Heart of Thorns expansion for GuildWars 2 would get the base game for free.  At least there was that free character slot goodwill gesture when people were unhappy.

GW2HeartOfThornsLogo

But then there was the second hit of the one-two punch, an announcement that the base game would be free in and of itself.  Thanks to everybody who forked over $59.99 or more at launch, but now we’re just giving it away.

Strange times in the Buy To Play corner of the MMORPG market I guess.  Certainly ANet never felt the need to give away the original Guild Wars base game back in the day.

But that was then and this is now.

Here I suppose we see an interesting intersection of the realities of the current market.

The problem of expansions… at least the problem with multiple expansions… is an old one at this point in time.  EverQuest, EverQuest II, and World of Warcraft have all had to address the “too many damn expansions” problem as the games progressed, which ended up with all of them giving away some content for free.

In Norrath the plan after a while was that buying the latest expansion would roll up all the previous ones as part of the price.  There was an interim period of roll-up packages with names like EverQuest Platinum and EverQuest Titanium, but eventually that became too cumbersome.  EverQuest II went straight to the “all previous expansions” route with Echoes of Faydwer if I recall right.

eqplatadPeople who bought every expansion at launch still paid a lot more money, but it simplified the task for those just jumping in, or those returning to the game, in getting all the right software on their drive.  There was an era when you had to buy all these in box form from your local retailer.

In Azeroth, Blizzard’s plan has been to stack expansions at the other end of things, giving you a range of expansions with the base game while leaving the latest and greatest for sale separately.  Again, those who waited long enough got stuff others paid full retail price for.

So giving away some content for free that was previously available only at a monetary cost has been established as something of an industry practice, or at least a reflection of industry reality.  Not everybody has doe this.  I think Turbine has held the line for Lord of the Rings Online, where you have to buy each of the expansions individually and in the correct order.  But part of their F2P plan is to sell content, so giving some away would seem counter-productive I suppose… though that is probably why their insta-level option is limited to level 50, as beyond that requires expansions.

But I haven’t heard of anybody making the base game free upon launching an expansion nor doing a bundle deal, base + expansion with just the first expansion.

Expansions for free, sure thing. EVE Online has been doing that for more than a decade.  It was also a thing in Lineage II and a few more games.  Content keeps people subscribed.

So giving away the base game after building your business on B2P is new. Yes, there are some restrictions that come with free, many of which sound somewhat familiar to those who watch the F2P side of the MMO market, as laid out on this chart, though others, like things locked until level 30, are interesting.  You can ask how free is free with that, especially when you can still buy into that sort of odd middle group of players, like myself, who bought the base game at one point but who likely won’t buy expansion.  And where are they left in the grand scheme of things?

I suppose they could have decided that they aren’t going to sell many more copies of the base game without letting people play first.  After all, they’ve cut the price and then discounted even that by as much as 75% at times to get every last interested customer to buy in.  So maybe that cupboard is bare, but they see potential in the now somewhat standard F2P “free with annoying restrictions” model.

Of course, the base game has also lost value over time.

If you bought the box on day one, just about three years back, at full retail price you were looking forward to a couple years worth of special events as part of the deal.  All of that, save maybe the Super Adventure Box, is in the past now, never to return.  If you joined the game today, you would not get to experience any of that.  Perhaps it is too much to ask that people buy a game where much of the content is done.

Or maybe ANet just doesn’t want anything standing in the way of selling their new box.

If only that were sole issue stirring up GW2 players.  Where is that theory in which developers should listen to the customers who paid the most money now?

Don’t Throw Eggs at the Zombie Pigmen

Back to Minecraft at last.

Despite the war in Providence in EVE Online, I’ve still probably played more Minecraft in the last two weeks than internet spaceships.  Minecraft lends itself to shorter play sessions.  I have seen Xyd pop in to mine during the short interval while his kids brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

And there is always something to do in Minecraft.  And, after the great outage of last week, the list of things to do including rebuilding our infrastructure in the nether.  I still am not sure why that did not restore correctly while the overworld restored just fine.

Xyd and I have both been down there, dodging ghasts and building roads between our re-established portals while generally ignoring the local residents, the tribes of zombie pigmen that wander about the nether.

Zombie Pigmen

Zombie Pigmen by one of our portal shelters

Up to this point I have generally left the zombie pigmen alone.  Occasionally one will wander in through a portal and I’ll slaughter him, but my daughter told me that they are what we used to call “social mobs” back in TorilMUD, meaning that if you attack one of them, the rest in the area will join in the fight.

At one point I was down in the nether having logged in and hit my portal to continue on the infrastructure work, only to find that I had yet again neglected to check my inventory.  It was full up, so I wasn’t collecting up any netherrack.

Among the items cluttering up my inventory were a couple of stacks of eggs.  Eggs are annoying in that they only stack to 16 (though pumpkins stack to 64, which is both silly and makes the creating of pumpkin pies a bit more arduous that it might otherwise be) and that it is pretty easy to inadvertently pick them up because chickens leave them laying about all over.

So, down there in the nether, I did what I often do with excess eggs; I threw them.

Some of them will hatch into chicks when thrown, which will then grown up into chickens, so in a way I am helping spread them further about the world or, in this case, the nether.  I have even seen some chickens wandering our area of the nether, including one being ridden by a zombie pigman child.

Following my usual practice, I just turned to the side and launched the eggs into the middle distance in quick succession without really aiming or even looking where I was throwing until the eggs were in the air.

Of course, my eggs were headed towards a band of zombie pigmen, and a couple managed to strike one dead on.

There were some angry grunts and the lot of them began running towards me.  I immediately fled.

The chased me to the nearest portal and knocked me out of it before it could move me to safety, so I ran off to the next one down the line.  As I ran, I noticed more zombie pigmen joining the chase.  A group blocked me and killed me just shy of the portal to my desert outpost.

Desert Outpost

Desert Outpost

As it happened, that was the last place I had slept, so I came back to the game in the desert.  Now to go back and get my stuff.

Here is where I started to really learn about zombie pigman aggro.  It seems that they don’t forget.  I came through the portal into the nether only to hear their grunts of anger.  I ran off toward another portal, leading a parade of pigmen behind me.  I spotted my stuff, but kept running as the pigs were in hot pursuit.

They caught me before I could escape and so I died again and was back in the desert.

However, I seemed to have led them all far enough away that I was able to jump back into the portal, run to where my stuff had all dropped, gather that up, and hoof it back into the portal before the mob caught up with me again.

Then it was time to look up zombie pigmen on the wiki.

It seems there is a timer you have to wait out without killing any of them before they stop hunting you.  But if you step out of the nether, and nobody else is there to keep it active, the timer stops.  The suggested method is to have somebody else who isn’t aggro in the nether for the minute or so that it takes the pigs to calm down, after which everything will be cool again.

Or as cool as things get in the nether, where water evaporates the moment it touches anything.

I had to get my daughter to log in and hang out in the nether for a bit until the timer elapsed.  Then I cautiously went back through the portal.  I found that the zombie pigmen had resumed their general indifference to me.  I was safe to work and travel in the nether yet again.

So on I went, avoiding throwing things at them as a general rule.

Still, mistakes will happen.

As I was building a platform for another portal, I ended up in a running fight with two ghasts.  As I came out from cover, aimed my bow, and loosed an arrow at a ghast, a zombie pigman crested the hill between the ghast and myself and caught the arrow straight in the chest.

At least I knew what was going to happen this time.

I headed for the closest portal, but saw a group of pigs in the way, so I veered off and started heading towards the next one down the road.  This one too had enough pigs around it to cut me off, so I headed off towards the last one down the path, which happened to be the portal to my desert outpost again.

I got there ahead of the piggy mob, but rather than jumping through the portal I decided to just block up the door.

That worked.  I could hear the pigs outside the door but was safe inside… or I was safe inside until a child zombie pigman came in through the window and attacked me.  It turns out that they can get through single block openings if they can get to them.  So I had to slay him, which didn’t make anybody outside any friendlier, and then blocked up the windows as well.

There I was, in my little bunker, safe from the zombie pigmen, listening to them and wondering when they would go away.

An armored, blocky, Jack Sparrow in the nether

An armored, blocky, Jack Sparrow in the nether

They did not seem inclined to leave.

Eventually I broke open a block in the doorway so I could see what they were up to.  I took out a block two high above the ground to avoid a repeat of the baby pigman incident.  That let me see the tops of their heads and the points of their golden swords.  They seemed to be piling up outside the door and keenly interested in what was going on inside.

Zombie Pigmen outside

Zombie Pigmen outside

I waited a while longer, but they did not budge.  In fact, more pigs showed up.

I got out my bow and shot at a couple of them, which again didn’t make anybody any happier, but I though that maybe, just maybe, if I killed all the witnesses, everything would be cool again.  But I couldn’t consistently hit the same pigman repeatedly and the bow wasn’t enough to one-shot them.

I changed over to my diamond sword, which had the Smite I enchant on it, and stuck that out the hole and started hitting the pigs.

That worked much better.  I slaughtered them.  But more showed up, so I slaughtered them too.  And the ones that showed up after that.

Every once in a while things would get quiet outside.  I would unblock the door enough to get out, and collect the loot and experience globes that had collected on the front step.

Golden swords, gold nuggets, experience, and zombie flesh!

Golden swords, gold nuggets, experience, and zombie flesh!

But inevitably, after a little while outside, I would hear the angry grunts of hostile zombie pigmen again and have to run back to the bunker and block up half of the door.  So I remained pretty much trapped in the bunker.

It was made of polished diorite

Made of polished diorite, now with doors and windows jammed with cobblestone

It appears that zombie pigman aggro doesn’t really degrade so long as you remain in the nether.  I sat for 5-10 minutes at a stretch, leaving the pigs alone at my door, only to find them as hostile as ever.

Eventually, as before, I had to leave the nether and somebody else had to go hang out there for a couple minutes, after which the nether was once again safe for me to travel, with the zombie pigmen ignoring me as they climbed over everything. (They do seem very interested in the things we build, just not us.)

This did change my building style in the nether.  Up until this point, most of my portal buildings had large, double high windows to allow me to take shots at ghasts as they floated about.  Now I am going for smaller doors and one block high windows that are up far enough to keep baby pigs from jumping in should I have to bunker up.

Life in the nether.

Flying Comes to Draenor

The day has finally arrived.  Among the items the World of Warcraft patch 6.2.2 delivers today is the ability to fly in Draenor.

Soon this could be you

Soon this could be you

It was just a little over three months ago, at the end of May, when Ion Hazzikostas got the community worked up by saying that flying would not be coming to Draenor, with the money quote probably being this:

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways…

That, of course, set a lot of people off, and responses were all over the map.  Some people were supportive of the “no flying” idea wanting to keep the feel of the world.  Others were enraged that they were to be denied flying.  Many arguments full of venom and denial and spurious logic and just plain old inability to concede any point that did not support ones own view on the topic raged across forums and comments threads and blog posts and where ever.

I took something of a middle path myself, conceding that I got the points Hazzikostas was making while still feeling that, in the right measure, flying was pretty awesome.  In my usual way I also linked out to others who posted on the topic, both for and against.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

I do love flight in about any form

But on the internet the path of reasonableness rarely wins.  Or maybe it does.  Who is to say which side is reasonable in a largely emotional issue?

Anyway, there was that outrage plus the fact that, through cancellations and bans, WoW’s subscriber base had shed 3 million players since the end of 2014, dropping from above 10 million at the Warlords of Draenor peak to 7 million.

So through some combination of reasons Blizzard felt the need to bring flying back, announcing that it we would be able to fly in Draenor just a little over two weeks after they said we wouldn’t be able to fly in Draenor.

Of course, there were some hoops to jump through in order to be able to fly.  Some achievements to earn, some faction to work on, some treasures to collect.  Again, that made various people happy or unhappy.

Much of the support work for the flying unlock went in with the 6.2 patch back in June, which oddly enough is the exact point in which garrison fatigue hit me and I pretty much stopped playing WoW.

According to Blizzard, the 6.2 patch… and presumably the announcement that flying would come to Draenor eventually… held the line on defections from the game so that subscriptions were “only” down to 5.6 million at the end of June 2015.

Of course, since then most of the talk has about about WoW Legion, which is starting to feel like it might be the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to Warlords of Draenor.  I mean, we’re going to get to the real bad guy from The Burning Crusade finally.

I haven’t logged more than 20 minutes of WoW time since the 6.2 patch, so I wouldn’t be able to fly today even if I did log in.  But I am sure lots of people will.  The skies will be filled with people happy to be able to move to and fro in Draenor without the restrictions of flight points or the need to engage with any of that ground clutter content.

Is it too soon to ask if we’ll get to fly in the Broken Isles?  I mean, once we get there.

August in Review

The Site

Well, I already wrapped up Blaugust in the previous post and, this being my 42nd post in August,  With this I managed to cover at least the “post every day” aspect of the event.

That done, I can go back to my usual routine of complaining about WordPress.com.  This month they did a couple of things to annoy me, the primary one being the addition a little floating control bar to the bottom right of the site.  This is what it looks like to me.

WPCustomizeIf you are logged in to a WordPress.com account, you will see it as well, though it you are on somebody else’s site it might look more like this.

WPFollowI found it distracting and annoying almost immediately, so when WordPress.com eventually got around to putting up a post about it, I was in there immediately with a comment asking if I could turn it off.  I got the expected “but it is a wonderful thing, why would you want to turn it off” level of response.  WP can do no wrong in their own eyes and all changes are improvements.  Or maybe I am just a grumpy old man.

I did get a direct response from one of their staff offering up a way to turn it off in CSS, which I have not tried yet.  That was both unexpected and literally the high point of my customer experience relationship with WP.

While I had that person’s attention, I asked why WP implements changes on their production servers and then gets around to telling people about them half a day or more later.  There is almost always at least a six hour gap between “Wait, what happened?” and WP actually telling people what they did.

Unfortunately, the response I got was that they don’t always tell people about changes… I already knew that, as they screwed up how embedded links work in the editor this month and didn’t post about that… which, while a frank admission of their policy, didn’t actually explain why they thought that policy was a good idea.

I try to imagine making changes first and telling customers later in my job and I can only picture people’s heads exploding.

Anyway, I got a CSS fix that appears to remove the floating bar.  However, in giving this to me I was told that they would be moving features from the perfectly serviceable and stationary menu bar at the top of the page to this annoying winky blinky tool bar in the future, so I might have to turn it back on again at a later date.

The CSS, should you have access to such things on your WP.com hosted site, which requires at least having purchased the Custom Design option, is:

#actionbar {
display: none;
}

You can pop that into the CSS window in the Customize editor and you should be set.  Enjoy.

If you are not logged in or do not have a WP.com account, I am sure most of this is pretty meaningless to you.

One Year Ago

I was marveling at the prescience of some quotes from GDC 2007.

We had a couple more SOE games close.  Vanguard saw some touching tributes, while Wizardry Online pretty much passed without comment.  Then Dragon’s Prophet launched without comment, which I suspected might be a sign.

The last ever SOE Live tried to get us excited about EverQuest Next again.  Otherwise it was sort of business as usual on the Norrath front.  I wished for more than I got certainly.

Project: Gorgon was having a Kickstarter and was asking for $100,000.  I was dubious.

Google was forcing me to make bad referential post titles.

Our months long Civilization V game wrapped up with victory for mattman and China.

DarkFall introduced another PLEX-like currency, DUEL.

I was wondering what to do about Raptr.

Blizzard gave us a date when they would tell us the launch date for Warlords of Draenor,  then eventually told us November 13th.  Meanwhile WoW subscriptions were down 800K during the long summer of mild discontent.  But people were in the beta for the expansion at least.

I took my lormaster project into Outland and content from The Burning Crusade., staring with what I consider the worst zone in the game.  Then I had to search hard in Terokkar, and had trouble in Nagrand.

We also had that whole 10 Years, 10 Questions thing about WoW to write about.

EVE Online gave us the Hyperion expansion, which included burner missions that killed a lot of player ships.  I was on about hats in New Eden.  We also deployed to Delve, because we always deploy to Delve at some point during the summer, and hung around towers.  There was also a fight at our staging system.

And then there was the first Blaugust, from which I at least got a post out of a questionnaire.

Five Years Ago

Let’s see… five years ago people were hating on GameStop for selling used games, which was equated with stealing.  That was before GameStop actually started officially stealing.

Massive Blips went away.  I miss it.

I made my position on raspberries perfectly clear.

Yahoo had a couple game related lists.  I love lists.

Cryptic and Atari announced they were doing the game Neverwinter.

Runic started talking about Torchlight II.

Stunt Rock.  I need say no more.

EverQuest Next was announced at Fan Faire, and I was wondering about the lessons SOE has learned after a few turns of the EverQuest wheel.  We’re still pretty much in the dark as to when (and if) we will ever get EverQuest Next.

In the real world, boars were starting to become more like their MMO counterparts.

WoW account hacking was still a big deal, though getting to be common enough as to not be news on an individual level any more.  People have their views on whose fault it is.  But was any game facing as much account hacking as WoW?

My daughter got into the WoW Cataclysm beta.  She got me some screen shots of StormwindSouthshore and the Barrens.  This, by the way, probably killed her interest in Cata when it finally did ship.

Blizzard got a serious judgement against somebody running a for-profit WoW pirate server.

The instance group, done in WoW and on the now usual summer hiatus, was spending some time in Middle-earth, which required a bit of selling.  We made it through Othrongroth, and to the North Downs and the Lone Lands.  I finally found my way to Evendim, which I had never  managed to visit before.  It was in a state of change, pre-quest revamp but after they added in the boat routes.

And, finally, in EVE Online, there was the PLEX story we had all been waiting for.

New Linking Blogs

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

  1. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  2. WoW Legion – Slouching Towards The Broken Isles
  3. When is WoW Legion?
  4. In Which I Predict The Next Big World of Warcraft Feature
  5. WoW Needs Expansion Badly – Subs Fall to 5.6 Million
  6. Mordus Angels Overrunning West Pure Blind!
  7. The Invasion of Providence – ADM Can Save Your Systems
  8. WoW and the Token Subscriber
  9. The Imperium goes to Providence!
  10. The First EverQuest II Progression Server Polls and Some Details
  11. The Evolution of Fozzie Sov
  12. Leaving Providence

Search Terms of the Month

wow legion broken iskies
[Wait, what?]

why is my computer crashing in new pvp zone in lotro
[I thought Turbine said people don’t PvP in LOTRO]

2017 new middle earth mmorpg
[Only in your dreams]

yarljdjdjdjdjjdjdndjxj
[You’ve been using Bing again, haven’t you?]

Diablo III

A co-worked has been talking about Diablo III and, with the coming of a new patch, I did spend a bit of time playing the game this month.  The game still looks very good and I remain quite happy with the post-auction house state of the game.  The game is just a bit too far down my list of things to do for me to get very far in it.

EVE Online

In New Eden August was a month of complaining about and testing Fozzie Sov.  Lots of sovereignty holding entities are not happy with it, though in the grand tradition of EVE Online, plenty of groups that do not hold, and have no interest in holding, sovereignty were gleeful in expressing their satisfaction that somebody else was unhappy.

Think of it as sort of the traditional MMO “raiders vs. non-raiders” or “pvp vs. pve” player conflicts, only cranked up to 11.

CCP did tweak Fozzie Sov some this month with the Galatea expansion and promised to look into further changes.  Meanwhile, the first big operational test of Fozzie Sov happened with the five day war in Providence which was mostly great fun for those who participated.

EverQuest II

As with Diablo III above, I have been keen to play a bit of EverQuest II, on the Stormhold TLE server at least, but haven’t really found the time to do very much.  At least the population of the server voted to push the Desert of Flames expansion off for another 30 days, so I am not behind on expansions yet!

Minecraft

This is the game that has eaten all of my play time recently.  It is one of those games where, once I come up with a plan, I can invest hours of digging up and placing blocks while trying to light my environment and fighting off zombies and skeletons and what not.  And when I don’t have a plan I go explore or mine or modify and improve what I have already built.  Oh, and patch over holes in things cause by creeper explosions.  They are the bane of the builder in survival mode.

World of Warcraft

My account is still active, but I have no desire to log in.  It will lapse eventually and then I will have to decide whether or not to spend some gold to keep it active or not.  We’ll see.  I did log in once, but logged back out within five minutes.  I also logged into Heroes of the Storm because, as a Warlords of Draenor owner, I get some sort of special mount there.  I didn’t actually play any HotS, but I got my mount

Coming Up

September will be probably start off here with me cleaning up all the topics I accrued in my attempt to make sure I had something to write about every day during Blaugust.  As I noted in my wrap up of the event, I ended up with more half finished drafts at the end of the month than I started with.

Other than that, I cannot think of something coming up in September.  I suppose there is flying in Draenor coming tomorrow.  Something worth noting, though I am not sure I have much to say about it otherwise.

There is the usual EVE Online expansion coming, titled Vanguard.  But the every six weeks train for those has ended up making them less special, as I suspected they would.

I think Lords of the Rings Online will start letting people transfer off of the closing servers at some point next month.  Or maybe that was October.

Otherwise, aside from those and another blogiversary, which means a great big post full of numbers and lists, I don’t see anything spectacular on the horizon.  I am sure I am forgetting something.

So September is mostly about settling down, getting back to school, the end of summer, and all that… which generally means more time to play games, so I have that to look forward to.  Maybe it will even rain.

 

Blaugust in Review

Here we are on Day 30 of Blaugust and I am already rushing to the exit, ready to review the whole thing.

Now seems like an appropriate time to flash the even logo

Now seems like an appropriate time to flash the even logo

I’m not really in a rush (and somebody else has been down this path already), but I had a post slated for yesterday, I have the traditional month in review post already queued up for tomorrow, and something already queued up for Tuesday, but nothing really planned for today.  So I figured it would fit nicely here.  Not that I need another post.  I hit the 31 post mark nearly a week ago, but I guess we actually have to do one EVERY day.  Can’t just stop at 31.

What I Did Do

I posted at least once a day, every day, for the whole month.  Last year I wrote 39 posts for Blaugust, this year I will manage 42.  So three better, for specific definitions of “better.”

I linked up my post over in the Blaugust section at Anook.com, both as a blog post and as a forum post.  At about Day 22 I had finally refined my method so I could link my blog, embed a picture, assign a related game, and have it all publish correctly on the first try.

By the way, the craziest thing on Anook has to be this:

The bar has been set very, very low...

The bar has been set very, very low…

Bhagpuss could easily topple me from that #1 spot if he joined and linked up his posts.

I visited other bloggers, left comments much further afield than I usually do, added a couple blogs to the blog roll and even more to the blog feed in the side bar, and became Blaugust buddies with Ysharros.   I think that should be a Blaugust feature going forward, a random pairing of participants or some such.  Maybe?

What I Did Not Do

I did not write much in the way of special Blaugust posts.  I didn’t use any of the writing prompts and I was even able to dodge the AMA thread in the Blaugust forum when I pointed out I already wrote a post on the requested topic for the NBI 2015 event, so there wasn’t much left to say.

Basically, I don’t seem to have much problem coming up with a topic to write about on a daily basis.  I didn’t even use any of my emergency backup topics.  That is, in part, one of the joys of having a somewhat generalist gaming blog.  If I were single game focused things might be different.  Also, it was a pretty big news month for August.  There was a lot to write about, plus a week long war in EVE Online, which always helps.  I think I have more half finished posts in my drafts folder at the end of Blaugust than I did at the beginning.

I did not inject the word “Blaugust” into post titles, use it as a hash tag, link to the rules page, or any of that except when posting explicitly about the event.  That was partly me just being finicky about style and partly a matter of being “in” the event but not “of” the event, to get a little philosophical.  My blog was here before Blaugust, it will be after Blaugust, so it doesn’t need to be tied directly to Blaugust even during Blaugust.

Also, I managed to use the word Blaugust four times in a single sentence there

And, to be honest, going into Feedly during the event and seeing post title after post title starting with the word Blaugust looked kind of icky, to use the technical term, and a bit confusing.  I didn’t want any part of that.  Such is life.

I also didn’t see much in the way of traffic from the event.

Not that this month wasn’t a banner month for traffic, so there appears, on the surface, to be some correlation between that and Blaugust.

But digging into the traffic sources that brought people to the blog over the last 30 days, Anook is way down in 14th place.  Search engines were the top source, with Anook bringing in just 0.6% of the traffic Google sent here.  And individual blogs of participants in Blaugust fell further down the list than Anook, with In An Age being the top there.

The top 20 sources of referral traffic for August, for those who are curious.

  1. Google
  2. lowseclifestyle.com
  3. evebloggers.com
  4. totaleve.com
  5. greedygoblin.blogspot.com
  6. bhagpuss.blogspot.com
  7. blessingofkings.blogspot.com
  8. syncaine.com
  9. Twitter
  10. keenandgraev.com
  11. feedly.com
  12. Reddit
  13. theoldreader.com
  14. anook.com
  15. Facebook
  16. inanage.com
  17. WordPress.com Reader
  18. popehat.com
  19. weritsblog.com
  20. mmoquests.com

Search engine traffic was up significantly this month, and it was largely directing people to posts about World of Warcraft. The first week of August saw two big WoW announcements, first the subscription number drop and then the big WoW Legion reveal.  That also got people talking and linking back and forth and what not.

Basically, if you want more traffic, write about WoW drama.

Though, in a surprise move, my post about Lord of the Rings Online server merges topped the chart here for August.  That was mostly by virtue of few people posting about it, so my post made it to the first page of the results on Google.  Go me.

Also, Gevlon linked here more than anybody else this month.  What does that say about August? And me?

But the traffic thing is really beside the point.  I didn’t come here to make friends.

Wait, no!  I totally came here to make friends.

This was a community event and a chance to mingle a little more closely with my fellow gaming bloggers and all that.  So much better with people and all that.  So I am going to declare op success on that front, though now I am confused as to how this all fits under the heading of things I didn’t do.  Well, not making a lick of sense never stopped me from clicking the publish button before, so why stop now?  Maybe I should inject a new heading.

Summary

Never too late for that.

All in all it was a good event.  As noted above, I found some new blogs to follow.  It got some people back to blogging, including Brian “Psychochild” Green who somehow found the time write a significant post every day while on the very busy Camelot Unchained team.

A great big thanks to Belghast for setting it up and a shout out to all of the blogs that joined in.  I think I have the list below.  We had even more people to part than last year.  There some prizes to hand out, an accounting of who made it the whole way, and some further summaries to write, but things should be mostly arriving at the finish line.

Blaugust 2015 survivor blogs:

  1. A Green Mushroom
  2. A Technical Rejoinder
  3. Adamantly Complacent
  4. Aeternus Gaming
  5. Ald Shot First
  6. Alexandria Mack
  7. Ash’s Adventures
  8. Aywren Sojourner
  9. Battle Priestess
  10. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
  11. Bio Break
  12. Blue Kae
  13. Cannot Be Tamed
  14. Comics and Cookies
  15. Contains Moderate Peril
  16. Couture Gaming
  17. Diary of a Mom Gamer
  18. Endgame Viable
  19. Fickle Fangirl
  20. Floor Tank Gaming
  21. Game Introspection
  22. Gamer Girl Confessions
  23. Gaming Identity
  24. Goobbue Crossing
  25. Hello Kitsune
  26. Herding Cats
  27. I Have Touched the Sky
  28. In An Age
  29. Intermittent Daily Posts from Howard
  30. Jamie’s Blog – Daily Vlogs
  31. JVT Workshop
  32. Kateri Morton
  33. Knifesedge
  34. Lair of the Wolf Dragon
  35. Leaflocker
  36. LFGryph
  37. Light Falls Gracefully
  38. Lock and Bolt
  39. Me Vs Myself and I
  40. Memoirs of a Lady
  41. MMO Gypsy
  42. Moonshine Mansion
  43. Murf Versus
  44. My Epic Fail
  45. My Life in Azeroth
  46. Nerdy Bookahs
  47. No Market Collective
  48. Nomadic Gamers
  49. Pizza Maid
  50. Pleasant Gamer
  51. Psyche Plays
  52. Psychochild’s Blog
  53. Pumping Irony
  54. Sagacyte’s Digital Adventures
  55. She Rides Dragons
  56. Soul of the Forest
  57. Soulbound Life
  58. Soultamer Gaming
  59. Sparks in the Horizon
  60. Star-Fired Beef
  61. Starshadow
  62. Stars of the Spiral
  63. Static Refresh
  64. Stropp’s World
  65. Stylish Corpse
  66. Tales of the Aggronaut
  67. Thalen Speaks
  68. The Adventures of Xinrae
  69. The Ancient Gaming Noob
  70. The Driveling Dwarf
  71. The Friendly Necromancer
  72. The Mystical Mesmer
  73. The Tankquisition
  74. Through Wolfy’s Eyes
  75. Trail-food for Thought
  76. Tyrannodorkus
  77. Why I Game

The Test Drive

I stood there on the edge of the dealership lot, on the sidewalk, but just barely.  My eye had been caught by a 1969 Buick Skylark convertible.  It was the GS 400 trim level and was white with red interior.  It sat there and beckoned me as I walked by and I was drawn to it.  It looked something like this:

A Skylark Convertible

A Skylark Convertible

However, that picture doesn’t really capture the moment as it was back then.  It was a bright, sunny and warm California day, the car was fully detailed and every surface gleamed.  We were in that dead period for US made convertibles, so this car, with a powerful motor and an open top on a perfect day for such things, was an object of desire.  I wanted it.

As I sat there, likely drooling on the body work as I ran my hand lightly over the synthetic leather-ish seat material, a salesman wandered over and began to engage me in conversation.  He must have been good because I didn’t run away immediately or make the sign of the cross and shout, “Just looking! Back! Back! I am JUST LOOKING!” as I tend to in such situations.

As I recall, he was quite willing to talk about the object of my desire for a little while, and so we went for a bit.  It was a weekday afternoon, so things were slow I imagine.  I certainly do not recall anybody else on the lot clamoring for his attention.

Eventually we started talking about other cars and he said he had another one that he wanted me to see.  I had nothing else to do, so I followed him, wondering what other treasures the lot might hold.

However, he wasn’t really interested in looking at cool cars and shooting the breeze.  He wanted to sell me a car and, having sized me up from our conversation, brought me over to the used end of the lot where he showed me a 1976 Plymouth Arrow GS.

In this very shade, though not this shiny

In this very shade, though not this shiny

This was, I must admit, a lot closer to my potential price range.  It was a popular car for a bit, being heavily advertised with the Me and My Arrow track from the Harry Nilsson’s album The Point! back in the day.   The salesman was quite keen to demonstrate the vehicle to me, insisting that we go for a test drive.  Being somewhat shy, I let him lead on and got in the passenger seat.  He started it up and drove off the lot and up the street a ways, then pulled over, undid his seat belt, and said we should switch seats.

Slowly I got out of the car and walked around to the driver’s side, slid in, adjusted the seat a bit, and buckled up.  The salesman was busy telling me how he had to drive the car off the lot for “insurance reasons” but I could take it from here.

This is the point in the story where I need to stop and tell you I was 13 years old at the time.  It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade and I was standing in front of the Century Chrysler Plymouth dealership there on Stevens Creek Blvd. because that is where the old 23/24 line bus stop was located.

But rather than getting on the bus and heading to… I don’t recall… probably to the San Antonio Hobby Show up in Mountain View… where ever I was going, I was now sitting in the driver’s seat of an automobile on Kiely Blvd. with the engine running and an adult in the seat next to me waiting for me to put it in gear.

What the hell! Let’s go!

Actually, the whole scenario wasn’t all that bad.  If I put my daughter in the same situation today, as she is the same age I was back then, she would be lost enough for it to be obvious she shouldn’t be driving.

But I had spent many a summer on my grandfather’s farm out in the central valley of California.  I had been driving farm equipment of one type or another since I was six.  The thing about being tall when you are a kid, and I was tall as a kid, is that adults frequently… and mistakenly… estimate age, maturity, ability, and general assumed knowledge of the world based solely on your height.

In hindsight, my grandfather, who didn’t stand all that much taller than me by the time I was 13, just had me do things that he estimated were appropriate for my height as much as anything.  I was the first grandchild, so everything to do with me was pretty much experimental anyway.  Boundaries that corralled my cousins later on had not yet be drawn.  Plus, when you’re out on the farm and you have to drive out to help repair a piece of broken equipment or top up the tank of a pickup that ran out gas, and there is just the two of you, both of you have to drive back.  Practicality dictates.

So, technically, I could drive.  I had certainly driven vehicles more complicated than this Plymouth.  It was even automatic transmission, so why not?

I don’t recall if I put my signal on or looked over my shoulder before I pulled out onto the road, but I got there.  As we reached Saratoga Avenue the salesman told me to turn right.  I went through the channelized right and onto Saratoga where he again indicated I should take a right, only this next right was the on ramp to Interstate 280.  I was a little rough making that corner, not having bothered to slow down, causing the salesman to grab the overhead handle.  There was no real danger, I just hadn’t gauged the corner quite right.

We went down the on ramp and onto the freeway and I brought the car up to and then past the speed limit, the engine roaring to the extent that the little four cylinder could.  He then indicated I should take the next off ramp, which would put us along Lawrence Expressway and then to turn back towards the dealership up Stevens Creek Blvd. again.

I took the corner onto Stevens Creek a bit too fast, but otherwise kept it between the lines and managed to pull up into the dealership lot and park the car with some degree of accuracy.  I am sure the salesman had seen worse.  The route was something like this, with the X marking where I took over driving and the red pin where the dealership lay.  Oak Tree Mazda is right next door and only on the map because I used it as the start point and then made the route go via Interstate 280.

Map copyright Google Maps and all that

Map copyright Google Maps and all that

Google puts the whole route at just shy of three miles.  Great fun and likely the highlight of my summer on reflection.  I have actually driven that same test drive route on several occasions when shopping for a car on that stretch of Stevens Creek, and I think about this day every single time.

So there we stood, the salesman and I, his hand on the hood of the car.  We were now into what I recall as the difficult bit.

As you might have guessed, he wasn’t just taking people out for joy rides for the fun of it.  He wanted me to buy the car.  He was just three years early on that front.  When I was 16 and had spent two summers working at the family business to save up money and had a fast food job during the school year to keep an automobile in tires, gasoline, and repair… and actually had a driver’s license… this would have been a very good car for me.

I even thought about this very car when it came time to buy one of my own.  Unsurprisingly, it was long gone from the dealer’s lot by then.  Trust me, I checked.  The optimism of youth.

But at that point in time, with no job, a weekly allowance of $2, and lacking any official state sanction to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads, the whole idea… no matter how much I might have wanted the car… was pretty much off the table.

But how to communicate that?

I was already keenly aware of the unlawfulness of what I had just done.  I was not about to blurt out my actual age and lack of a driver’s license.  I figured trouble lay that direction and could see them calling my parents at a minimum and maybe the police if they were well and truly enraged.

But I couldn’t just up and run away, though the temptation struck me.  While I lacked any sort of polished manners, not an uncommon situation for 13 year old boys, I had a sense of what being completely rude was, and turning on my heel and walking off after being offered a test drive seemed to fall into that territory.

So I adopted an attitude of non-committal interest in all the salesman had to say.  Yes, the car seemed to be a good deal, if not explicitly for me.  I appreciated that he had some room to work with on the price if I was a serious buyer.  I acknowledged that the detailing they offered to do on the vehicle and the extended warranty were generous, as far as it went.  I just never said, “I ain’t buying the car” and I never hit a point where I felt I could exit the scene gracefully.

This went on for a while as the salesman pointed out that I clearly liked the vehicle, that the price was one of great reasonableness for a car of such value and efficiency, and offering to sweeten the deal in this way or that as time dragged on.

As an adult I have never been able to hold this much sway over a car salesman as I did as a scared and embarrassed 13 year old boy.  I could have set my price, had I been in the market and all those other details.

Eventually he decided that he needed help to pull me over the threshold and get me to buy the car.  I was clearly interested, as I was still standing there on the lot with him next to the car.

So he went to get his manager.

In hindsight the couple of minutes I was standing there alone next to the car was my opportunity to escape.  I could have bolted around the back of the lot and come up around behind the Meridian Quad to hide in the Time Zone arcade where I would later see Space Invaders for the first time.  I would have been free.

Instead I waited, not wanting to be rude.  And so I was standing there as the sales manager came out.

He was a salesman of the old school.  He was loud and brash and literally used the phrase, “What do I have to do to get you to drive off the lot in this car today?”

He wasn’t going to put up with my non-committal nonsense.  He wanted an answer… the right answer… and he wanted it now.  And when I kept veering away from the direction he wanted to go, he got angry… or decided that playing angry was the right move.

That was actually a liberating moment.

I have much more trouble saying no to people who are being reasonable than people who are not.  And somebody who starts yelling at me… well my Catalan heritage has a tendency to surge to the forefront and I will go from very inoffensive and deferential to yelling back twice as loud in a flash.  It can be very much a light switch mood change.

I didn’t quite go there, but my temper flashed and it gave me the courage to storm out of there like I was offended and wasn’t going to take that shit from anyone.  And so I was free.  To this day I hope that the salesman felt that his manager came out and screwed up his sale.

I don’t recall what I did for the rest of the afternoon.  I am pretty sure I didn’t go back to the bus stop around front.

I was also unsure who I could tell about this.  Who could I trust to not tell, because I still feared that some trouble might follow, and more importantly, who would even believe me.  So I kept it to myself for quite a while, but every once in a while I drag out this anecdote when sitting around swapping tales of misspent youth.

Meanwhile, time has moved forward, as it tends to do.

Century Chrysler Plymouth on the corner of Stevens Creek and Kiely has long since folded up shop.  The location is now the home of Stevens Creek Toyota.  The VTA 23/24 bus line has since been re-routed .  When it came time for me to buy a car three years later, I did end up with a Plymouth.  However it was a 1974 Plymouth Duster, with the 225 Slant Six motor and a three speed shifter on the floor, a ride probably better suited the abuses a young driver can inflict on a car.  It came into contact with a number of large objects over the years I drove it… a tree, some garbage cans, a mountain, the side of a house, a concrete bridge abutment, Barbara Avenue, and two considerably less solid Japanese cars… though one of the latter hit me first.  It was also the vehicle I used back when we played U-Boat, a topic I wrote about previously.

Some of the U-Boat crew in 1982

The Duster, second from the left, me sprawled on the hood

And in late 1986, when the old Duster finally stopped running and could not be revived… it literally quit on me as I was driving to work and the mechanic could not get the motor running again… I bought my first new car, a 1987 model year Mazda 626 Coupe, the last year for that generation, and a great car that I might still be driving today if some guy in a Honda Civic hadn’t plowed into it as it sat at a red light.  A tale for another time.  I purchased it from Oak Tree Mazda, which is right next door to where the events of this story began.  I even went on the same route when I test drove the 626, though the salesman at Oak Tree Mazda wanted to see my driver’s license first.

Probably a wise plan, all things considered.