Looking Back at 2014 – Highs and Lows

As the month of December bleeds out before our very eyes and the new year looms, it becomes time for certain standard posts to appear.  Looking back at the year gone by, revision 5.

Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:

Payment Model Wars

Not much new to add since last year, so you can go back and read that.  I still don’t like where free to play inevitably leads games, but in a market where free is now the norm, you have to be extra special to warrant a subscription.

Turbine

Highs

  • They still seem to be a going concern.
  • They have had updates out for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Lord of the Rings Online is still a great way to get a feel for Middle-earth.  I like to go back and just visit places.
  • They aren’t actually killing off Asheron’s Call or Asheron’s Call 2. There is a promise to keep the servers up and running and some effort to allow players to run their own servers.  And, hey, it’s free.
  • They have a new game waiting in the wings… somewhere.
  • WB Games management exhales carbon dioxide, which helps plants grow.

Lows

  • More layoffs.
  • No expansion for LOTRO.
  • All I do is visit and look.  The last big change to classes pretty much made me give up on going back to play.
  • How is that “PvP and Raiders make up less than 10%…” stance working out?
  • Asheron’s Call series is in some state that is probably less than maintenance mode.  No income generally means no attention unless something is literally on fire.
  • The “run your own server” option sounds like a hollow promise at best.  How much effort do you think they will expend on this while struggling with other projects and laying people off?
  • Is Infinite Crisis a thing yet or not?  It isn’t going to save the company sitting in closed beta or whatever.
  • Management’s main function at this point might merely be contributing to global warming.

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs

  • Leaner, more focused organization
  • A new game, H1Z1 in the pipe
  • Fixed a bit of confusion by splitting out Landmark as its own title without the EverQuest name attached.
  • Ongoing support and new expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II
  • EverQuest II ten year anniversary!  Isle of Refuge prestige house!
  • Closed the exp loophole in Dungeon Maker in EQII.
  • Station Cash is strong enough again that they could actually sell a bit at a discount for a holiday sale.  People actually complained because they couldn’t buy Station Cash up to the set limit of 30K per day during the sale.
  • Didn’t get brought down by the latest Sony hacking incidents… well, except for the PlayStation titles.
  • I think people have finally stopped accosting Smed in the street about the NGE.

Lows

  • The organization got leaner and more focused by killing off four titles, Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, Vanguard, and Wizardry Online.  As many as three of those will be missed, and all four will get Smed accosted where ever he goes.  Okay, maybe not Wizardry Online.
  • Apparent revolving door, flavor of the whatever, Asian import MMO plan.  Out with Wizardry Online, in with Dragon’s Prophet.
  • Landmark is still a work in progress with no real end in sight.  Worked for Notch and Minecraft because he got some good, tangible stuff in early.  Not so much with Landmark even with the latest code drop.
  • EverQuest Next is still a blur on the horizon.  Is it getting closer or not?  My gut is starting to feel like another EverQuest title might be too much to hang on that lore in any case.
  • SOE now has two titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, with level caps that started at 50 and now are into triple digits.  Not sure if that is bad, but it makes you go “whoa!”
  • SOE’s History of EverQuest II – 10th Anniversary Documentary was completely lacking in substance.
  • So what is the Dungeon Maker good for now?  Can I go in there and play with SOEmote?
  • Never got my promo code for Station Cash, despite signing up well in advance of the date, a problem a lot of people had.
  • With people buying up gobs of Station Cash with up to a 3x bonus, will that flood the market again?
  • Still no idea what people could possibly spend 30K of Station Cash on, much less the 90K somebody must have tried to buy over the three days of the sale.  Seriously, is there some special tab that is not visible in my version of the Station Cash store?

CCP

Highs

  • The change in development strategy for EVE Online has really invigorated the game for the installed base.  Fixing shit and making the game better is a win.
  • Some good PR moments have brought a lot of new players to the game.
  • CCP is focusing more on their core competencies.
  • EVE Valkyrie gets people excited whenever they see it.
  • DUST 514 is still a thing… right?

Lows

  • A lot of the cool things CCP is doing for EVE Online are good, short term wins, but are they the kind of things that keep people invested and subscribed?
  • What happens when the low hanging fruit is consumed?
  • CCP admits that bringing new players to the game isn’t even the battle, as 90% of those who subscribe cancel before their subscription period runs out, and that doesn’t even get to the number of people who don’t subscribe.  The conversion rate for the trial accounts was what then? 1%?  Less?
  • Better not mess up on any of these changes to EVE Online, because it is all that is paying the bills right now.  One slip up and SOE will buy them and… do I even want to think about that?  I mean sure, Smed was in the CFC… but in SMA.
  • For all the changes to the game this past year, we just need AAA to take some sov again and all the usual suspects will be back on the map again.
  • Not enough hats in New Eden.  We need some decent hats.
  • Yeah, EVE Valkyrie sounds cool, and looks cool, but will VR headsets make us vomit after 30 minutes or go insane after extended use?  There are some doubts on that front.
  • I barely know if DUST 514 is still a thing.  I have yet to bomb anybody from orbit, and I feel poorer for it.

Blizzard

Highs

  • As usual, laughing all the way to the bank pushing wheel barrows full of cash.
  • WoW subscriptions way up with Warlords of Draenor and a solid change of focus.  Orcs make the best bad guys.
  • New plan for global domination means having one winning product in each important gaming genre.
  • Glad they fixed Diablo III by removing the auction house and fixing itemization.  The “real money” aspect was a side issue, the auction house itself and the original itemization, which felt like it was designed to push you to the auction house, were the problems with the game.  I went back and played through the game again.
  • Some rumbling that Heroes of the Storm is actually good and might do to MOBAs what Hearthstone did for collectible card games.
  • Overwatch looks like money in the bank at this point.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void might actually see the light of day in 2015.

Lows

  • The balance sheet might as well read “WoW and the five dwarves,” because Azeroth is the big breadwinner.  Blizzard without WoW is just a very successful studio, not an obscenely successful one.  They have to keep WoW going or change their lifestyle.
  • Some moon-eyed dreamers out there are going to hang on to the idea of the now-cancelled Titan project and moan about how it could have changed things despite it never having been a thing.
  • Rough start going into Warlords of Draenor.  Everybody says being too popular is the problem to have, but it is still a problem.
  • WoW subscriptions still below the 12 million peak going into Cataclysm.  No new class or race means no real drive to create new alts while insta-90 means those alts that get made are quickly at the level cap.
  • The low water mark for WoW subscribers was this summer, during the great content drought of 2014, and it isn’t clear that Blizz learned a lesson from that.  They say they did, but will they live up to that.
  • Five expansions in, occasionally hit by the realization that this is two years of busy work that will be washed away by the next $50 box.
  • And after playing through Diablo III again I didn’t buy the expansion and pretty much put it away.  It is still there if we get a group together, but soloing through a couple times was enough.
  • Is Heroes of the Storm live-ish yet?  I’m not sure you can change the world in closed beta.
  • Really not sure what Hearthstone did for collectible cards games, now that I think about it.
  • Anybody who thinks Blizz has learned any lessons about timeliness is kidding themselves.  They ship when they are good and ready… which is a luxury they enjoy… but if you think another WoW expansion is coming in less than two years, think again.  I think the best we can hope for is that they won’t dole out the add-on content for the game as quickly.

Other MMO Devs

Highs

  • Trion rolls out an expansion for Rift and brought out ArcheAge which boasts a feature set that gets a lot of people very excited.
  • Two big titles came out in 2014, The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic got an expansion and a level cap increase.
  • ArenaNet plays its living story hand to the fullest in GuildWars 2.
  • Jagex is trying hard to not be just the RuneScape studio.
  • Funcom gets a property that looks like a potential gold mine, LEGO Minifigures Online.  They surely learned from the failure of LEGO Universe.
  • Chris Roberts continued to bring in the cash for Star Citizen.  They are past the $66 million dollar mark at this point.  Op success!
  • Some other Kickstarters I backed made some progress.  Camelot Unchained’s promise date is still a year out, and while Shroud of the Avatar is behind their original schedule, you can get in the game and do things.
  • Project: Gorgon, despite a name that really isn’t helping things, and despite failing the second Kickstarter, is still progressing and could very well be one of the prime examples of what a niche MMO title can be.

Lows

  • Trion botches the ArcheAge launch to the point of alienating some of their most ardent fans.  The game went from being worth a four hour queue to not being worth logging on at all for a lot of people I follow.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online has spent months working on bugs and will likely be at least a year late in shipping the console version, while WildStar is facing an uncertain future after subs dropped off a cliff, since they were published by NCsoft, whose motto is “kill the weak.”
  • Despite claims that SW:TOR is a cash cow, EA is officially saying it isn’t meeting expectations.  Not sure that bodes well for the future.
  • GuildWars 2 may have lots of fans, but the revenue chart seems to indicate that they will need another box to sell to keep NCsoft happy.
  • Jagex stumbles again with Transformers Universe shutting down before leaving open beta.  So they’re still just the RuneScape company, at least when it comes to revenue.
  • LEGO Minifigures Online is not meeting revenue expectations according to Funcom.  But then, I barely knew that it launched and I thought I was paying attention.
  • The original Star Citizen promised launch date has come and gone and we have a hangar module and a mini space sim module.  Meanwhile, the new go date for the real game is out in 2016.  More space bonsai needed to raise money.
  • Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  Awkward name, asked for too much money, the follow-on plan was just “give me money, no strings attached!” all while having too many goals.  I have doubts we’ll ever see a finished project.  It is sort of the anti-Project: Gorgon.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Nintendo scores a big win with Maro Kart 8, a game that actually moved some Wii U units.
  • The 3DS line continues to be a bright spot on the Nintendo balance sheet.  It is still selling well, updated units are coming, and it is getting some decent titles.  I am very happy with my 3DS XL, it is a quality unit and worthy of the high standard set by the DS Lite.
  • Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire keep the Pokemon tradition going.
  • Sony still releasing PlayStation 3 titles.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • I finally hit level 8 on Steam.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 8 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • Really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online next year.  Andrew Groen has been making regular updates and things seem to be on track.

Lows

  • Nintendo still hasn’t sold enough Wii U units to make the whole thing worth the effort.  It remains their worst selling mainstream console, a bitter pill to swallow after the Wii.
  • While Nintendo’s handheld rules the portable roost, it’s success is mainly reliant on remakes and the same small cast of characters.  How much longer can Mario and Pikachu carry this show?
  • Part of the Pokemon tradition includes cool features that only appear in one game, then are gone for the next release.
  • Have to suppress the realization that, despite all the updates and tweaks, Pokemon has not changed in any fundamental way since it was on the original GameBoy.
  • I only bought one PlayStation 3 title in 2014… and it was Assassin’s Creed III, which came out in 2012.  And I had to wait to buy it (for my daughter) because the PlayStation Network was down due to hackers… again.  All we use the PS3 for is streaming video most days.  It is great at that, but frankly a $100 Roku box would give us more options.
  • I literally won’t buy anything that isn’t at least 50% off on Steam at this point.  And even then I let my wishlist pass.
  • Steam competitors?  How many software sales platforms do you think I am going to invest in?  So far, the answer is one.
  • Steam blocked me one point shy of level 8, where you get a serious boost in cards and stuff, until I bought something.  I bought the original Wasteland for $1.49.  I’ll have to see if it plays like it did back on my Apple //e way back when.
  • I really just use my iPad 2 to browse the web, read news, and text my wife.  The only games I play regularly at this point are Ticket to Ride, DragonVale, and Candy Crush Saga.  The same three titles I was playing 2 years ago.  And I am only to level 301 in Candy Crush Saga, because I won’t give King a dime.
  • Where the hell is my copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls?  The Kickstarter date was a “pessimistic” August 2013, back in February of that year.  2014 is about done and there is no ship date in sight.

The Blog and the Internet in General

Highs

  • Hey, I kept blogging for another year.  Gotta love the force of habit!  375 posts so far in 2014.
  • Still feel like I am connected in some minor way to a lot of the other bloggers out there in our little corner of the net.  You all write great stuff and I don’t link out to you all nearly enough.
  • The blog continues to live up to its name, as the games I played the most this year are all pretty old in internet terms.  World of Warcraft and EverQuest II both just turned 10, EVE Online is 11, and the Pokemon franchise is 18 years old at this point.
  • Turns out what I said last year about it being nice having a blog because so many of my screen shots are there came to pass when my power supply blew out and fried my motherboard, video card, and both drives… which actually sounds like a low, but I got a replacement board for one of the drives and it spun up and I was able to recover data.

Lows

  • WordPress.com seems determined to force horrible design choices on their users.  Most of their 2014 updates have offered less functionality, worse layout, and slower performance.  Seriously, WTF WordPress?
  • The randomness of Google and the internet means my most read post this year is the one I wrote about considering which class on which to use my WoW insta-90.
  • I remain at a loss as to what gamer social networking ought to be.  I keep getting invites to sites, and spent some time with Anook, but I dropped off after a while.  I already have a blog and too many ways to interact with people, why do I need a site that appears to be primarily looking to me to provide free content?
  • When did Yahoo’s motto become, “Well, we’re not the best, so let’s just be complete shit?”  Their site, their mail interface, their mobile app for mail, all have gone to utter shit.  I am pretty sure if I install Ad Block, Yahoo would simply disappear.
  • Also, Apple, WTF is it with iTunes?  Why must it get worse and worse?
  • GamerGate: Failed to learn the lesson of Occupy Wall Street (no leadership or unified platform or goals), so now any reasonable message under that hash tag is forever tainted by death threats, doxing, and revenge porn.  You cannot disavow something if nobody/everybody speaks for you movement.  You just managed to reinforce all the negative gamer stereotypes.

That is what came to mind for 2014 when I sat down to write this.  I am sure somebody will point out some big things I missed… which is the purpose of the comments section, so have at it.

And other people in the blogesphere have been looking at 2014 for good or ill, so you can see what they had to say as well.

7 thoughts on “Looking Back at 2014 – Highs and Lows

  1. Noizy

    The only reason I’m not predicting NCSoft to close Wildstar is that NCSoft found a publisher for the game in China. It should launch there in late 2015 or early 2016.

    Oh, and the news about SWTOR has me playing before something happens to it. The Imperial Agent story is pretty good.

    Like

  2. Mike

    I’d rather, and I do, buy from GOG.com.
    Still reeling from how incredibly poor Trion behaved with the launch of Archeage and the fiasco of the “promised-not-delivered” discount for founders. Such a fall for what used to be a good company.
    Turbine — I am in complete agreement with you vis-a-vis LOTRO. With the last class changes (otherwise known as “the dumbing-down”), I have no interest whatsoever in playing. I tried; all that did was heighten my disappointment. Great place to walk around and go “ooh, look at that”… but not a great game to play anymore.

    Like

  3. bhagpuss

    Great read. Not much in there I wouldn’t agree with either.

    I also would like to know why every version of iTunes is palpably inferior to the previous one. Add in WP and Yahoo there (and I would add Feedly and Google) and there’s a very disturbing trend. I have a theory that all software inevitably reaches a functional plateau from a user’s perspective long before its designers are done with it. Consequently they go on fiddling and tweaking when we are already fully satisfied. Applies to MMOs too.

    Like

  4. Soge

    Heroes of the Storm, so far as the Alpha is concerned (they aren’t even calling it a beta yet), is a neat casual MOBA. It is a good way to spend a few minutes with friends, but it is also much shallower than either LoL or DotA, and I simply don’t see people dropping as much money there as Blizz seems to expect, and much less for a good competitive scene to emerge. At least it is stable and pretty.

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  5. Pingback: 2014 in Review | Leo's Life

  6. gwjanimej

    > I think people have finally stopped accosting Smed in the street about the NGE.

    Only because I haven’t run into him at all.

    >Glad they fixed Diablo III by removing the auction house and fixing itemization. The “real money” aspect was a side issue, the auction house itself and the original itemization, which felt like it was designed to push you to the auction house, were the problems with the game. I went back and played through the game again.

    This is one of those things that leaves me feeling like a lone voice on the internet about. I actually did like the Auction House, including the RMAH. Having a way to dump off things that I don’t need but someone else could use is a good thing. Yes, loot needed fixed but they did that. Why break something that worked and worked well?

    >Some rumbling that Heroes of the Storm is actually good and might do to MOBAs what Hearthstone did for collectible card games.

    Heroes of the Storm is the absolute perfect casual MOBA. I can’t stand the genre in general, owing to the exceptionally toxic communities that seem to follow them, but it’s very beginner friendly, owing to the minimal amount of customization available. That said, I think that a lot of folks might get turned off by the lack of depth coming from other games.

    As others have said, it’s still called a ‘Technical Alpha’. I call BS on that, because it’s incredibly polished right now.

    >The low water mark for WoW subscribers was this summer, during the great content drought of 2014, and it isn’t clear that Blizz learned a lesson from that. They say they did, but will they live up to that.

    This is really the lesson they need to learn and take to heart.

    Like

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