Monthly Archives: April 2015

April in Review

The Site

I have nothing new to gripe about when it comes to WordPress.com, so I will just repeat that I really, really hate the new post editor and it is going to be very painful to transition once they drop support for the “classic” version.  I hope they at least fix the bit that crashes my browser when I try to use it.

So, with that out of the way, I want to ask a philosophical question about post categories.  As you can see on the side bar over on the right, there is a drop down that lists out the larger categories that I write about here.  Those are general areas, usual a game or a company or a specific group, while I use tags for specific items, like a dungeon or expansion associated with a specific game.

My question is, what should I do about SOE and Daybreak?

Daybreak... wait, no!

Daybreak… wait, no!

I have a category for Sony Online Entertainment, which I use for topics that involve the company itself rather than just a specific game.  When they were bought out by Columbus Nova Prospekt and changed their name to Daybreak Game Company, I made a new category for that.

It follows you as you move about the room!

Here’s the right one…

But now I wonder if that was the right move?  Should I have kept continuity, and the load of history with the SOE category, and just changed it to Daybreak?  Or should I have just kept on with SOE, because a Limburger cheese by any other name smells the same?  Or do I stick with two, and use them both when referring to something that applies to both or refers to the history that comes with SOE, eventually using only Daybreak as the company starts using its new logo and domain name to form its own identity?

I will cut you

Angry CONCORD guy comes to life!

When is it no longer relevant to refer to SOE and the history that brings?

Or am I, as usual, over thinking this?  (Hat tip to Feldon for spotting the logo thing.)

One Year Ago

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 was up via emulation on the internet archive.

The Elder Scrolls Online launched, hitting its planned April 4th date.  I did not play.

I was diving in to Pokemon X & Y, having returned to Pokemon at last.

The strategy group played a game of Civilization V that ended with a win via nuclear terror.

The Kickstarter campaign for the book A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online kicked off.  But Pantheon: Rise of the Something was spluttering along after failing its Kickstarter campaign.

In EVE Online proper there was Burn Jita 3, which seemed like less of a thing the third time out.  There was a video.  Then there was the CSM9 vote.  At least there were only 36 candidates on the ballot.

In null sec we were shooting Black Legion things, because that is what we do in the CFC.  I was just happy to be using lasers.  those skills having been trained up amongst my 120 million skill points.  There were also some posts about being space famous and an attempt at in-game blackmail.

But on the broader CCP front, World of Darkness was officially cancelled.

On the iPad I was playing Hearthstone and QuizUp… for about a week.

Turbine announced that Beornings were coming to Lord of the Rings Online.

SOE gave me a key for seven days of Landmark, so I went and tried it out.  SOE also announced H1Z1 and began their current love affair with Reddit and got their new All Access plan running.  While on the old school front, Dave Georgeson said SOE never plans to shut down EverQuest.

Warlords of Draenor was still a long ways away.  But Blizzard was doing well on other fronts.  The instance group finished up Zul’gurub.  And there was the usual April Fools stuff.

Five Years Ago

Video games as art?  Did we flay Roger Ebert enough over that?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet, though we did get LEGO Harry Potter.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has still not to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

In EVE Online somebody was trying to blackmail Gaff’s corp.  This was an out of game threat though.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

There was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as usual.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand.  On the bright side, while it started as a tease, it ended up becoming a real thing.

New Linking Sites

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

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2015
  2. Reavers Represent
  3. Progression Server Progress in EverQuest
  4. CCP Copies Blizzard’s WoW Token Idea
  5. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  6. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  7. Complaining About Small Things in WoW… Yet Again
  8. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  9. Daybreak and Forums and Reddit
  10. LOTRO – The War of the Ring as an Eight Year Long Quagmire
  11. The Fall of ZXB-VC and the End of Dominion
  12. Hail The Imperium! Amarr Victor!

Search Terms of the Month

lotro all that is beoring
[Yeah, beoring… that was what you meant]

overpowered by my wife likelike
[I bet you likelike!]

best way to powerlevel in everquest
[Buy a level 85 character]

merry karanas png porn
[Things in the Karanas have never been that merry]

eve do cnr need tp
[I even keep an extra roll on hand]

soe taking over?
[SOE is dead, man]

EVE Online

The annual purging of Delve seems to be about complete, our foes have fled before us, and what remains of N3 is a wreck.  Even the Reavers have been taking sovereignty from them, while the local renters have started paying us tribute to leave them alone, that “shame renters into defending the space they pay for” plan having not worked out.  The CFC changed its name to The Imperium and has pretty much “won” the Dominion sovereignty version of the game.  Not bad for April.

World of Warcraft

Sometimes I think I play a different version of this game than some other bloggers.  Or maybe I just don’t play as much or I have too many alts or too many garrisons or whatever.  But I keep logging on and seeing how much I have left to do/see/explore and then I compare this to people who are “done” with the expansion and already complaining about needing new content.  Maybe I am slowing down in my old age.

Coming Up

It looks like we might be set for another round of the New Blogger Initiative.  It is set to start… soon.

In WoW the instance group is on the road to 100.  I’ve been letting down the team by not showing up lately, but at least we’re in the gap between new dungeon content.  Still, it would be nice to get there before the inevitable summer hiatus kicks in and the group is pretty much done until autumn.  So I expect May will focus on that.

There will be things to do in EVE Online… I have a lot of crap to move out of Fountain to start with… but otherwise my space tribe is sort of in a holding pattern until June and the Fozzie-Sov comedy/chaos event.  Also, if I am using the term “space tribe,” which comes straight from the mouth of The Mittani, I have clearly been assimilated.  All hail The Imperium!

I will play a new game in May… because I really only played WoW and EVE in April… and likely write about it as well.  If you’re friends with me on Steam, you might have seen it added to my list and have been asking yourself, “WTF?”  There is a comedic opportunity reason behind this.  We’ll see how this plays out.

And, finally, I am going to start working on getting official Daybreak endorsement for my FreeRealms emulation project, because they seem to be into that sort of thing at the moment.

Project 1999 – Now Totally Legit

Well, I didn’t see that coming.

p99-gold-flat

In what I can only describe as something that wouldn’t have happened while EverQuest was under the Sony banner, Daybreak has officially recognized and blessed the EverQuest Project 1999 servers.

As part of the deal Project 1999 has agreed to push out the release of the Velious expansion until early August so as not to conflict with the upcoming EverQuest Progression Server.  So I guess we get a little bit of data on that front as well.  Of course, if you’re a pessimist, you might wonder what this says about Daybreak’s commitment to old Norrath, what with Smed’s words still fresh in our ears.

Meanwhile, if you think this means that the same might happen for SWG: A New Hope or SWGEmu, I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Daybreak owns all the rights to EverQuest, but a little company named Disney becomes involved when we start talking about Star Wars Galaxies.

The text of the announcement from the EverQuest site:

If you’ve ever looked for people playing EverQuest on Twitch, you’ll often find fans playing on the Project 1999 servers (often referred to as just P99) and engaging with other members of the community via their Twitch chat. Project 1999 is a fan-based, not-for-profit, classic EverQuest emulation project.

The guys running Project 1999 are passionate fans of EverQuest and our work, and we’re fans of what they’ve been able to accomplish with support from the player community. So, we’d like to bring you the following announcement from the P99 crew:

“It’s been an exciting year for Project 1999 and we have some exciting news we’ve been really anxious to share with all of you. As some of you may be aware, in the past there has been both confusion and concern over the status of Project 1999.  We have recently entered into a written agreement with Daybreak Game Company LLC that formally recognizes Project 1999 as a fan based, not-for-profit, classic EverQuest emulation project. The agreement establishes the guidelines that we as a project must follow, but it will allow to us continue to update the game without risk of legal repercussions. As a show of good faith to support the efforts of Daybreak Games, we have decided to reschedule our expansion release as to not conflict with the upcoming new progression server being released in the coming weeks. We would like to personally thank all the folks at Daybreak and acknowledge how awesome it is for a company to work with and embrace the creations of their fans. This is really something that’s unique in the gaming industry.”

To read the rest of the post, please visit the P99 forums.

We’re proud that the EverQuest community is one of the most passionate and engaged groups of players in the gaming world. We’re glad we were able to reach an agreement with the team behind the fan-based, not-for-profit emulation project as they continue to share their love of EQ with many.

Avoiding Guild Wars for a Decade

Guild Wars occupies a strange spot in my gaming history.

To start with, I am never sure if there is a space between the two words...

To start with, I am never sure if there is a space between the two words…

It came along ten years ago this week… something I only noticed when another bloggers mentioned the anniversary… at a point in time when the future of MMOs seemed golden.

EverQuest had brought a lot of players into the genre in a way that no MMO or proto-MMO before it had.  It confirmed that there was a bigger audience out there than was suspected, and that audience would pay to play.  Other games came on the scene like Dark Age of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies that were clearly differentiated for EQ.  It seemed like we would have all sorts of unique choices when it came to MMOs going forward.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II and World of Warcraft had both launched the previous November (we hit my 10 year anniversary with WoW last month and I totally forgot) but, while WoW was clearly taking off, we were not yet at a point where “must make a WoW clone!!!” was the dominating developer thoughts.

The market was also small, at least when it came to the number of titles.  It felt like you could realistically know something about all the major titles on the market as well as those under development.  The whole VirginWorlds podcast era was predicated on the idea that you could talk about the MMO market segment in detail in a weekly one hour or less session and pretty much cover all they key players.

At the time I was just back into the MMO thing, having quit EQ and the genre back before Planes of Power launched.  As noted in the relevant anniversary post, Gaff got me to play EverQuest II at launch.

By the time Guild Wars launched in 2005 I had given WoW a try and wasn’t really thrilled, something I mentioned to a co-worker who had played EverQuest over lunch.  A surprising (to me) number of my co-workers ended up playing EverQuest.  This particular one had also burned out on EQ and was somewhat reluctant to get in on the subscription MMO level grind again.  It wasn’t that he hadn’t enjoyed some, or even most of his time in Norrath.  It was just that feeling you get when you’re too busy to use something you’re paying for.

He told me the game he had his eye on was Guild Wars.

He was keen on the MMO, or MMO-like, multi-player experience without the whole monthly fee.  Buy the box and you’re done, like a REAL video game.  That is what made it stand out among the so-called third generation MMOs. (And this ignores the whole Guild Wars isn’t an MMO thing, which I can’t even begin to address.  As with H1Z1, the company simply saying it isn’t an MMO doesn’t make it so.  The definition is both complex and situational in my mind, but there is also a certain amount of “quacks like a duck” in there as well.)

He was kind of our scout into this game.  He picked it up at launch and I would go by and ask him about it now and again.  He talked about the character models and the way cities were shared but that zones or content was all instanced and the skill system where you were limited to the number of active skills you had.

And the graphics.  He was effusive about the environment.  Most people with whom I have spoken to about the game over the years have praised that aspect.

At the time though I was fully committed to EQII, a game that had been changing and evolving… and breaking now and again… since launch.  Too much to keep up with there to start a new MMO-like game.

Then we all defected to WoW and the focus was on Azeroth.  Then I started EVE Online for a bit, then the blog started, then there was the instance group and so forth.  Somewhere in there I entered the VirginWorlds sphere of influence and would listen to Brent and sometimes co-host Brenden talk about other MMOs, which got me both more interested and more aware of the wider genre which, as noted above, seemed like a thing a single person could know about.

And Guild Wars was a common topic.  Brent and Brendan would talk about it, Van Hemlock was big on it, there were other former bloggers keen on the game, so it was always part of the mix.  Eventually I bought a copy.  I know this because the box is still sitting in my bookshelf.

MMO Boxes on my shelf

MMO Boxes on my shelf

At some point in the past I dumped a bunch of boxes but, for whatever reasons, I chose to keep these particular ones.  The EverQuest and the EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark CD jewel cases are on the far left, while the original EverQuest manual is next to A Theory of Fun on the right.

And you can see there isn’t just one, there are TWO Guild Wars boxes.

Yet I cannot recall ever really playing the game.

I remember taking a couple of runs at it.  I found exactly FOUR screen shots from Guild Wars after sifting though my hard drives that indicated that I made at least two characters, one male and one female, at some point.  I think that might have been after a podcast discussion where somebody was effusive about the female character models in the game.

Sexy or Sexualized?

Sexy or Sexualized?

I also recall at one point trying to get a group together in Guild Wars with Potshot and Ula during one of the hiatus periods of the WoW group.  I have a distinct memory of us in a small town with very pretty and detailed flowers… and being unable to jump over an ankle-high obstacle… but little else.  Something didn’t click because we clearly did not stick with it.  I did not even make a blog post about it.  I have literally written more about games I never played myself, like LEGO Universe, or games that never launched in the US, like KartRider, or games that never even existed, like Planet Michael, than about Guild Wars.  I have certainly written more about games the instance group has tried and dropped.  Runes of Magic has gotten many more words than Guild Wars, for example.

This might be my first Guild Wars post in more than eight and a half years.  And despite having been aware of the game since before launch, I have very little to say about it.

Meanwhile the landscape of the MMO market has changed.  The golden age ended, for me at least, with the crash of Warhammer Online, which killed the idea of being both popular and different from WoW. After that the tomb was sealed when the idea of another mass market subscription MMO, the now cringe-inducing idea of a WoW-beater, was laid to rest when Star Wars: The Old Republic went free to play.  Now we talk about niche games and funding and variations on business models and funding and fanciful ideas about developer independence and funding and cash shops and what went wrong back in the day and how it is all Blizzard’s fault.

And yet Guild Wars is still there, which is kind of amazing given the propensity NCsoft has for shutting down games that simply are not making enough money.  It has been overshadowed by Guild Wars 2 (which I can actually remember playing still!) and is never going to see any further expansions or content updates, yet it still abides.

Anyway, it has been ten years.  Happy anniversary!

Other places writing about Guild Wars at age ten:

 

The Unblinking Eye is Watching You!

Daybreak Game Company now has a logo.

It follows you as you move about the room!

It follows you as you move about the room!

It sort of makes me feel like an angry owlbear is watching me.

They also apparently have a working domain at daybreakgames.com now and a new site that seems to be pretty much free of Sony or SOE mentions along with new terminology like Daybreak Cash rather than Station Cash.  It is like they are a real company now!

Addendum: There is also an interview with Smed about the site and logo update. It includes this:

The Daybreak logo was designed to reflect that brand, with a nocturnal aspect, (the owl’s eye), a technological aspect (the gear within the eye), and a more literal aspect (the “Daybreak” of a rising sun within the gear). The red, black, and yellow of Daybreak logo is starkly different from the familiar blue and white of the Sony Online Entertainment label, which might serve to emphasize a separation from the company’s past. Internally, Smedley said that separation has already happened.

Summarizing the rest of the interview, there is nothing but geezers left in the company, WoW is dead, and long live cash shops or something.

And a further interview over at Polygon that talks about being the odd duck at Sony, which we all sort of knew.

Off topic:  This new official Smed picture seems like it is aching for a Daybreaking Bad joke or something.

I will cut you

I will cut you

Jacked Up But Clearly Not Good to Go!

I played a lot of StarCraft back when it was new… which was back in early 1998.  My friends and I played it after work at the office and at home via Battle.net.  As so many have said, it was a very well balanced RTS with three distinctly different factions to learn.  Our interest in it kept going right through the Brood War expansion. (Though when I look at the dates, Brood War came out eight months after the main game, which might be some sort of Blizzard record for shipping an expansion.)

Anyway, I have written a bit about StarCraft before and it has come up now and again for our group as a possible game to go back to.  The primary arguments against it tend to be the fact that it runs at 640×480 resolution and that none of us are really into RTS games much any more.  It was a game from a specific point in my timeline, and that time may have passed.

But I still have strong memories of it.  Even my wife remembers the game.  Back when it was current my then wife-to-be and I shared an office in her condo so when I played video games I either had to put on headphones or share the audio experience with her, and the audio StarCraft left its mark.  To this day she will, every so often, as if I ever play “Jacked up and good to go!” any more, that being one of the more memorable Terran Marine quotes.

Since then StarCraft II has (finally) shown up, but while I have written about it a bit… mostly in the context of Blizzard as a whole… I have never gotten around to buying the game.  I have thought about it, but since I play MMOs now, and since those tend to consume all available gaming time, I am not sure when I would play.  Plus, for me, it was always a group game, so buying it myself would seem… odd.  The campaigns were never the high point, it was always about playing with friends.  (Though with playing at work a thing of the past due to IT policy, I am not sure I would miss LAN play.)

So I was a bit surprise/amused/happy to get a note from Blizzard letting me know I had been given access to the closed beta for the upcoming Legacy of the Void expansion for StarCraft II.

Why thanks!

Why thanks!

Blizzard had some details out about this back at BlizzCon last year, but it seems like things are really in motion if they are already sending invites to random opt-ins like me. They want feedback early according to the details.

For this reason, we decided to start the beta sooner than we normally would have in the past, providing ample time for feedback and iteration.

Though I gather from the Beta FAQ that my purchase of a virtual ticket to BlizzCon 2014 put me on the list.

I mentioned that I got the invite to my wife and she said the line, “Jacked up and good to go!” and told me I had to play… and that I had to have the audio run through my speakers so she could hear what the units were saying.  So it had to be done.

I downloaded the beta, though I first tried to do it through the “Download Now” button in the email, which only succeeded in downloading the StarCraft II starter edition.  Not that that was a bad thing.  I got that going and ran through the tutorial mission just to make sure I still knew the basics.  I slaughtered the CPU guided foe with ease following the tutorial instructions along with some vague memories of how to play from back in the day.

After that I went back to the Battle.net launcher and downloaded the Legacy of the Void beta directly and got that up and running.

That was what I wanted to see

That was what I wanted to see

I got in there and looked at what options I had.  They were limited to 1v1 multiplayer games over Battle.net, which was to be expected given the blurb in the invite.

This phase of the Legacy of the Void closed beta test focuses on the multiplayer aspects of the game, including the new cooperative Archon mode, so ramp up your APM and dive into the battle.

So multiplayer it was the option.  How bad could it be, right?

Actually, the more accurate question was, “How bad could I be?”

I played three games in quick succession… and they were quick because I ended up surrendering after being wrecked much earlier than expected.  I am not just bad at StarCraft II at this point, but I am apparently so much worse than the average player in the beta… who are much more likely to be self-selected individuals who are really into StarCraft II as opposed to happy memory dilettantes like myself… that after the third humiliation I closed down the game and went back to Azeroth to work on my second druid (mentioned last week) healing for random Dungeon Finder groups.  At least there when things are going bad I can at least tell why.

Hitting level 90

Hitting level 90!  Another garrison soon

It just isn’t worth my time simply because I do not care enough about StarCraft II to put in the effort to be more than a very small speed-bump on somebody’s road to victory.  Those days are gone.

And the most disappointing bit in the whole thing… the Terran Marine units don’t even say, “Jacked up and good to go!” any more.  I had to check the list of quotes to be sure, and it isn’t there.

But I will always have memories of 1998.

LOTRO – The War of the Ring as an Eight Year Long Quagmire

Lord of the Rings Online officially went live eight years ago today.  I had been in the late beta, but made sure to note the first day that it was officially a going concern back in 2007.

Yahoo Headline 2007

Yahoo Headline 2007

Of course, one of the ongoing jokes about the game is how long it has take it to move through the story relative to how long the events in the books were reported to take.  Even allowed a generous spread of dates, say from when Gandalf warns Frodo to get out of the Shire (April 11, 3018 TA, or five months before Frodo gets off his ass and goes… hobbits…) through to when Sam Gamgee arrives back from the Grey Havens (October 6, 3021 TA) after Frodo and Bilbo depart Middle-earth, still only comes up to three and a half years.  The old LOTRO news site A Casual Stroll to Mordor came by its name honestly,

It wasn’t so bad at first.  The game only took about a year longer to get to The Mines of Moria than it took the fellowship to get through to the other side, though that still put the expansion out longer than it took to Frodo to throw down Sauron, celebrate with the new king, meander back to The Shire, fight the last battle, and start complaining about his PTSD.

But here we are, eight years in, and still in The Two Towers, with Minas Tirith still over the horizon.  I like to try to imagine the story playing out over a longer stretch, the war of the ring as an ongoing quagmire, though it requires both sides to move at a pretty lethargic pace.  Vast armies slow to form then lumbering about at a snails pace as Frodo… I don’t know what Frodo is up to.  He and Sam seem to have found something to do.

Anyway, Turbine’s vision of Middle-earth is still here to explore.  Things do not look promising, at least if you were holding out hope against hope of seeing Mount Doom or the gates of Mordor.  The look forward into 2015 seemed rather modest, and then we had all those tales of woe about Turbine itself leak.  But we are also unlikely to see as ambitious an attempt to recreate Middle-earth any time soon, so enjoy it while we have it.