Monthly Archives: December 2015

December in Review

The Site

Here we are at the end of another year.  Somehow most of us survived.  2016 looms, just hours away here.  This is my 10th December in Review post, 112th month in review, and my 3,814th post overall, during the life of the blog.

WordPress.com didn’t anger me this month…. at least not with anything new.  They introduced a new stand-alone app to managed your blog, available for both Mac and Windows.  Not sure I need that, but there it is.  The only external apps I regularly use for the blog are Notepad ++, Paint.net, and Corel PaintShop Pro X3.

They also introduced some new blog themes.  They are actually pretty good about cranking out some new themes, generally on Thursdays.  They are all just appallingly ugly and unreadable in my opinion, though I clearly have very specific tastes on that front.  I want something I can read, not something that depends on a gimmick.

They did put out the usual Annual Report for blogs.  For me the most interesting part is who refers the most traffic to the site:

Top Traffic Sources in 2015

Top Traffic Sources in 2015

That is some heavily EVE Online focused traffic.  I suppose the biggest surprise is getting as much traffic from Gevlon as I did, me being a minion of evil and all.  Of course, the report doesn’t mention the biggest source, which is Google.  Google sends me as much traffic as all other sources combined, and then some, so should be number one on the list. (The next four on the list, just as an FYI and to round out a Top 10, are Twitter, Keen & Graev, Bhagpuss, and SynCaine, after which the numbers drop off fast.)

Anyway, if you are interested, you can read the report here, and you can substitute in the years 2011 through 2014 in the URL if you want to see past years and chart my decline.

One Year Ago

After my hardware woes the month before, I had to figure out which games to install again.

My MMO Outlook for 2015 was bleak.  But not as bleak as the reality ended up.  And then there were the highs and lows of 2014.

Syp was on about “real” MMO studios, strongly suggesting that you had to have more than one MMO to be legit.  I questioned whether that was really the case or not.  Examples were discussed.

It was the 10 year anniversary of the Nintendo DS handheld system.

Warlords of Draenor having launched at the end of November, the instance group was getting together in Azeroth and building garrisons… so we could be apart.  Of course, my first character into Draenor was already level 100 shortly thereafter.  We engaged in some jumping puzzles and then had to ride across country to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines.

Coming back to WoW also got me to post five seemingly simple things I wanted to see fixed.  I think they’re all still unchanged at this point.

I also spent a bit of time in EverQuest II over the holidays, figuring out where to go, getting some AA points handed to me, and rolling out into the Kylong Plains.  I also tried to recall the events around the great downtime of December 2004.

In New Eden, NCDot’s invasion of Fountain was pushed back.  Reavers were operating in their backfield in Querious, where Asher managed to setup a trap that lead to us killing four supers.  Then it was back to our home in the north.

We also got the Rhea expansion from CCP, which gave us graphical updates, the Bowhead freighter, the removal of clone costs, and Thera, a new kind of wormhole system.  There was also a blog banter about what to tell new players about EVE Online.

I was also wondering if PLEX-like currency items were working out well in any games besides EVE Online.  That was before the WoW Token came on the scene.

And I posted about three science fiction series I had started reading.

Five Years Ago

That December I had one of my all-time most popular posts, Talking Cats Playing Pattycake!  You can thank me for not taking the hint and going all talking cats, all the time.  Or hate me for not doing that.  Take your pick.  And We Didn’t Start the Fire?  Nothing.

But I still had kitty pictures.  Awww.

I still think that if you label a window “Currency” it ought to show all your currency, not just the odd-ball stuff.

I was still feeling the sting of ThinkGeek teasing us with the iCade at April Fools, all the more so because some pretenders were on the scene.

Turbine was giving away 10,000 Turbine Points, which comes out to real, and possibly taxable, value in real world dollars.  The comments on the post were obviously not from tax professionals.

I visited EverQuest for long enough to find a house.  And then I was out of money.

In EverQuest II they were starting the run up to vampires.

And I summed up what we knew about The Agency to that point… which was bupkiss.

In World of Warcraft, Cataclysm launched.  If you weren’t in the beta, there were still scams promising to get you in.  There was the digital pre-order, which worked for me.  And one final hardware upgrade we needed at our house before the expansion launched.  And then there was picking a new character for the re-rolled instance group in Azeroth.

The U.S. release date for Pokemon Black and White was announced at last.

Finally, I wrote something that looked sort of like a review of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s book Mogworld.  And then there was something about zombies vs. werewolves vs. vampires vs. unicorns.

New Linking Sites

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 December

  1. The Fountain War Kickstarter and Some Existential Questions
  2. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  3. Operation Frostline: New Ships, Improved Graphics, Giant Grids, and More
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. My MMO Outlook for 2016
  6. Reviewing My 2015 Predictions
  7. Adventures with The Imperium in Low Security Space
  8. Steam Holiday Sale – Even Valve Seems a Bit Bored
  9. Turbine Finally Figures Out Insta Levels, Will Send You to Level 95 in LOTRO
  10. Why Not This George?
  11. Four Hours in Cloud Ring
  12. Mirkwood – As Dank as the Dankest of Memes

Search Terms of the Month

how to 2 box on phinigal server eq1
[You are really going against the spirit of things here…]

why do villians in bond movies don’t just shoot him when they got chance
[He’s the hero, he can’t die]

john wayne shot first
[If he didn’t, he’d be dead]

“heart of thorns” “selling well”
[Fishing for good news?]

heir to the empire audiobook cast
[It was just that one guy]

EVE Online

I don’t feel like I have spent a lot of time in New Eden this month, yet if I look at the dashboard, I am well beyond the number of participation links my corp would like me to click on for the month.  (I need four and I have over a dozen.)  I read a comment somewhere by an FCON pilot bitching about how onerous the participation link requirement was and how nothing was happening, but I have to guess they just haven’t been paying attention.  Scrolling back in Jabber I seen many, many fleets rolling out of our staging system at all hours of the day for the Cloud Ring and low sec tower bashing campaign.  Oh well, people will complain about anything they don’t like.

I also built up my bank account a bit, ratting away.  I ratted enough that I actually moved into the modern age.  I am not carrier ratting yet, but I changed up my tools a bit so clean up is quicker.

Lord of the Rings Online

I was teetering on the edge of interest with LOTRO when the month started out.  I was happy to get into Mirkwood, but that wore off after a bit as I got into the usual side quests about killing bears, spiders, wolves, and boars.  One wonders that there is any wildlife left in Middle-earth.  Also, Mirkwood seems to be very heavily populated, as opposed to the dense and lonely place described in The Hobbit.

And then something happened and I can no longer log into the Brandywine server.  The process halts at loading character data.  And since my Mirkwood character is on that server, my progress is pretty much hosed.  I can log on to other servers, but Brandywine just ceases when it tries loading character data… which might just put an end to my time in LOTRO for now.

Minecraft

I have a few posts I have to write about Minecraft still.  I am a bit behind on the front.  However, they are more about the work others, especially Aaron, have done in the world, as opposed to things I have done myself.  I haven’t come up with a big new project since the great northern road.  Something to think on for the new year.

Others

Since I didn’t MMO much, I must have played something else.  I did dig into my Steam library a bit.  I got back to Defense Grid 2 and finished out the campaign, and then went back a redid the chapters where I missed getting a gold medal until they were all gold.  But after that I stopped.  It isn’t a bad game, but it suffers from being a sequel.  After playing the hell out of the original Defense Grid (the only single player in my Raptr top 20), DG2 was a more of the same in a lot of ways.  It even suffers from some similar problems.  In DG, the solution to every level was “lots of cannons and a few lasers.”  In DG2 the solution to every level seems to be “lots of guns, a few lasers, and 2-4 missile towers.”  Not a drastic improvement.

I also got out Total Annihilation, my long time favorite retro RTS game.  Unfortunately, I am still missing all of the mods that made the AI a challenge, so I have to play a few AIs on hard, which means less tactics and more setting up kill zones for mass slaughter… which is fun for a while, but can turn into a slow slog as the AI clogs your treads with its wreckage.

And then there was the Steam Winter sale itself, which I have stared at every day, going through my queues and collecting my cards, but I have yet to spend a penny on anything since it kicked off.  I still have until 10am Pacific Time on January 4th for the current prices.

Coming Up

A new year, which means a new set of bad predictions coming tomorrow.  I’ve been thinking about that all month and only have three written down so far.  Expect some tragically bad last minute guesses at the future.

In New Eden there is a hint that there will be a Reavers deployment before the end of next month, with a new doctrine.  An expensive one, too, so it is a good thing I have been banking some ISK.

My latest fling with LOTRO may be over, given my character loading issue.  Of course, that I haven’t even bothered to Google the problem might indicate that the fling was over already.

In Minecraft I need a new project, though I would settle for version 1.9 coming out soon, as it appears to have a lot of changes and updates to the game.

And then there is the rest of 2016.  Being a leap year makes it 24 hours longer, while it being a presidential election year in the US will make it seem much longer still, and I am not making any predictions as to how that will play out.

Minecraft – This is The End

We hit a bit of a slump on our Minecraft server in December.  People have been busy or ill or have just run out of projects… ever an issue with the game… to the point that Aaron has been the primary resident and by far the most active of us over the month.  I still have to do a post about all the things he’s done since Thanksgiving.

But even Aaron ran out of new things to build by the time Christmas had arrived.  So after the holiday he asked if he could just run out and kill the Ender Dragon.

We had been talking about getting together to do that at one point.  But with nobody about and nothing new to do, Aaron wanted to get at it, and all the more so since The End is going to change with Minecraft 1.9 and you will be able to fight the dragon multiple times.

I had already been getting ready for a possible Ender Dragon assault.  I had a full suit of enchanted diamond armor ready, and enchanted bow, and a few stacks of arrows ready to go. (I never got the infinite arrow enchant for my bow.)  So I said I wanted to go to, so we set a time.

While I had found an end portal previously, he had found one as well (right by Skronk and Enaldi’s Italian town), and had set it up to go for our venture.

Skonk and Enaldi's settlement in the distance

Skonk and Enaldi’s settlement in the distance

There was a building with a nether portal, from which you get the above view, then a ladder down into the depths to a sea lantern lit path through the underground dungeon area to our point of departure.

Portal armed and ready for travel

Portal armed and ready for travel

Once we were set, we stepped through and into The End.

It was dark.

First look at The End

First look at The End

The End appears to be a floating island of a special type of stone, populated by Ender men with some towers… and, of course, a dragon.

Aaron set about immediately building up to the top of the towers to destroy the items at their peaks, which he said would heal the dragon during the fight.  Meanwhile, I was having a hard time just seeing things in the dark.

Aaron up one of the towers

Aaron up one of the towers… in the dark

Not only was it dark in The End, but my office at home has a southern facing window, which means that, in the northern hemisphere during this time of year, the sun is shining directly into it most of the day… and during the morning it shines right on my monitor even with the shades drawn as tightly as possible.  So that screen shot, which is pretty hard to decipher as it stands, is still better than what I was experiencing.

It was so dark in The End that I can’t even tinker with brightness/contrast effectively.  But using Paint.net’s Auto Level function, you can get something akin to a night vision scope’s view of The End.

The End artificially lit

The End artificially lit

You can see Aaron atop a stack of cobblestone getting to the top of a tower to break the healer, along with other towers, and the Ender men that inhabit The End.

While he was doing that I was having problems with the Ender men.  They attack if you look straight at them for too long, and since I could barely see anything, I ended up getting attacked repeatedly, to the point I thought I might die before the dragon even showed up.  I managed to survive, but only by facing into one of the towers so I could eat and heal up while not looking at anything.

Then the dragon was out and about.  I flailed away with my bow trying for a hit as it flew past, but Aaron said that only head and neck shots would hurt it.  Those were hard to make when the dragon was on the wing passing overhead.

Aaron has the infinite arrow BOW, not bot

Aaron has the power 4 BOW, not bot

However, the dragon comes down and flies straight at you now and again, which offers a prime opportunity for a hit.  Also, when he comes down for a run, he sometimes hits the Ender men, who then turn on him and attack.

I got lucky and as he was down to his last bit of health, he dropped down and flew straight at me and I was able to get in the killing shot.

Dragon takes a fatal hit...

Dragon takes a fatal hit…

The dragon then went through a series of effects before finally dying.

Dragon death throes

Dragon death throes

And then he was dead.  In his place was a portal with a lot of experience globes scattered about.

The exit portal

The exit portal… looks like a fountain…

The experience I got walking into that boosted me from level 23 to 54.  The wiki entry about the Ender Dragon says there is enough total to boost a player from level 0 to 78 if they get them all.

Then Aaron, equipped as always, went about the process of harvesting the Dragon Egg block, which is the black on black bit at the top of the little tower in the middle of the portal/fountain.  This involved some building and the use of a piston block.  He said that the egg would allow him to build an Ender man farm.

As we hung around I got in trouble with the local Ender men again.  I had been harvesting some of the end stone when the Ender men started getting hostile.  They seemed to be in a rage and eventually I had to jump into the exit portal…

And then the game started getting all philosophical on me.  A scroll of text, starting with the Minecraft logo, began to roll slowly over the screen, speaking of me and the world and beliefs and perceptions and what is real and what is just ones and zeroes and so on.  Here is a snippet.

A bit of the End Poem

A bit of the End Poem

This is apparently the End Poem.  You can see if scroll by in real time because somebody recorded it and posted it on YouTube… because of course they did.  It runs for about 10 minutes before it finally his the game credits. (You can save yourself 9 minutes by going here and looking under the spoiler flag, though it is a spoiler.)  You can hit escape and end it early, but I let it roll.

Once I was done, I was back in my base at the bed where I last slept, the usual respawn point for the game.  I had the achievement, The End was complete.

Been to The End, defeated the dragon

Been to The End, defeated the dragon

And that was that.  Later I went back and collected some more end stone.  I want to build something in the world with it.  But now we just have to wait for Minecraft 1.9 and the expansion of The End.

One Hundred and Fifty Million Skill Points

Another skill point milestone looms as, after a little more than 9 years, I hit the 150 million skill point mark with my main character in EVE Online.  The past milestones:

As I keep telling myself, at some point I will hit a threshold where I will feel I can start on an alt on this account.  But I haven’t gotten there yet.  Here is how my skill points are currently distributed:

 Spaceship Cmd   40,998,538 (48 of 75)*
 Gunnery         13,915,745 (36 of 39)
 Leadership      12,803,000 (14 of 14)
 Missiles        10,783,785 (22 of 24)*
 Drones          10,070,483 (19 of 21)*
 Navigation       9,660,314 (13 of 13)
 Armor            6,899,137 (14 of 14)
 Engineering      6,485,895 (14 of 14)*
 Shields          5,645,390 (11 of 12)
 Electronic Sys   4,743,141 (11 of 15)*
 Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
 Science          4,408,426 (21 of 39)
 Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 14)
 Targeting        3,207,765 (8 of 8)*
 Neural Enhance.  2,824,000 (5 of 8)* 
 Subsystems       2,186,840 (20 of 20)*
 Scanning         2,045,230 (7 of 7) 
 Rigging          1,312,395 (10 of 10) 
 Social           1,130,040 (5 of 9)
 Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12) 
 Corp Mgmt        1,108,784 (4 of 7) 
 Planet Mgmt        769,335 (5 of 5) 

 Total         ~150,000,000 (323 of 398)

This time around CCP threw in some new ships so Spaceship Command went up by a significant chunk.  We had T3 destroyers, so I trained up the Caldari version, the Jackdaw.  Then there there were the new command destroyers, which looked to be comedy gold with their AOE MJD, so I trained that up as well.

Jackdaw in sniper mode with the new shield hardener effects

Jackdaw in sniper mode with the new shield hardener effects

Then there was the doctrine change, where we went to armor strategic cruisers, the Proteus and the Legion.  I rushed off to train those up, which might be useful at some point.  But I realized that I was more likely to fly logi, for which I had long been trained up, and that I hate losing skill points when I get blown up in a strategic cruiser, so those are pretty much in the bag for some future occasion.

Finally, I filled in some gaps.  EWar has been a thing on fleets, so I trained up a bit of that to be more effective.  I picked up tech II rockets and light missiles, which I had overlooked previously.  And I got that 10th jump clone, though I still don’t feel like I have enough.

All told I have 323 skills trained (up from 295), distributed as follows:

 Level 1  - 4
 Level 2  - 16
 Level 3  - 40
 Level 4  - 94
 Level 5  - 169

169 skills at level V puts me 11 up from last time.

As suggested in the comments of my last skill point post, I am going to give up on the time to fly a titan metric, as it no longer changes.  I have trained about all the capital skills I plan to for the time being.  Instead, I am going to track how many sub-capitals ships I have left to train for.  As it turns out, with 150 million skill points in the bag, I can fly a lot of sub-caps… but not ALL of them.

So here are the sub-caps I cannot yet fly and the time required to train in order to get into them (rounded up to the nearest convenient value value):

  • Electronic Attack Frigates (all factions, 4 ships) – 30 mins
  • Expedition Frigates (Prospect, Endurance)  – 10 days
  • Logistics Frigates (tech II, all factions, 4 ships) – 30 mins
  • Amarr Tactical Destroyer (Confessor) – 30 mins
  • Gallente Tactical Destroyer ( Hecate) – 30 mins
  • Minmatar Tactical Destroyer ( Svipul) – 30 mins
  • Interdictors (all factions, 4 ships) – 30 mins
  • Amarr Industrials (Bestower, Sigil) – 30 mins
  • Amarr Transports (Impel, Prorator) – 20 days
  • Gallente Transports (Occator, Viator) – 20 days
  • Loki strategic cruiser (subsystems trained) – 45 mins
  • Marauders (all factions) – 90 mins
  • Panther Black Ops Battleship – 30 days

That comes out to just about 80 days of training time.  A couple surprised me.  I will probably train into the frigates, the tactical destroyers, the interdictors, the Loki (oops on that one), and eventually the Panther, if only because I want Minmatar Battleship V.  Marauders and the industrials seem unlikely however.  Of course, to fly any of them well I will need to invest more time that indicated.

So that is where 150 million skill points puts me.  Given the ~7 month cycle time for me to train 10 million skill points, I should get to 160 million come the end of July 2016.  Unless I start flying strategic cruisers in fleets and lose skill points.

Meanwhile, my alt is about to pass the 110 million skill point mark, and needs about 120 days to fly all the sub-caps.

MMO Activity Chart for 2015

Inspired by Belghast’s chart (and Liore did one as well) I thought I might put together a little chart about what I played this year.

2015 MMO Gaming Chart

2015 MMO Gaming Chart

You will note that there are no single player games on the list.  I don’t actually spend that much time playing what one might call the traditional, non-networked, video games, as my five year Raptr list would certainly attest.  I do play other games, but not to the extent that I do MMOs.  So while I played some Defense Grid 2 and Elite: Dangerous, and a few other titles, the time spent on those was nowhere near the time spent with games on the chart.

Likewise, I supposed I could list iOS games I played on the iPad.  But those are almost a different context of gaming.  I pop in and spend a couple minutes with DragonVale or Candy Crush Saga or Neko Atsume when sitting on the couch or in bed before I turn out the lights.  It isn’t really the same.  Those are like little snacks when we’re talking about full meals.  MMOs are the full meal around here.

So, now that we have narrowed it down, what did I play?

Well, EVE Online is no surprise.  It is the only MMO I played consistently throughout 2015.  And I wasn’t just docked up doing the skill training thing.  One of the reasons I liked to get on a kill mail now and again is that it shows I have been undocked and active.  So you can see my chart from 2015 for New Eden.

2015 Kills and Losses

2015 Kills and Losses

In a lot of ways kill mails are deceptive or misleading.  As I noted in the past, a positive kill ratio is the norm, since you get counted on every kill mail you assisted on, but losses are only when you blow up.  But they do show you’ve been undocked and doing stuff.

World of Warcraft was good for the first half of the year, until the garrison blues got me.  I came back for a bit in November by buying a WoW Token with some gold, but all I did was garrison stuff to earn back the money I spent on the WoW Token.  It is cool that you can log into the game and reactivate with gold.

WoW Tokens are up in price

WoW Tokens are up in price

I just wasn’t that interested in coming back to play.

Minecraft took over in June and has rolled out through the end of the year.  As a game, it is very project oriented, as sandboxes will be.  When I have something I want to build, I can spend hours playing.  But when I am done, I don’t log in so much.

There were brief runs with EverQuest and EverQuest II, largely due to the nostalgia server thing.   Then I played a bit of Diablo III, while lately I have been dabbling in Lord of the Rings Online.

So that was my year in MMOs.

Of course I’ve done charts before, they just tended to be of a bigger scale.

The Genres

My favored genres over the years

Did anybody else do a chart this year?  It seems so:

Steam Holiday Sale – Even Valve Seems a Bit Bored

The Steam Holiday Sale went live on Tuesday with the usual sudden surge of excitement and the occasional error.

Best Deal Evah!

Best Deal Evah!

There were a few items discounted into negative territory.  The best I saw was Quake, which Steam was apparently prepared to pay you $9.85 if you would download it.

To borrow another Tweet, Van Hemlock had a good summary.

But once that settled down and prices got adjusted and discount math was correctly calculated, the sales event seemed to be happily under way.  Nearly everything on my wishlist is on sale, and I am once again tempted by Cities: Skylines and Project CARS.

Of course, all of those other unplayed, or underplayed, games in my Steam library are giving me baleful stares.  Their mere presence inhibits my ability to buy anything new.  And when combined with the knowledge that there will just be another Steam sale later if I don’t buy anything this time around, any sense of urgency is lost.  That one time emotional response of, “I’d better buy this now, I might want to play it some day!” has been replaced by the feeling that unless I want to play the game RIGHT NOW, I can wait until a later date.

So yeah, another “tired gamer in a malaise” story here at TAGN.

The odd bit is that even Valve seems a bit less into the whole Steam Sale too.

Gone are the events.  You get holiday Steam cards for just browsing games.  The daily deals and flash sales, ever the bane of the OCD in people obsessed with getting the best deal, are gone.  There is no need to keep checking back every few hours.  The price cut on the title you are interested in is going to be the same throughout the Holiday Sale.  That old flow chart about when to buy is history. (So many versions of it out there.)

So no rush.  You can sit an consider your purchase or make lists of games people should buy or otherwise reflect on the sale in peace, without anybody nudging you to get on with it because it all might be different in an hour or three.

All of which is something of a relief.  A new normal has emerged.  And though I kind of miss the special nature that a Steam sale used to have, you cannot recreate that forever.

Looking Back at 2015 – Highs and Lows and Things in Between

Here we are, the end of another year heading towards us, as unstoppable as an oncoming freight train, reminding us yet again of our own mortality.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

And yet, before the express labeled “2016” strikes us head on, I am going to indulge in my usual end of the year “looking back” at what was wrought in 2015.  This is an ongoing tradition, and past posts may be found here:

2015 has been an interesting year, and while some of the news still falls into the usual Highs and Lows categories I traditionally use, there has been a couple things that have fallen in the middle for me, so I am going to inject a new heading where appropriate.  And, of course, these are Highs, Lows, and in between as I see them.  Not all highs are equally high, not all lows are equally low.  You may view them differently, the contents may have settled during shipment, and your mileage may vary.

Sony Online Entertainment/Daybreak Game Company

Highs:

  • Hey, they finally figured out nostalgia sells.  Special, subscriber-only servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II appear to be popular.
  • Expansions are back for EverQuest and EverQuest II.
  • EverQuest II server merges were probably past due.  They went off as well as could be expected.
  • Despite the occasional gaff (like that no raids for casuals thing and some odd poll interpretations) Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has done about all one could hope for with the EverQuest and EverQuest II franchise.
  • PlanetSide 2 finally hits a console platform, launching on PlayStation 4 at last.
  • They shed Dragon’s Prophet, which was probably more of a distraction for a company that really needs to focus.

Lows:

  • Layoffs.  Always expected after an acquisition, but never fun.
  • It is a good thing the EverQuest live franchises have Holly Longdale, because the remains of the community team seems to be of the “remove posts, lock threads, delete forums, ban people, and push everything possible onto Reddit” persuasion.  Sort of the anti-community team.
  • Nostalgia is popular for now, but how long will it last?  Rolling out the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers for EverQuest basically killed the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers.  Maybe they were done, but it does bring up how these sorts of things should be handled, especially since we just got another special server in the form of Phinigel.
  • What does nostalgia cost?  The Stormhold and Deathtoll servers on EverQuest II were purported to have drawn off a lot of already subscribed players from the live servers.  Raiders couldn’t raid on some servers because their guild mates were off on these new servers.
  • Segmented player base.  One of the reasons that SOE merged EverQuest II Extended into EverQuest II and went full free to play was the folly of having essentially a free server, where all the new players would show up, killing off the live servers, which looked like they would stagnate and die under that scheme.  A couple years down the road, these special servers look to be testing that idea again.
  • Also, the Drunder server?  How is that working out?
  • Who in the hell thought they shouldn’t do expansions in the first place?  Another SOE-level mistake where they ended up at the right answer, but only after publicly committing to the wrong one.
  • PlanetSide 2 has been live for three years now and it still feels like a work in progress.  Getting on PlayStation is fine, but is that going to make it better?
  • H1Z1 seems to have sold a lot of early access slots.  Money money money.  But what is the upside of launching the game if it makes money in beta?  I expect it to spend a long, long time in this “released but not released” state.
  • EverQuest Next?  Hellooo?  Are you still out there somewhere?
  • Landmark?  Is that still a thing?
  • Still not used to calling them Daybreak.  SOE is still a more recognizable acronym than DGC.

Middling:

  • With the buyout the team in San Diego is no longer at the whim of the stumbling Sony colossus.  However, it is now under the thumb of Columbus Nova Prime, an investment group that will treat Daybreak as exactly that, an investment.  Independence is an illusion if you need to pay up every quarter.  Yes, Daybreak can make games for XBox now, but is that what was really holding them back from success?
  • The departure of John Smedley came under unfortunate circumstances, but satisfied some who were calling for fresh blood in Daybreak management.  I hated to see him go out under a cloud, though it was pretty much written, in my experience with mergers, that he would have to go sooner or later.  I am sure he got his golden parachute and, in California, non-compete clauses are unenforceable, so he can do what he wants.  Still, he facilitated EverQuest and helped it become a thing,  I am sorry to lose that part of him.  But he was also the PvP child in a company where PvE paid the bills.  PlanetSide was always his baby, so his focus at Daybreak appeared, from the outside, to be just that and H1Z1 and getting games on XBox, things that held little interest for me.  So I am left wondering if his departure will be better for the things that interest me, because Columbus Nova Prime could just hire some ex-Zynga exec who will throw all development into exploitative trash.

Turbine

Highs:

  • They live yet under the thumb of Warner corporate leadership.
  • Lord of the Rings Online has been getting some much needed maintenance level attention, including server upgrades, merges, and attention to long standing gripes from the player base.
  • The LOTRO team has also clearly backed off the “raiders and PvP players don’t matter” stance that reared up at one point during 2014.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online seems upbeat from all I have read.
  • More resources are clearly being applied to the long running MMOs, DDO and LOTRO.
  • Server LOTRO merges were good.  The reality of the game population made this a necessity if Turbine wanted to keep an active player experience.
  • Hey, wow, we’re also getting server hardware upgrades.
  • Minis Tirith!

Lows:

  • Infinite Crisis was stillborn after sucking up so much dev time.  Money down the drain and development time that could have been spent elsewhere that can never be retrieved.
  • A bunch of internal issues aired by Aylwen back in March, confirming a lot of negative views of Turbine, including how screwed up the Infinite Crisis project was.
  • Turbines’s only new project: An exploitative second tier iOS knock-off to promote another studio’s game.
  • Another company decided that expansions aren’t worthwhile for their MMOs.
  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 plans appear to have come to naught and both feel like they are one major server issue away from being shut down.
  • Asheron’s Call looked to be at that fatal server issue earlier this year.  Somebody managed to fix it in their spare time, but the writing is clearly on the wall.
  • LOTRO is feeling its age these days.  The character models were never great, and more than eight years down the road they feel even more awkward.
  • 2017 and the end of the LOTRO licensing agreement for Turbine looms.
  • You have to ask if MMOs have a future with WB?

CCP

Highs:

  • A real attempt to change up how things work in null sec and shake up the status quo!
  • Running with Reavers has been a lot of fun over the last year and has very much helped keep me invested in New Eden.  There are actually people I fly with who know who I am.  Amazing, right?
  • Some cool new ships in EVE Online.
  • A return to expansions, with Citadel coming this spring.
  • I think CCP finally got it right with the ship SKINs thing.  I am seeing a lot of SKINs in fleet these days, especially when mixed in with the capital ships.
  • Let go of White Wolf, and even got a bit of cash for it, so is no longer holding back any World of Darkness MMO.
  • EVE Valkyrie looks good and appears to be a bright star in the VR market, getting bundled in with the Occulus Rift starter kit.  A big win for CCP there.
  • EVE Gunjack showed up out of nowhere and became CCPs first shipping VR app, to good reviews.
  • The community, or communities, or whatever, was still mostly happy, positive, and invested in the game.
  • EVE Vegas was fun!

Lows:

  • I’m not sure we ended up where CCP expected in null sec.  Mechanics that people predicted would be bad well in advance turned out to be as bad as predicted.  Some small changes have made things a bit better.  A lot of people decided the new system wasn’t worth the effort while the larger powers still do what they please.  The Imperium, the Russians, Provi Bloc, and -A- still abide, but there are cracks in even those once stable edifices.
  • Reavers is a lot of work for Asher and the other SIG leaders, so can only be deployed for short stretches.  But those deployments have spoiled me and now being with the main fleet seems like a chore at times.
  • I am just waiting for the exploit that gets command destroyers nerfed into oblivion.  Still, it is fun watching people used them to snatch ships off an undock and whisking them 100km away to their death.
  • To get back to big expansions we did have to get through… what was there, 15 or 18 of these mini expansions… few of which I can even remember two months after they’ve passed.  And I am still not sure if the small expansions are gone.  December’s was called the “December Update” at one point and then the “Operation Frostline” release elsewhere.  Anyway, they became a blur, which removed some of the special from them.
  • Need more SKINs.  Need better SKINs.  Need brighter SKINs!  Orange and Pink SKINs!  Need to fix T3 cruisers so they can have SKINs.  Need to fix the Manticore so it looks as good with a SKIN as a Purifier.  Need to figure out how to make SKINs look better on rusty surfaces for the sake of the Minmatar.
  • Well, I think the CSM is pretty much dead as an institution at this point.  I could never figure out what its role should have been, a problem I seemed to have shared with literally everybody, CCP included.  Another “nice” idea brought low by reality.
  • The Fountain War Kickstarter community war thing.  Whoa, Nelly.  CCP gave an official endorsement to this project, and presumably was set to get paid a cut.  And then it was badly launched, badly attacked, badly defended, and became an incredibly ugly internecine conflict as people got right down to “community is what I say it is, no more no less” level of attack.  Who needs Derek Smart when we have us?  No side came out of that still bubbling cringefest looking very good.
  • Also, that charity, shoot the titan event where the ISK for charity instead went to fund an EVE casino.  Okay, not really a CCP thing, but again we players not looking very good.
  • Speaking of good, did anything good come from CCP owning White Wolf for all those years?  Anything?
  • As cool as EVE Valkyrie looks, VR is still an expensive addon for expensive, top tier gaming PCs.  Being good is one thing, being the killer app, the thing that will get people to throw money at an expensive upgrade just to play it, that is a whole different level of good.  Not sure EVE Valkyrie is THAT good.
  • I didn’t meet as many in-game people as I should have/could have at EVE Vegas.  Being quiet doesn’t help, but that is just who I am in person.  Also, few of us look like our in-game avatar it seems.  Who knew?
  • DUST 514?  Helloooo?  Didn’t even get a keynote at EVE Vegas.

Blizzard

Highs:

  • Still makes money like no other.
  • World of Warcraft sails into 2015 with the Warlords of Draenor expansion and more than 10 million subscribers.
  • The WoW Token thing now gives people a way to buy in-game gold for real money or buy game time with in-game gold.
  • Flying in Draenor
  • WoW Legion expansion announced.
  • Overwatch got a launch date, Heroes of the Storm finally went live, Hearthstone got more cards, and the final chapter of StarCraft II shipped.
  • Diablo III seemed to still be selling pretty well and even got a couple major patch updates.  The 2015 game is really good compared to what was there at launch.
  • Word that Diablo II and StarCraft will be reworked for modern machines.

Lows:

  • The lion’s share of the loot still comes in from Azeroth
  • Warlords of Draenor Garrisons: All the negatives of housing about which Blizzard warned us for years, without any of the satisfaction that actual, decent player housing can bring.
  • Subscribers down 45% with more than a year to go until the next expansion.  How’s that flying working out?
  • WoW Legion expansion announcement was clearly earlier than they had planned, done in order to counter news earlier that week of WoW subs dropping to 5.6 million by the end of Q2.
  • WoW Legion appears to be on the same old development track as all past WoW expansions, so the Draenor dry spell will be as long as any past content drought.
  • Punting on even talking about subscription numbers anymore.
  • Diablo III, the game they keep telling us has sold more than 30 million boxes… no word, no plans, no expansion, no nothing.  Completely ignored at BlizzCon.
  • Also, Diablo III being always online, even for single player, is still dumb.
  • A high likelihood that Blizzard will charge too much for those reworked classics. Still, I’ll probably buy Diablo II yet again.  I think I own three copies already.
  • The realization, with the acquisition Candy Crush Saga barons King.com, that Blizz and King operate in very similar fashions; they steal somebody else’s idea, polish it up, and sell it as their own.  At least Blizz hasn’t tried to trademark “World of” or anything really egregious.

Middling:

  • I’ve started to suspect that Blizzard has a secondary motive for no longer quoting subscription numbers for WoW.  Seeing as it still brings in a mint, they can do more of their BS bundling and say things like, “WoW and Hearthstone made a billion dollars!” or some such.  That might mean WoW is less doomed, but it would also mean more meaningless metrics in the Blizzard part of the financials.

Other MMOs and Devs

Highs:

  • GuildWars 2 got the long anticipated expansion.  Expect to see a spike in revenue for the game in the 2015 results.
  • WildStar went F2P, which was good for fans of the game, because it really looked like it might just get shut down given its revenue collapse.
  • The Edler Scrolls Online went F2P as well, but at least had some console sales to bolster it as well.
  • Project: Gorgon sees Kickstarter success at last!
  • Star Citizen gets a little heat, which I think was good.  If your project can’t take some scrutiny or address its skeptics, then there is a problem.  The first two Derek Smart posts could have been played into a way to highlight progress being made.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar both making lots of progress.
  • World of Warships actually turned out to be pretty neat and more accessible than World of Tanks in my opinion.

Lows:

  • The team at ANet seemed bent on annoying their core base, giving away the GW2 base game with the expansion, then making it free altogether, taking a different focus on content, and even going after the raiding demographic.  Of all the GW2 bloggers I read, only Ravious wasn’t grumbling about something or another during 2015.
  • WildStar is still dead.  Preview of my 2016 predictions: WS won’t last the year.
  • TESO isn’t doing all that well, laying off support staff and such.  F2P cannot make your game better, only less expensive to try.
  • Star Citizen takes a public beating from Derek Smart, exacerbated by Chris Roberts and company reacting badly.  Throwing Smart out of the club then trying to hurl mud back was sinking to his level, something guaranteed to keep him in the fight while making the exec staff look petty.  So we’re into something like eight Derek Smart posts, that article at The Escapist, wild talk about lawsuits, and more coverage of the whole thing than there should have been had things been handled better.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar… and Star Citizen for that matter… are nowhere near making their Kickstarter launch estimates, to the point that I think Kickstarter should put a big red warning sign, “These estimates are clearly bullshit,” on any MMORPG campaign project.
  • World of Warships still didn’t do much for me in the end.  Played it for a week and moved on.  Still longer than I spent on World of Warplanes!
  • Need for Speed: World was given the EA treatment and shut down.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Finally discovered Minecraft, which became the binge game for the second half of 2015 for me.
  • Nintendo gets another Wii U selling hit in Splatoon.
  • A revamped 3DS XL shows that everybody’s favorite Pokemon platform is still going strong.
  • A Nintendo commitment to put games on other platforms, specifically iOS and Android.
  • Sony still supporting my PlayStation 3.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 9 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • I got my copy of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls… only two years late.  Kickstarter.
  • Still really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online.  I have heard nothing but great stuff about it.

Lows

  • I think my Minecraft enthusiasm is drive in large part by my MMO malaise.  I’m happy enough to let the ten rats live most days.
  • The Wii U is nearing the end of its lifecycle, isn’t it?  I know some analysts said that the Wii U/PS4/XBone generation would be the end of consoles, but when are they ever good at predicting anything besides the past?
  • 2016 is the last year for PlayStation 3 support.
  • No new mainline Pokemon RPG for the 3DS platform.  All we’re getting is a new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (Pokemon as a Rouge-like) and the ability to play the original three Pokemon titles in time for the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.
  • Of course, I haven’t finished Alpha Sapphire yet, so I am not sure I need a new Pokemon game, right?
  • Also, a Pokemon download event at McDonald’s?  My Wii Fit wept.
  • The combo of Steam sales and so many unplayed, or underplayed, games in my library has effectively become a deterrent to my buying any new games.
  • The iOS 9 update initially did kill my iPad 2, or nearly so.  Fortunately I delayed that update long enough that 9.1 came out two weeks later, fixing the worst problems.  I think the end is nigh for support of my old slablet.
  • I’ve only heard great stuff about A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online because I haven’t got my copy yet because the project is late.  Maybe that red warning sign I mentioned previously should apply to all Kickstarter backed creative ventures.  The latest update say I should get the book in February at least, with direct sales coming to Amazon on March 8, 2016.

Blogging and the Internet

Highs

  • Hey, I made it through another year and am still blogging away, with 353 posts in so far for 2015.
  • I still quite enjoy having a record of my thoughts and activities over the last nine years.  Doing the month in review post and looking back a year and five years is a high point of every month.
  • Speaking of old, I think the average age of the MMOs I write about went up again this year.  I think the newest thing I write about is Minecraft, and that is four years old at this point.  Play in with the blog title I suppose, which I guess is good.
  • We still have something of a happy, healthy MMO blogging community in this little corner of the internet.  Just look at Blaugust.  We had such fun then, right?  And there was another NBI!
  • Massively Overpowered and Blizzard Watch and MMORPG.com and MMOGames even occasionally pay attention to blogs.
  • Somehow I managed to accrue 500 followers on Twitter.  I am halfway to being able to enter the community relations area at CCP.  I even got two retweets from CCP_Seagull this week.

Lows

  • My posting is down.  At the same point last year I was at 375 posts.
  • Traffic is still trending down.  After a peak in 2012, things have been down some every year.  The big drop in 2013 was largely attributable to changes made by Google, but since then things have just tapered off.  The audience is smaller, the games I write about are no longer what people are searching for, I write less, and all of that.  It looks like 2015 will ring in at about 65% of the traffic 2012 had.  Traffic doesn’t make me write, but it does make me think.
  • As I play less new games, I end up writing about fewer games over time.  Even this yearly post used to look at a couple more studios, like Trion.  Haven’t played anything from them in ages, so haven’t paid much attention to them, so I don’t have much to say.
  • My being stuck in something of an old school a rut is reflected by how many links I get from other blogs.  Bad enough being a generalist MMO blog, so game specific blogs often look past me, even if I am writing about their game, but now I don’t even play the cool new games like Ark, World of Warships, or Final Fantasy XIV.  My lacks of relevances, lets me shows you them.
  • NBI numbers were pretty low this time around, and blog mortality remains pretty high.
  • AOL dumping Massively and WoW Insider was a blow.  At least the archives haven’t been deleted yet; they’re hanging out under the Engadget banner for now.
  • Man I hate that new “Moments” tab in Twitter, since they put it where the “Notifications” tab used to be, so I click it on accident a lot.
  • I keep going to /r/eve and expecting to be better.

Media

Highs

  • A new Star Wars movie that is at least unequivocally better than the prequels.  Lots of debate as to where it ranks (which is a good sign) but I haven’t seen anybody say “I > VII” yet.
  • Mad Max was the most visceral on-screen event I have seen in ages.
  • SyFy is exploding with new SciFi shows.

Lows

  • Farewell Leonard Nimoy.

So that is what I have, sitting here in December, and looking back at 2015.  Not as bad as some of my lows might make it seem.  It wasn’t the best year evah, but good times were there to be had.  Memories were made, posts were posted.

Still, I am sure I have left some things out.  What did I forget from this past year?

And so we look forward towards 2016… erm… okay, I did that last week.  I guess I got these posted in the wrong order.  Anyway, I think we’re done here.  Bring on the new year!

Some others looking at aspects of 2015:

My First Kill Mark

We got the word recently that it was farewell time for Harpy fleet.  There has been a big revamp of fleet doctrines and one of them to fall by the wayside was Harpy fleet.

My Harpy, with the Wiyrkomi SKIN

My Harpy, with the Wiyrkomi SKIN

Which is a shame, because of all the doctrines we’ve had of late, I would say that Harpies were pretty high on the fun factor.  I’ve gone on a lot of good runs with Harpies, where we drop on people at range and snipe away.  I haven’t even lost very many.  It has been a very popular and forgiving doctrine, one that they used to let any new FC take out, because even if you wipe, you just lost some Harpies.

In addition to missing the doctrine, I am also left with nearly a dozen Harpies scattered about Deklein, Tribute, and Pure Blind.  It was always easier to just buy a fresh one off of contract than try to jump clone or travel to grab one I already had.  They aren’t that expensive.  But that means I did tend to collect them over time, bringing them back from one deployment after another to park in YA0-XJ.

As it happened, I had a Harpy in our deployment station in D2-HOS.  I also had a double clone problem, where I had a jump clone in the station with an implant, so I would have to monkey around with things before I could jump if I didn’t want to destroy that clone, losing the implant along the way. (It was a cheap implant, and one given to me for that pipe bombing op a while back, but I still hate to squander it just for a clone jump.)

So I decided to fly the Harpy back to YA0-XJ.  Another ship moving adventure and all that.  And once there, I would have to figure out what to do with it and its siblings.  Repackage them and have them shipped back to Jita was high on the list, something I just did with all my Tengus, so at least I could get some ISK out of them.

I peeked in early Sunday evening, but New Eden was still active and MOA was playing games with our undock, trading ships with a small defense fleet, so I decided to come back later.  Once some time had passed and all the Euros went to bed, I logged back on to find quiet in our staging system.  I set the route for Deklein, undocked, and warped off to the first gate.  I’d be there in a little while or back in the staging system, where my death clone was set.  Either option was fine.  The ship was insured, if nothing else.

Literally a jump out I warped through MQ-NPY, which had one neutral in local.  I saw him in a Caracal as I landed on the RZC-16 gate, but just jumped through.  He jumped through with me and I saw him decloak as I was aligning for the next gate.  I knew I was safe.  I was already entering warp, so he couldn’t point me, and I was faster in warp than him, so I would be to the next gate and gone before he even landed there.  Trouble avoided.  And then he said something in local:

Bomb isthebomb > fight me :(

Fight me?

My history with EVE Online has trained me to always avoid trouble.  My track record indicates a 100% certainty of death whenever I activate a weapons system in a one on one situations.  For me, getting away is the win, because fighting means getting blown up.  Fight me indeed!

But hell, here I was in this Harpy, flying 15 jumps back to Deklein just to dump it there.  What did I have to lose?  Plus I figured an assault frigate like the Harpy might have a shot against a standard cruiser like a Caracal, even allowing for the fact that he was probably fit for PvP while I was in a fleet doctrine fit.  Fleet doctrine fits assume you’ll have other ships with you, so are generally shite for any sort of solo work.  But what the hell, right?  So I wrote back in local:

Wilhelm Arcturus > Sure, come to the FWA gate
Wilhelm Arcturus > I’m stupid and this ship is no longer doctrine

I got back:

Bomb isthebomb > omw
Bomb isthebomb > sweet
Bomb isthebomb > I know that feeling, lol

So there we were.  I landed on the gate and started motoring away, afterburner lit to give me some distance while I tried to figure out what I might do best.  I had a range script in the sensor booster and long range Spike ammo loaded in the guns, which is the sniping load out for our Harpy doctrine.   I just wasn’t sure if I could get far enough away for that to give me any advantage.  I certainly wasn’t that far away when he landed.

I locked him up and he returned the favor.  I fired a few salvos before I decided just to get in close, switching the to only other ammo I had, Caldari Navy antimatter.  He had already put a point on me, which was a nice thought, but unnecessary.  I had already decided to fight to the death.

Pointed by the Caracal

Pointed by the Caracal

I put myself in orbit around him, turned my hardeners on, and started blazing away at him, hoping that my high damage resists and small signature would be enough to let me overcome his overall hit point advantage.

He obliged by loosing missiles back my way.

Exchanging fire

Exchanging fire

Things went on like this, slowly, for a minute or so.  I was whittling down his shields pretty well, nearly eating through his main tank while I has only a quarter of the way down and was just starting to thing about overheating my invlun, when suddenly my damage output seemed to get quite the boost.  I was tearing through his armor and into structure and boom.

But as his ship went up, I saw this in local:

Bomb isthebomb > aww man
Kesper North > welcome to the north~
Bomb isthebomb > don’t be like that
Kesper North > thanks for soaking all the aggro harpy :v:

Kesper North… which is actually one of those “names I know” in The Imperium… he was CEO of Gentleman’s Agreement back in the day, if I recall right… had jumped through the gate into our little fight in a Svipul and lit up the Caracal, adding his firepower to my own.  This had caused the spike in damage and yielded the dialog above.

I guess we should have fought at the sun rather on the gate on the pipe through that part of Pure Blind.  See, if you PvP for real, I bet you know these things already instead of having to figure them out after the fact.

I moaned a bit in local that Kesper might have just robbed me of my first ever, completely legit, 1v1 PvP victory in EVE Online.  Ah well, when you see a non-blue in our space, you shoot it.  Kesper was apologetic, though he had no reason to be so.

Kesper North > sorry, i don’t log in much these days
Kesper North > i got a little excited

I did point out that at least I had gotten the final blow, and thus the kill mail, which entitled me to something new; a kill mark.  It is there on my Harpy hull in the screen shot at the top of the post, but I’ll zoom in and highlight it.

In the red circle

In the red circle

That’s it.  That little mark means that I have gotten a kill mail with this ship.  And the mark stays with the hull.  It doesn’t follow me around to other ships.  If I want to keep it, I can’t scrap the ship.

There was a bit more chat in local and then we all went on our various ways.  I didn’t even loot the Caracal wreck.  I never think about looting unless I am killing rats because the opportunity almost never comes up.

Anyway, now I have to figure out what to do with my Harpy.  I don’t want to ditch it now, so perhaps I should go looking for a better fit.  Of course, that is hubris talking.  The moment I try to fit it for solo PvP I’ll get ganked on a gate and lose it.  We’ll see.