Monthly Archives: December 2016

December in Review

The Site

I was going to write a happy note about WordPress.com and their new stats page, which I have studiously avoided since it came out as its layout and information seemed to me to be a step down from the previous version.  I will admit though that it make things easier to see in the scope of a calendar year or a month.  It had that going for it.

And then on the winter solstice WP.com killed the previous version of the stats page and now forces users to go to the new one.  Dammit.  Among the things missing with the new page are the two page view charts I use for my anniversary posts.

Also, the new stats page is broken for me for approximately one third of the day.  I think this is due to my blog running on UTC… which was the only choice back when I started it… and my local time being UTC -8.  I never bothered to swap the blog time to match my local time, but WP.com seems to know my local time and simply stops showing me stats between 4pm local and midnight local.  Nice job there WP.com!

The Stats are a Lie

The Stats are a Lie

Fortunately, one of the early versions of the stats page… not my favorite, but one that at least has the right data… is still accessible.  Also, the mobile app shows the right stats regardless of time.

Oddly, WP.com hasn’t done their “year in review” option for blogs yet.  Usually that is up right after Christmas.  They appear to have given up on that for individual blogs and now have a year in review page for the whole WP.com family.

And speaking of stats and years, if somebody could click on that random post link on the side bar or some similar action about 2,500 times, the blog would totally have a nice round number for page views in 2016.  Just do it before 23:59 UTC.

One Year Ago

Thanks to The Force Awakens coming out, George Lucas was in the news and rationalizing his “Han didn’t shoot first” change.  I wasn’t buying it.  There were certainly other things he could have changed.

It was December, so I had to go over the usual posts, scoring predictions, looking back at the highs and lows of the year gone past, looking forward to what I might play 2016, and something about the inevitable Steam holiday sale.  I also made a chart to show what MMOs I was playing in 2015 because everybody else was doing it.  I totally forgot to make that chart again this year.

There was the Operation: Frostline expansion in EVE Online.

In New Eden I got blow up trying to slip a Caracal out of Fountain.  It happens.  On the other hand, I did get my first kill mark on another solo op.  I also hit 150 million skill points, an achievement soon to be made trivial by skill injectors.

The much reviled Fountain War Kickstarter was finally cancelled, as it was clearly not going to get anywhere close to its $150K target.  But was that going to bank the flames of the brightly burning Goon hate? (hint: no)

The recently rebranded Imperium was taking its plans to low sec, either to generate content or display its arrogance depending on who was describing it.  We were also waging a war in Cloud Ring.

Turbine finally got their head screwed on right when it came to insta-levels in Lord of the Rings Online.  I was stomping around in the Mirkwood expansion trying to see in the dark.

In Minecraft I was building a prismarine outpost along the great northern road.  Aaron and I also killed the End Dragon.

On the EverQuest front, the Phinigel “true box” server opened, a retro progression server that was supposed to keep people from multi-boxing groups.

I summed up five years of Raptr tracking my game play with my top 20 played games.  There was LEGO’s somewhat nonsensical online name policy.  And I was playing Monument Valley on the iPad.

Five Years Ago

There was the usual looking back at the Highs and Lows of 2011.  And, hand-in-hand with that, there was the look forward at games I might play in 2012.

One of those games was Diablo III and another Torchlight II, while Path of Exile represented a dark horse third. They were all vying for the mantle of successor to Diablo II.  So I tried to define the essence of Diablo II.

I also had some demands for 2011 and had to look at how that worked out.

I was back in EVE Online and I began my journey into null sec appropriately, by killing myself.  Then I saw titans, lit cynos, and got blown up.

But hey, a ship blows up every six seconds in EVE Online.

There was a war on, and it was announced we were going to be driven from Deklein.  And there was something about ganking tourism and three flavors of ravens.  Also, pretty new nebulae.

Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over for EVE Online.

There was the end of Star Wars Galaxies, though people were saying it had been dead for years.

Star Wars: The Old Republic went live, completing the changing of the Star Wars MMO guard, for all the lack of actual change that brought about.

EverQuest II and its free to play twin, EverQuest II Extended, were merged into a single fighting force of extraordinary magnitude or something.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux went a little nuts talking about his Ultimate RPG, his great fondness for EA, and the failure of Tabula Rasa and Ultima 8.  He seemed to try to be getting EA to join with him by talking to the press… and not to EA.  And then it was the Mayans.

Closer to planet Earth, the instance group was in Rift running the Realm of the Fae.

Toril MUD was still alive and had just added nine more zones to the game.

Playboy Manager the MMO.  Never ended up being a thing.

And I proved my laser tag prowess against a bunch of little girls.

Ten Years Ago

The short-lived Massive Magazine, dedicated to our chosen niche video game genre, put out its first issue.  I bought a copy.

I told a Christmas story from 1977 about video games.

I followed up on my initial Stellar Emperor post with one about how I won the game.

My daughter and I were chasing Rudolph across the Frostfell zone in EverQuest II.

Digg starting listing podcasts and there was a call to help Digg some of the MMO related podcasts. These days I am surprised when I see that Digg is still a thing.

The Commonlands in EverQuest got a make over. The two zones also got combined into a single zone.

I compared the Butcherblock chessboard in EQ and EQ2. I was also running around Runnyeye with Gaff.

I correctly predicted the venue for that year’s EQ2 expansion, Kunark, which I will never let anybody forget.  I was also wondering about SOE’s trajectory given the changes that came in with Echoes of Faydwer and The Serpent’s Spine.

And in World of Warcraft the instance group did Gnomeregan and started in on Scarlet Monestary.  I also noted that gold spammers were using in-game mail in WoW.

I also had five features I wanted WoW to steal from EQ2.  I think we got one of them in the form of the WoW Armory.  But no, housing was not on the list.

Derek Smart came up as a topic for the first time on the site.

Finally, in a bit of EVE Online history I didn’t write about at the time, though I was vaguely aware that it had happened, the first titan built, an Avatar named “Steve,” owned by Ascendant Frontier, became the first titan destroyed when it was lost to Band of Brothers in C9N-CC on December 11, 2006. The pilot, CYVOK, logged out with aggression, was probed down, and the titan was destroyed.

The Wreck of Steve

The Wreck of Steve… also, 2006 UI

There is a memorial wreck in the system to mark the event.

And, finally, just to make this section even longer, the top ten best selling games on the PC in 2006:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. The Sims 2: Open for Business
  3. The Sims 2
  4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  5. Star Wars: Empire at War
  6. Age of Empires III
  7. Civilization IV
  8. The Sims 2: Nightlife
  9. Guild Wars Factions
  10. Zoo Tycoon 2

That was back when Sims ruled the list.  I had forgotten that Guild Wars sold as well as it did too.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Claim Your Daily Yoiul Gifts in EVE Online!
  2. What Happens When They Buy EVE Online?
  3. A New Broom at Daybreak?
  4. Top Five Problems with EVE Online
  5. New Eden For Sale?
  6. A Standing Stone Gathers No Momentum
  7. Make My Alpha Clone
  8. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  9. Losing 600 Billion ISK on Your Own Cyno Beacon
  10. WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches
  11. In Which I Ramble About Being All Things to All People
  12. The Steam Winter Sale 2016 Begins

Search Terms of the Month

is warhammer return of reckoning safe?
[It better not be!]

stellaris is everything that civilization
[should be? hates? rejects? eats for lunch?]

eve online sex
[If there is anything EVE prevents, it is sex]

sto female elf
[Now you’re trying to cross the streams again]

eq dwarf hate purple armor
[Dwarf should buy some dye]

flying mount business model
[Sell them for money?]

EVE Online

It was all sorts of explosions in New Eden at the start of the month, but with the holidays and family and commitments, I wasn’t really able to set aside much time for internet spaceships.  I only logged on in the latter half of the month to do some Planetary Interaction stuff and poke around a bit.

EverQuest II

As with New Eden, I started off the month strong in Norrath, but then that tapered off as the holidays hit.  Only so much time in the day.  I am still up for further exploration of the new-ish content.

Minecraft

I actually spend a lot of time in our world as the month progressed.  With a big project lined up, it was easy to drop in, do a bit of work, and log back out as I had the time.  The road has been moving southward, though there are times when I look at the progress I have made relative to the work left to be done and I wonder if I have bit off more than I can chew.  And once I get that next bridge done I have another jungle to blast through.  Time for more TNT.

Pokemon Go

I even slowed down some on Pokemon Go as it started to rain in our corner of California.  It is an outdoor sort of game, so my daily walk around the work campus (which has 6 Pokestops) tailed off as water fell from the sky.  I did manage to catch a couple of Santa Hat Pikachu, but Ditto continues to elude me.  And I did a last minute lucky egg for double XP and evolved myself to level 25 last night.  Also, I hatched a Magby, which is number 240 in the Pokedex, which indicates that we’re getting new Pokemon with the new year.

All alone at the bottom of the list

All alone at the bottom of the list

End of month stats:

  • Level: 25 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 106 (+7) caught, 134 (+5) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Ditto
  • Current buddy: Kadabra

Pokemon Sun & Moon

Again, I seemed to have put down the Pokemon Sun for the last week or so as the holidays blew through.  I made it through the third island and the interlude afterwards, but now need to pick up the story, get to the final island, and get Nebby to stay in the damn bag.

Steam

I actually bought a few items during the Steam sale, and am eyeing at least one more, so there will no doubt be a post-sale posting to discuss that.  I will say that at $2.99, Dirt 3 offers some pretty decent driving fun.

World of Warcraft

I let my account there lapse, and will probably set my daughter’s to lapse as well, as she hasn’t been logging in either.  After a busy summer and fall in Azeroth it feels like time to let that simmer while we do other things.

Coming Up

2017, and the sincere hope that it ends up being better than 2016.  Probably not going to happen, but one can always hope.

Tomorrow is the first of the year and will feature my usual predictions post.

In New Eden war is coming and the Imperium is deploying to join in.  I have to find a convoy out there so I can join in.

EverQuest II has a double XP weekend going through the new year, so I feel like I should take some advantage of that.

I want to finish Pokemon Sun then go back and work on the Pokedex.  I have been moving slow to fill up as much of it as possible, but it hasn’t been a determined effort as yet.

And then there is that list of potential games for 2017… though a lot of them need to finish development first.

Winter War in South New Eden

After the giant mess of the M-OEE8 Keepstar battle, Circle of Two announced that they would be pulling out of the north end of null sec.  Neither they nor their allies, TEST, would defend their remaining holdings in Tribute or Vale of the Silent, allowing Pandemic Legion and NCDot to scoop up great swathes of the two regions to turn into rental space.  Same as it ever was.

The question then became where would these two alliances head.  They vowed to stick together to take new space, but there was speculation as to where.  The decision has finally been made; CO2 and TEST, joined by FCON and The Drone Walkers… not sure why they are showing up, but there they are and their space in Tenal is being taken… will be attacking the Stainwagon coalition, which is spread over the regions of Paragon Soul, Esoteria, and Impass along with bits of Feythabolis and Catch.  According to the Coalition Guide, Stainwagon is made up of:

  • Soviet-Union – 2060 pilots
  • Against ALL Authorities – 1151 pilots
  • Desman Alliance – 956 pilots
  • C0VEN – 1038 pilots
  • Good Sax – 306 pilots
  • FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT STELLAR SYSTEMS – 1409 pilots
  • pwn-O-graphy – 275 pilots
  • Wings Wanderers – 1335 pilots
  • The Afterlife. – 656 pilots
  • Kids With Guns Alliance – 2435 pilots
  • Swords of Damocles – 374 pilots
  • The Volition Cult – 2408 pilots

That gives them a combined total of about 14K pilots. (Yes, pilots don’t necessarily align to actual people, but it is the only measure we have.)  You can see those alliances grouped up in the south on the current influence map from the usual source:

Null Sec Influence - December 30, 2016

Null Sec Influence – December 30, 2016

TEST, CO2, FCON, and the Drone Walkers bring over 17K pilots to the fight and represent a smaller leadership group, which may make them effective beyond their numbers against the dispersed Stainwagon Coalition.

The alleged political reason for Stainwagon being the target is their past friendship with Goons, though if that had to count against alliances then we’d have to bring up TEST, CO2, and FCON as fellow members of that club as well.

The REAL reason is more likely contained in a quote from TEST (and former GSF) FC Vily over at EN24 that I would sum up, in my own words, as “Nothing personal, but they have space and we think we can take them.”  Ever a good enough reason for war in New Eden.

Some alliances the Stainwagon coalition did indeed come out in support of the Imperium during The Casino War (part of the Russian complication in April which also saw the Drone Walkers show up) and that relationship has been maintained, including allowing the Imperium to pass through the Catch region to hit FCON on occasion.  In return the Imperium will be coming to their aid to fight against what has become known as the Circle of TEST coalition and whatever hangers on they bring.  The Imperium has over 20K pilots on their roster, which is some weight to be throwing around.

War is coming, which is always good for the game.

But there is also a strategic question to consider.  Circle of TEST has stated that their goal is to find space where they can build up their super capital fleet.  Currently PL and NCDot have dominance on that front, having bounced back easily from their losses at B-R5RB just about three years back.  That is PL and NCDot’s ace in the hole, the fall back “I Win” button when the outcome of a battle is in question.

Right now the Imperium is on a crash capital and super capital building binge to close that gap, and have had time to setup and rebuild in Delve, something that PL and NCDot no doubt see as a threat.  But will they allow another defeated enemy in the form of Circle of TEST to also setup shop in the south and begin cranking out capital ships that may trim back the advantage PL and NCDot hold?  Or does conflict in the south suite them as the build their new rental empire in the north?

And what of the powers closer to hand?  The Imperium has already declared themselves in the fight.  Will Provi Bloc and the Drone Region Federation be content to left Circle of TEST move in so they can build up an offensive force in their back yards?  Provi Bloc generally keeps to itself, and the DRF has some animosity built up against Stainwagon.  Will third parties piling into the area change any of that?  Do the new neighbors look good or would they prefer the status quo?

So we will be going into the new year with a new war with its own set of New Eden-wide political and alliance questions.  A new chapter in the ongoing tale of null sec space. (I’m tentatively tagging this as “Stain War 2017” until a better name comes up.)  And, of course, there will be propaganda, sometimes the best part of these wars… especially when TEST is involved.  I grabbed a couple of samples from /r/eve:

Coverage of events so far:

Daybreak Now in the LOTRO EULA

I heard that changes were already under way with the switch to Standing Stones Games running Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.  Their logo has already replaced Turbine’s in the splash screens.

A dark logo for dark times

A dark logo for dark times

But I had heard that the deal with Daybreak was already making its presence known with an new EULA agreement.  So I kicked off the launcher… and then realized I had made a huge mistake because I hadn’t logged in for three months so the whole patching process was going to take at least an hour.

Seriously, if Daybreak can do something for SSG it is teach them how to make a launcher.  I know it took SOE a few tries, but their current launcher/patcher for EQII is pretty good.

Anyway, once the patch dance was finally done, I found that it was true, that I had to accept not one but two Daybreak

Terms one

Terms one

Terms two

Terms two

So the merger… um… union of these two companies is under way.  Of course, this is just a start.  Once you are actually in the game and go to the LOTRO Store, you can find the old Turbine terms of service still lingering, last updated at some point in 2011.

Turbine still reigns inside

Turbine still reigns inside

The first changes are there.  I am sure a lot more will follow.

Adrift: My 2017 MMO Outlook

As I noted in my ten year anniversary post, my own outlook as an MMORPG gamer has changed over the last decade.  I came to blogging in a time when the genre was growing and ambitions seemed unlimited.  We would get a continuous stream of newer and shinier things as MMOs expanded into new territory and conquered the world.

Now I feel like Estragon, nodding off as we wait for the promised future that never arrives.  To my mind somebody could do an easy parody of the song Little Boxes to describe the state of the genre.

There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all poor copies of WoW
And they all look just the same.

Stoking the embers of enthusiasm is difficult.  It isn’t so much “no new worlds to conquer” as “no new worlds worth giving a damn about” these days.  Differentiation seems like variations of the same over used tropes and standards.

Also, not done with the "Little Boxes" theme... picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Also, not done with the “Little Boxes” theme… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

And yet I persist, sitting here at the end of the year, looking into the mists of 2017 and wondering if he will come.  Is there something out there that might spark the imagination and rekindle the enthusiasm for virtual worlds I felt back in 2006?  Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

What is even an option for 2017?

Well, EverQuest Next is out, having been cancelled earlier this year after the traditional SOE “months of silence” indicator that it just wasn’t going to happen.  But I wasn’t even optimistic enough to put that on the list last year.

Blizzard isn’t going to do any more MMOs… not that I am sure we would want them to… but that is out.  And then there is the perennial list of “maybe this year…” titles like Star Citizen that probably won’t be anything more than tech demos and pre-release “don’t you dare criticize me!” tiny tastes of past promises.

Still, there are MMOs that may come out in 2017.  Time to fake some enthusiasm.  Plus there was a nice list over at Massively OP from which I plan to crib.   There are even some titles in which I am invested, allowing for a variety of definitions for the word “invested.”  So here are a DOZEN titles that I am going to throw out there as possibilities for me in 2017.  That is more options than any previous list ever!  Go me.

1 – Project: Gorgon

  • Gut Reaction: Why doesn’t this have a Wikipedia page yet?
  • Rationalization: I’ve paid for it, my peeks in have shown it developing nicely, it could be a thing!
  • Chance: 100% if it hits Steam or otherwise goes live.

2 – Albion Online

  • Gut Reaction: You woke me for this?
  • Rationalization:  Feels like the 2017 version of either ArcheAge or Black Desert Online
  • Chance: There would have to be some very special feature I overlooked.

3 – MapleStory 2

  • Gut Reaction: Ummm… Canada? Pancakes?
  • Rationalization:  Not quite sure how side-scroller and 3D fit together.
  • Chance: It isn’t impossible. I went and tried RuneQuest and was impressed, why not this?

4 – Star Citizen

  • Gut Reaction: Confusion as to how this made the list after what I wrote above
  • Rationalization:  I’m in for $30, but I have no interest in testing something that probably isn’t ready to be called “Alpha” in my book.
  • Chance: I mean, if it “shipped” for any rational definition of the word, I’d be in… but that ain’t happening in 2017.  I just want you to know that I am up for it if it somehow did.

5 – Camelot Unchained

  • Gut Reaction: slipping enthusiasm
  • Rationalization:  I probably like this game more in theory than I will in reality.
  • Chance: I am in from the Kickstarter, so I will play at some point, but nothing has really sparked my enthusiasm. Also, seems likely to miss 2017.

6 – SkySaga: Infinite Isles

  • Gut Reaction: *glassy stare*
  • Rationalization:  My Minecraft itch is already filled by Minecraft
  • Chance: Not sure that islands floating in the sky is really something I am missing, so very low

7 – Lost Ark

  • Gut Reaction: Raiders of the?
  • Rationalization:  A clicky action MMORPG might be an idea!  And at least it has a placeholder for a Wikipedia page.
  • Chance: Given that Diablo III is going to try to eke out another year at least with seasons, nostalgia, and a new class, it might be worth a try.  30% chance if it goes live, higher if it is on Steam and goes on sale.

8 – Sea of Thieves

  • Gut Reaction: Pirates!
  • Rationalization:  The urge to play with tall ships and cutlasses balanced with memories of Pirates of the Burning Sea… which were not all bad, but I also never went back and played it again either.
  • Chance: Dampened by the cross platform aspect, as the Windows version will likely have the horrible console interface. If I could find a compelling feature though, it might have a shot.  Oh, and it would have to ship.

9 – RuneScape

  • Gut Reaction: Didn’t I make an account for that at Thanksgiving?
  • Rationalization:  I did play a couple hours of it already and it did have a flavor and charm of its own.  The old grand dad of F2P titles, it has a huge following for some reason.
  • Chance:  It also had a somewhat odd control scheme, and the fact that I am only now recalling that I played it probably doesn’t bode well.  But it has at least fucking shipped already!  That raises the odds dramatically!

10 – Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title

  • Gut Reaction: Hey, didn’t I pay for this already?
  • Rationalization:  I am in with the Kickstarter, I have it up in Steam where it updates weekly, and I tried it a couple of times in 2015 when it was pretty rough.  Also, it was on last year’s list.
  • Chance: I’m in if they hit a “done” milestone, which seems semi-likely.  I’m just not sure what the game is about now.  2013 was a while back.

11 – Life is Feudal

  • Gut Reaction: Hrmmm… but that name…
  • Rationalization:  I long ignored it based on the name alone, but it does have some interesting ideas.
  • Chance:  Maybe… long-shot, but if it went live… I keep using different euphemisms for what is essentially “actually end-customer ready” I might be up for it.

12 – Pantheon: Saga of Heroes

  • Gut Reaction: Why Brad, why?
  • Rationalization:  Part of me wants to believe that 1999 can be recreated.  Maybe he can get Smed over to help now that he is at loose ends and really get the 1999 party rockin!
  • Chance: You know, if something ships… I’ll probably buy-in and play.  But despite the long demo videos, I am not convinced yet that something will ever ship… and 2017 seems like an extreme long-shot if it does.

So there are dozen MMO-esque games that I am going to lay out there and semi-sort-of commit to looking into if it doesn’t take too much time away from Minecraft, EVE Online, and EQII / WoW.

Which on that list do you think I should prioritize should the opportunity arise? (i.e. should it actually ship if it isn’t there already?)  Here is a Poll (which you may not see if you have an AdBlocker running):

Naturally I left the “other” option open, you can use that or add other options in the comments if my list is missing a key title for 2017.

And, of course, if you want to see how this sort of post has played out in the past, you can check out attempts from past years:

  • 2016 – I played none from the list, but most didn’t ship
  • 2015 – literally nothing I listed went live
  • 2014 – I played Warlords of Draenor, which was a gimme really
  • 2012 – Actually tried most of the items on the list
  • 2011 – Tried 3 out of 5 eventually, but then The Agency was on the list
  • 2007 LOTRO (shipped!)
  • 2007 Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (Didn’t ship)

A Christmas Gift in Minecraft

I have to admit that I have a serious blind spot when it comes to redstone automation in Minecraft.  It isn’t that I try it and fail or can’t figure it out, but that it never even occurs to me to bring that sort of thing into my projects.

Of course, that may be related to the type of projects I choose to take on in our world.

I am always the guy building roads and paths and laying mine cart track, all stuff that keeps you in motion.  When my last base gets inconveniently far from the current location of the work I just make a new one.  The old gets left in my wake, a rest stop for other travelers and maybe an attraction for tourist, but generally a place that doesn’t see much more practical use.  The inevitable building, mine, lava fueled auto-furnace, farm, and corral will mostly sit idle once I am out of range.

So redstone likely doesn’t occur to me in part because it isn’t mobile.  I would leave behind anything I built and just have to remake it at the next base if it were useful.  And since I tend not to use it, I don’t even think about building redstone devices.

And doubly so when it comes to my current road building project, which will be about 18km as the crow flies, but more like 40km when one takes into account the twists and turns I make to find a path across the world without having to build multi-kilometer bridges across oceans.  I’m now just 2.5km from the Mansion starting place but have built at least 4km of road that has snaked around mountains and seas alike.  This is going to be a long project.

And my plan for the road to have a continuous strip of cobblestone the whole way (interrupted only by lighting) so you’ll never lose it and will be able to find it by crossing over it (and maybe some day that will be a rail line) slows me down as I need to quarry stone along the way.  Sometimes I get it as part of digging out the path forward, but sometimes I just have to tear into the nearest hill to get some.

But the day after Christmas I logged in and went to my forward base along the road to find a gift.  Skronk had been asking how to get to the road and while I was away, had walked out and set something up for me; a redstone cobblestone generating machine.  He had dug out a big more of the small base to set it up and put up signs to guide me.

Machine this way

Machine this way

It uses a piston driven by a redstone clock mechanism to push cobblestone created by the interaction of lava and water out with a furnace at the end to stop the cobblestone from going too far in the limited space.

That seemed to turn out cobblestone at a respectable rate.  The problem was that I was about ready to give up on that base as I moved forward.  It was already quite a ways from the end of the road.  But Skronk had foreseen that.  The machine is fairly simple and so as part of his gift he put together a set of parts to build another one.

DIY Kit

DIY Kit

It looked much better at Christmas when all chests were wrapped up like presents. (See here.)

So as I moved further down the line I eventually copied most of his design and setup my own cobblestone generation station at the next big encampment, which also happened to be an NPC village on the coast where I was going to have to build my first long water spanning bridge.

Cobble creation inside

Cobble creation inside

I setup and harvested some there, then had a thought.  The building was still a walk from the bridge site, maybe I should get it even closer… like right there at the bridge.  I was also curious too see just how far a piston would push the cobblestone.  So with visions of automated bridge building in my head, I setup another generator.

Right at the bridge

Right at the bridge

I quickly learned that a piston will only push 12 blocks, so I wasn’t going to be able to sit back and watch it cross the sea without me.  But having it right there was still very convenient.  I could harvest a couple of stacks and run out and build some more of the bridge surface, then come back and harvest some more.   So Skronk has given me a new option for resources.

The only real issue is the speed of harvesting.  With a diamond pick and a huge seam of stone, I can harvest cobblestone much faster than the machine can generate it.  And while the machine is right there so I don’t have to haul the cobblestone very far, it can seem a bit slow.  I have been tinkering with the timing on the clock to see just how fast I can get it to run.  There is clearly a threshold where the piston moves too quickly and does not give the cobblestone time to form.

Meanwhile, the road work goes on, though I have to take a break and run back for supplies.  My bow broke, my last flint got used up, I’ve run out of iron, and while standing at the end of the bridge I accidentally threw my diamond sword into the deep sea and wasn’t able to find it again.  The hazards of construction work.

 

Looking Back at 2016 – Highs and Lows

Lord, what did we do to deserve this year?  I’ll just steer away from politics, the world, and celebrity deaths for this if you don’t mind.  Wow, 2016.

Blog2016

Still, it is time for this post, where I look back at the year gone by and look at some aspects over it, a tradition going back to 2010.  Past entries:

This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head.  No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
  • Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
  • Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
  • the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
  • Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
  • Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
  • WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
  • Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
  • Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
  • Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
  • Diablo III is getting some new stuff
  • Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs

Lows

  • If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
  • If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
  • The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
  • Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
  • BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
  • Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
  • WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
  • Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
  • The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
  • Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
  • Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
  • Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
  • The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
  • Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?

Daybreak Game Company

Highs

  • Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
  • DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
  • H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
  • Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
  • Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new

Lows

  • EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
  • Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
  • Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
  • “Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
  • If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again!  This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
  • Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
  • H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
  • If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
  • Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
  • Good-bye Legends of Norrath
  • No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
  • No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
  • With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
  • Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
  • Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
  • DDO still seems to be in good shape

Lows

  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
  • With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
  • As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
  • LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
  • Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
  • Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
  • Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
  • Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?

CCP

Highs

  • They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
  • Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
  • A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
  • Citadels everywhere!
  • Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
  • We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
  • CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
  • Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
  • The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year

Lows

  • DUST 514 went dark
  • Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
  • Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
  • F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
  • Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
  • After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
  • Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
  • Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
  • Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
  • Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
  • Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
  • Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
  • RIP New Eden solo industrialists
  • Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
  • Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?

Nintendo

Highs

  • 20th Anniversary of Pokemon
  • Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
  • Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
  • Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
  • Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch

Lows

  • End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
  • They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
  • Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
  • Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
  • The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.

Other Games

Highs

  • Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
  • Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
  • Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
  • Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
  • Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
  • Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
  • WildStar lives yet!
  • Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
  • No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
  • Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game

Lows

  • The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
  • A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
  • Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
  • ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
  • Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
  • Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
  • Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year?  Camelot Unchained? No!  Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No!  Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet.  Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
  • While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
  • If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
  • Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
  • The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
  • No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
  • Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
  • The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
  • The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
  • Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there

Media

Highs:

  • Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
  • Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
  • Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
  • I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh

Lows:

  • The end of Downton Abbey
  • Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
  • Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
  • Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
  • The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
  • I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
  • So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?

The Blog and Blogging and The Internet

Highs:

  • Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
  • I still enjoy writing
  • I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
  • Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
  • Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
  • Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits

Lows:

  • My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
  • My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
  • I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
  • Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
  • I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
  • Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
  • Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
  • AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
  • Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
  • /r/eve

Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016.  I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.

A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.

Others looking back at 2016:

Smed Sings Hero’s Swan Song

Earlier today John Smedley announced that PixelMage games, his post-SOE/Daybreak venture, would be shutting down and that their game Hero’s Song was officially dead.

Hero's must face turmoil, it is what makes them heroes, right?

Hero’s must face turmoil, that is what makes them heroes, right?

The text from the announcement is as follows:

Hello Hero’s Song Players,

It’s with a heavy heart that I have to report that Pixelmage Games is going to be shutting down and we have ceased development on Hero’s Song. For the last year, our team has worked tirelessly to make the game we’ve dreamed about making, and with your support, and the support of our investors, we were able to get the game into Early Access. Unfortunately sales fell short of what we needed to continue development. We knew going in that most startups don’t make it, and as an indie game studio we hoped we would be the exception to that rule, but as it turned out we weren’t.

We sincerely value our customers. You’re our most important focus and have been from day one. We’re going to offer 100% refunds to all of the people who bought Hero’s Song.

For our Indiegogo customers, please email refunds@pixelmagegames.com with your name and information about which one of the packages you bought so we can make sure you get your money back. Our team will respond to confirm we received your email and we’ll make sure you get your refund quickly.

For players that purchased via Steam you will be able to claim your refund through the normal Steam refund process. Go to https://help.steampowered.com and you can get your refund right away.

Thank you for all the support you showed us. We’re sorry things worked out the way they did, but we feel strongly that we gave it our all and we’re proud of how far we came with the game. The fact that we weren’t able to finish the game is painful, but the journey of making Hero’s Song has been a great experience for us and we’re just sorry we couldn’t take it all the way.

Thank You,

The Hero’s Song team

Hero’s Song had something of a troubled time from the beginning, starting with Smed playing the “hardcore” card yet again.  There was a cancelled Kickstarter campaign that had too many problems to overcome, the search for funding elsewhere, and the Indiegogo campaign that only got them $94K out of the $200K they were looking for to finance the development.  Then there was the “money is tight” statement from earlier this month.

And then there was the game itself, which appeared on Steam in its early Alpha state and ended up with mixed review frankly because there wasn’t much “there” there at that point.

Still, it was an interesting idea, a retro-feel pixel graphic top down 2D open world Rogue-like adventure game where you could setup your own server, choose deities and tweak the rules to suit your own needs.  I got in and played for a little bit early on, totalling up all of 90 minutes of play time, including the two minutes that got added when I launched the game today.

That's all there will be

That’s all there will be

I took a few screen shots in Steam along the way, but that won’t leave much to remember the game by.

As noted above, if you bought the game on Steam you can get a refund via Valve, but if you contributed to the Indiegogo campaign (as I did) you have to send an email directly to PixelMage with your information and hope they get back to you.  Right now the email address provided is replies with an automated response with a promise to be back in touch “very soon.”

You’d think a game dev of long standing would be wary of using the word “soon,” but we shall see.  Where will Smed end up next?

Others posting on this topic:

After the cut, the description of the game from the Steam page, just for the sake of posterity:

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