Monthly Archives: January 2017

January in Review

The Site

I remain mildly stunned that WordPress.com decided to forego their briefly traditional yearly summary report for people’s blogs.  So I’ll just take last year’s main chart and update it for the year.

2016trafficsources

Top Traffic Sources in 2016

Oddly, that list is almost all EVE Online driven, save for Reddit.  The majority of the Reddit traffic came from repeated links to my homage to/preservation of Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!

That aside, I do have more tangible WordPress.com issues to complain about.  The new stats page is still broken as I indicated last month.  Furthermore, comments have been acting oddly for a while now.  I will get a notification that somebody has left a comment on the blog, I will be able to see the comment on the admin page, but the comment won’t actually be visible on the post in question for quite some time.  The comment count on the post will take even longer to update.  And the comment in question won’t show up in the Recent Comments list on the side bar for ages, often only showing up when somebody else leaves a comment, which then follows the same routine.  Ah well.

And then, as the month went along, WP.com did another revamp of the UI, which made things tangibly worse for me.  But I can at least still find the old (and reliably functional) editor and most of the functionality I am used to hidden away under a menu at the bottom of the list.

Sanity is under WP Admin

Sanity is under WP Admin

They also changed up their subscription packages in a way that is going to complicate things for me, but I will get into that in another post at some point.  No need to spend all my anger here!

My blog did hit a record high number of page views this month… not this blog, my other blog.  CCP Phantom used a picture from the blog and linked back to its source in an EVE Online news post, which led to a spike in traffic yesterday.

350 views in one hour, when 3 views is the norm

350 views in one hour, when 3 views is the norm

As it so happened, traffic here was down… skill point posts are dull, I understand… leading to the first time ever when daily page views for EVE Online Pictures exceeded the page views here by 81.  Usually the ratio is something like 8 -20 to 1 in favor of TAGN.  Strange times.

On the bright side, at some point Google finally mumbled something about how they changed the G+ API and WP.com dragged themselves over to update that bit of code.

google-plus-logo-640

That connection broke just about a year ago for me, causing posts to be shared, but only with myself.  Not all that useful.  All you have to do to make it work again is disconnect G+ from your blog then connect again and it seems to start working again.  So now the five people who both follow me on G+ AND still actually use G+ will get spammed by my posts yet again.  Blame

One Year Ago

I had 16 predictions for 2016. (Results for those who need to know.)

I was also included on some sort of MMO info page thing.

It was the end of another Steam Winter Sale.

I was wondering what Early Access should really be.  I was also checking out which MMOs made PC Gamer’s latest list.

Smed was going to Kickstarter for Hero’s Song.  It got cancelled before I could finish the post about all the problems it had.  More than a bit of foreshadowing in that I guess.

People were troubled by a potential paywall in Rift.

The price for the Occulus Rift was announced, which led to quite a sum if all I wanted to do is play EVE Valkyrie.

In EVE Online I ran my first incursion boss.  We also got the first of the “no name” monthly updates.  Karma Fleet turned one.  CCP told us about skill extractors. Blog Banter 71 was about spaceships.  Also, there was some sort of conflict going on between I Want ISK and SpaceMonkeys Alliance.

In space we reinforced a tower and ran about in Typhoons and Jackdaws.  At the end of the month Reavers headed south to Wicked Creek to tangle with TEST.

Outside the game Battle Clinic, long a staple of the EVE Online third party universe, was set to shut down while the election process for CSM XI was kicking off.

Daybreak announced that they were going to port the five year old DC Universe Online to the XBox.

I went in to Diablo III to try out the Season 5 content.  I ran through the story quickly, but there was more to do.

I wrote a bit about The Force Awakens.

Finally, I was marveling at all the movies from 1986 that I remembered.  Aliens! Top Gun!  Platoon!  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!   It was a hell of a year for movies.

Five Years Ago

I asked 12 questions for 2012. Some of those questions are still pretty legit.  I also did what was for a while the annual LEGO minifigure round up.

I updated the About Page to its “Infrequently Asked Questions” format.  Has it really been like that for five years already?  It is probably due for an update.

There was that whole SOPA thing.  We still live in peril of its return.

I struck a couple of games from my watch list, as it seemed I would never go back to play them again.

I bought an iPad for our cats… judging by the pictures.

LEGO Universe joined the ever increasing list of departed MMOs when its free to play conversion failed to save it from extinction.

SOE gave us the subscription matrix for the EverQuest free to play transition.  As part of that conversion, EverQuest Mac was targeted for extinction as well. (Spoiler: It survived… for a while)  Meanwhile, somebody had an EverQuest cocktail shaker on eBay.

Prompted by comments from others, I asked why those who sought an old school MMO experience were not out playing Vanguard.

Blizzard said they were going to be too busy in 2012 for a BlizzCon.  Speaking of Blizzard, I hit level 85 at last in WoWAnd then there was a panic about Diablo III maybe launching in February. (It didn’t)

Turbine announced that their fall LOTRO expansion would be Rider of Rohan.

There was an odd divergent current about Star Wars: The Old Republic, with some declaring it dead already (one month in) while others were still in “best game ever” mode.  My favorite (now deleted, but still on the Internet Archive) angry post called it a hate crime.

I was starting to moan… more loudly… about how free to play makes an MMO focus heavily on cash shop content… to the detriment of the game in my opinion.  This was prompted, no doubt, by those wings.  Smed, on the other hand, was very happy about free to play.

In EVE Online the war against White Noise came to a close, leading to a quiet time in the north.  But a conflict with Raiden was looming.  during the lull, I recalled my first PvP death in EVE and celebrated that Garde drones now actually went *pew* *pew*.  Boring no more!

In Rift, the instance group was kicked off its server.  We regrouped on a new server.  We were also warming up and starting to work as a group again in the Iron Tombs and the Darkening Deeps.  That last was a struggle.

The Type 59 tank was pulled from the cash shop in World of Tanks.

And, finally, there was Pop Muzik.

Ten Years Ago

I wrote 59 blog posts, which remains a monthly record here at TAGN.  Of course, that was before Twitter, so I was more likely to do shorter posts.  If I had the patience I would track the average word count per post per month over the life of the blog to see how I changed from short posts to more of a long form/long winded approach.

I gave a brief recount of 2006 in what I find is my first high/low post on the blog.  I had forgotten that I had done that post.  I also uninstalled some games I was no longer playing.  I was also looking forward towards Lord of the Rings Online.

The MMO blogesphere starting talking about generations of MMOs, and I asked if we had even gotten past the first generation, then quoted Wikipedia’s take on the generation debate.

The instance group in World of Warcraft finished up the Scarlet Monestary and rolled through Razorfen Downs.

Blintz, my fae swashbuckler in EverQuest II was just digging into Zek, The Orcish Wastes, one of my favorite zones in post-cataclysm Norrath, as well as hunting for Blood Talon in order to get my dwarven work boots.

Scott Hartsman described some of the goals for the EverQuest II expansion that would eventually become The Rise of Kunark.  I also discovered that Sony slipped a promo for the Transformers movie in with the Echoes of Faydwer installation.  That was back when SOE was under Sony Pictures.

I played in some of the Vanguard open beta, once I got it downloaded.  The team was still working on a lot of polishing and features. The launch date was announced somewhat late, but when the game actually launched (on the same day as the much maligned Microsoft Vista), I declined to buy the box even though it was on Station Access.  I thought one of the game’s potential flaws might be the inability to make a “hot” character. A female half-elf was the best I could manage.  The character models were not pretty despite a profusion of sliders and options in the creation process.

Blizzard launched The Burning Crusade without the usual first day disasters that generally accompanied an expansions back in the day, though I couldn’t figure out why I bothered to buy a copy.  I was wondering how long it would hold its $40 price tag.  It stayed at that price for quite a long time.  These days we get a discount before a game even goes live.

Given that expansions were on my mind, I was wondering what the best timing for expansions really was.  EverQuest was still doing two a year back then, while Blizzard took more than two years to get to its first one.

I gave a brief review of Massive Magazine issue #2.

And I found that SOE had provided the industry standard definition for the word “soon.”

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. I Will Play Candy Crush No More Forever
  2. Daybreak Doomsaying
  3. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  4. The End of Landmark Foretold
  5. Would You Rather Fight Than Switch?
  6. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  7. 2017 – Predictions for Another New Year
  8. Opening the New War at F4R2-Q
  9. Falling Back in Catch
  10. Too Fast Through Tristram!
  11. Steam Winter Sale 2016 Results
  12. Seagulls Stop it Now!

Search Terms of the Month

what does dellmon mean
[Been asking what he means for years]

pretty alien sto
[The one in Kirk’s quarters]

everquest imperfect diamond
[Summed up correctly]

what is vanilla wow
[A unicorn we all want to find or slay]

Broadband Advertising Church
[Our Latency of Perpetual Round Trip?]

“pantheon: rise of the fallen” pipe dream
[So you may think]

Diablo III

The 20 year anniversary event, The Darkening of Tristram, got me to patch up and log into Diablo III again.  It was an interesting little distraction, some additional content, but beyond superficial graphical tweaks, it had about as much to do with 1996 as Twitter and the iPhone.  It did get me to go find the soundtrack from the 15 year anniversary, which is available on iTunes.  But I got the bulk of the achievements and the pet all the same.  I am just not sure that the event is something that will necessarily be a draw for people every year.  Anyway, if you want to see it this year, you had best patch up and try it, as it is supposed to go away soon.

EVE Online

I started off with a bang in New Eden around New Years, with the battle over the two Fortizars.  But then it was back to work where I caught the flu that was going around and I found I didn’t really have the stamina for ops at that point.  I joined in the return from Catch, but that was about it.  Once I was better I started getting my carrier together to see if I could join in on the promised training ops.

EverQuest II

Somewhere along the line I fell off the wagon when it came to Norrath.  The single quest chain I was able to find wasn’t thrilling me so I was just logging in daily to do a couple of crafting writs and maybe just enough harvesting to get the daily loyalty token reward.  I have about 500 of those and have yet to spend a one.  I haven’t unsubscribed yet, but it seems likely to happen before the next billing cycle.

Minecraft

While I was slacking off elsewhere, I was putting a bunch of my free time into Minecraft.  Not only do I have a big project under way, but I was ill for a week or so and Minecraft is conducive to playing when you’re not feeling well.  The long road hasn’t reached the half way point yet, but I moved the end of the road forward several kilometers over the course of the month.

Pokemon Go

Bad weather and illness kept me from playing very much… though there was at least one evening where you could have seen me leaving the house past 10pm to get in the car in order to drive the half mile to the nearest Pokestop because dammit, it was Day 7 of my streak and I wasn’t going to give up on that big payoff just because I wasn’t feeling well.

  • Level: 25 (+0)  Almost to 26, but not quite.
  • Pokedex status: 111 (+5) caught, 137 (+3) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Anything second generation
  • Current buddy: Nidorino

Pokemon Sun

As with a couple of other titles, I fell off the Pokemon Sun bandwagon for a good stretch of the month.  You would think that Pokemon would be a good game to play when you’re sick, but for some reason whenever I picked it up, I fell asleep.  Late in the month I did finally get back on track and finished up the final trial on Poni island, finished the main story line, and made Nebby get in the goddam bag for the last time.  On to the Pokeleague and then endgame activities.

Steam

For once the Steam Winter Sale actually distracted me from other games.  I bought a few budget titles and actually played through them.  Train Valley probably got the most attention.  I did start off in Stardew Valley, but wasn’t really in the mood to get through the inevitable initial hurdles any building/farming sim puts you through.  I will get back to that later.

Coming Up

The Activision-Blizzard 2016 financial report ought to be rolling in next month.  While the first rule of subscription club remains “don’t talk about subscription club,” I do look forward to seeing what I can divine from whatever clever number arrangements and MAUs charts the company puts out.

There is the inevitable monthly patch headed for EVE Online.  Also the CSM 12 candidate period will be in full swing and we should know by the end of the month who will be on the final ballot.  Then there is the Winter War in the south and a plan for another Burn Jita, though no final date has been set for the latter yet.

There are some things afoot with Lord of the Rings Online… something about a horse… while their partners at Daybreak will be putting and end to Landmark.  And, as I mentioned in the post earlier today (I am writing this before I have written that post, so I hope I didn’t forget to write it!) there is some distant rumor that we might hear something later this week from Turbine about the final fate of Asheron’s Call... something besides “bye!”

Also, wasn’t the EverQuest II Race to Trakanon server supposed to close in January?  I haven’t seen an announcement yet.  Was the team was too busy with server issued this month?  Maybe that will be something for February.

Also, after writing a ranty opinion piece about an EverQuest successor, I suddenly feel like I should got back and revisit a few other opinions.  Maybe.  My writing has strayed from opinions towards reporting on what I am doing over the years.  It might be time to update some views that may have been altered with the passage of time.

And, in a final question, when did my month in review posts start passing 2,500 words on a regular basis?

High Noon for Asheron’s Call

We learned last month, the money making MMOs at Turbine have been split off to be run by a new company called Standing Stone Game.  That meant Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online would both be leaving Turbine.  That left Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 in the lurch.

asherons_call_full_logo

Staying with Turbine rather than being spun off with the new MMO running entity Standing Stone Games seemed to indicate a short future for the two titles, something quickly confirmed in a statement from Turbine:

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the end of our support for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2, and will close both services on January 31st, 2017.

This decision did not come easy, and we know this is disappointing for many of you. This game is a labor of love, and it’s not easy for us to bring it to an end.

We have had a phenomenally long run; one of the longest in the world of MMORPGs, and that in and of itself is a spectacular feat. We are proud of our legacy, and the entire Asheron’s Call team has been honored to adventure with you for nearly twenty years. We thank you very much for being a part of it.

It’s been an amazing run. You’ve done Asheron Realaidain proud.

Between now and January 31st, 2017, the game will remain available to play, completely free, for any player currently with an account. New account creation will be disabled.

Yet hope springs eternal… only to be stomped on.  In an earlier time of greater optimism at Turbine, there was talk about letting players be able to setup private Asheron’s Call servers, a promise that immediately led to, “Hey, maybe we’ll get something!”  And then Turbine came back and said no, private servers would not be a thing.

We had hoped to be able to hand off our servers to the community, so our most loyal players could continue their journey through Dereth. Unfortunately, this is something we were unable to do.

So that was that.  Turbine further clarified the end time for Asheron’s Call, saying that the game would go dark at noon Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017.  If this post went live as scheduled, that was two minutes earlier, so the game should be down by the time you read this.  Hopefully, if you were a fan, you got in your final look at the world and didn’t get hampered by the last minute attempt to ruin the closing.

MMORPGs are strange beasts, and their passing are always sad and strange.  The social nature and persistent world aspects of them make them different from games where you play for a session and then everything resets.  As we have gone on about, and demonstrated ad nauseum, people get invested in MMORPGs.  And Asheron’s Call, being one of the “Big Three” late 90s MMORPGs that, along with Ultima Online and EverQuest, popularized the genre, all the more so.  It was a “first” MMORPG for people in the pre-World of Warcraft era, with its own special features, quirks, and lessons.

It is hard for me to imagine the day that EverQuest goes dark.  All those memories… mostly good, since we forget or repress the bad over time… that I could no longer pretend were just a patch update and a login away.  I don’t play anymore, but I could… and that I could makes a big difference.  So I feel for those who are losing their first MMORPG today.

That said, I do wonder at hope continuing to spring up.  Some are pinning hopes that there will be an announcement of some sort about Asheron’s Call tomorrow.  As the somewhat detached outsider, it is tough for me to see the hook one can hang that idea from.

Asheron’s Call was one of the big three, but it was the smallest of the bunch, topping out at half of UO’s numbers and a quarter of EQ’s subscription peak, so it doesn’t have the legacy of success that the other two had.  Furthermore, in the pantheon of Turbine titles, Lord of the Rings Online is their big success.  For Origin and SOE, their first MMORPGs remain their most popular, while Turbine has long neglected AC in favor of the two games that went with Standing Stone.  And then of course, there is Turbine, a shell of its former self, and WB, a media company from which one can expect no favors.

So while I don’t want to stomp on anybody’s dreams, I haven’t seen anything that would make me think there will be a post-closing announcement.  But we shall see tomorrow I suppose.

But whatever happens tomorrow or in the future, today we mark the end of what once was.

One Hundred and Seventy Million Skill Points

Another milestone in training as, even in the age of skill injectors, I continue to roll on forward the old fashioned way and let my skill points accumulate slowly over time.  Call me cheap… though because I have so many skill points a skill injector only nets me a 150K skill point gain, so I am cheap with reason.  Actually, I am about a day early with this post, but I had posts planned for the rest of the week and nothing for today, so here it is!  The posts never land exactly on the exact mark in any case.

Anyway, another seven months down the line brings us to another post.  Here is my skill point journey in New Eden so far, if you feel the need for the historic precedent behind this post:

This is how skill points are currently distributed on Wilhelm Arcturus.  An asterisk indicates that the skill point total has changed since last post.

 Spaceship Cmd   51,351,483 (55 of 75)*
 Gunnery         17,197,141 (36 of 46)*
 Fleet Support   12,896,000 (14 of 15)* new name
 Drones          11,704,870 (22 of 26)
 Missiles        10,836,471 (22 of 26)
 Navigation       9,660,314 (13 of 13)
 Engineering      7,253,895 (15 of 15)
 Electronic Sys   7,189,415 (14 of 15)*
 Armor            6,131,137 (13 of 13) 
 Shields          5,994,039 (11 of 13)
 Science          5,462,151 (21 of 39) 
 Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
 Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 14)
 Targeting        3,207,765 (8 of 8)
 Neural Enhance.  3,202,510 (5 of 8)* 
 Subsystems       2,186,840 (20 of 20)
 Scanning         2,045,230 (7 of 7) 
 Rigging          1,312,395 (10 of 10)
 Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12) 
 Social           1,130,040 (5 of 9)
 Structure Mgmt   1,084,784 (2 of 6) 
 Planet Mgmt      1,069,079 (5 of 5)* 
 Corp Mgmt           24,000 (2 of 5) 

 Total         ~170,000,000 (338 of 428)

The additional 10 million skill points saw an additional six skills added to my list, bringing the total up from 332 last time to 338.

Spaceship Command continues its reign at the top of the list.  Internet spaceships does seem to require training that is focused specifically on internet spaceships I guess.  That got a boost this time around from training current skills up to level V.  I finished Transport Ships V, trained Command Ships V for a bit before swapping out, and I have been working on Amarr Carrier V for the last few weeks.  That provides a boost both for me carrier and my fax machine, so seemed worthwhile as a long term goal.

Archon, also in Purity White, hanging off a Fortizar

Archon in white

Electronic Systems got a big point boost as I trained up Tactical Logistics Reconfiguration so as to be able to run the Tech II triage module on my Apostle.

Medical White Apostle

Medical White Apostle

On the new skill front, those were actually easy for me to remember this time around.  There were four skills in the Drones category related to fighters that I needed to train up so as to get my carrier skills up to the CapSwarm requirements.  The other two were under Neural Enhancements; Neurotoxin Control and Neurotoxin Recovery, which are related to the use of skill enhancing drugs.

Use More Drugs

Use More Drugs! The station ad commands it!

Then there is the side effect of doing these posts at regular 10 million skill point increments.  Not only does it track my own progress, but it also tracks how skills themselves change over time.  For example, we now have the category Fleet Support, which is mostly a new name for what was once Leadership.  I am missing only Spacial Phenomena Generation, which is a titan skill.  But that change also heralds the changing in fleet boosts and structure.

Another fleet boost hitting

Imagine that boost effect on drugs

My skills, broken out by level:

 Level 1  - 2
 Level 2  - 8
 Level 3  - 45
 Level 4  - 101
 Level 5  - 182

182 at level V puts me five up from last time.

As for my “fly all the subcaps” metric that replaced my somewhat dates “fly a titan” metric, I did actually make progress on that.  Another of the Spaceship Command skill I raise to level V was Amarr Industrial, so I can fly the Amarr blockade runners and deep space transports.  That leaves the following on my list:

  • Expedition Frigates (Prospect, Endurance)  – 10 days
  • Gallente Transports (Occator, Viator) – 20 days
  • Loki strategic cruiser (subsystems trained) – 45 mins
  • Marauders (all factions) – 90 mins

Of that list, only Gallente Transports is in my current queue, next up after Amarr Carrier.  So, as a metric, that list is getting as thin as flying a titan was.  While I should train up the Loki just for completeness, I am unlikely to train Marauders due to the expense.  Expedition frigates I might do on a whim some day, but they are not at all a priority.  That doesn’t leave much room for change.

So feel free to suggest a new metric, or else I am going to have to come up with one before the next post.  Granted, that gives me some time, as I expect that won’t come to pass until late August or early September.  However, I am likely to forget about the whole thing in the interim.  Maybe I could come up with a skill set that would be “enough” and allow me to move the training queue to an alt on my account.  But what would ever be “enough?”  And then CCP would add some new skills and I would have to chase those as well.

We shall see if I come up with anything before the next post.

Mostly Mobile Friday Bullet Points

Another Friday post about minor items of interest.

Candy Crush and Pokemon Go Slip

Superdata Research put out their monthly chart for December 2016, which showed Pokemon Go slipping down to 4th place on the mobile list.

December 2016 Numbers

December 2016 Numbers

I think I am mostly surprised that the game is still holding out in the top five now that winter is here and that the game has clearly worn on some people during its first six months.

Also of note, Candy Crush Saga is down in 10th place.  While lower than it has been previously, I remain surprised that it is still on the list more than four years down the road.

Superdata also has a 2016 summary report that you can get for free which puts some dollar amounts to a few of their charts.

Pokemon Go Expands

This week sees the addition of creatures from Pokemon Silver & Gold into the mix players can catch.

Now featuring the Johto Region

Now featuring the Johto Region

Eggs have been hatching certain Johto Pokemon for a while, but now you should be able to find new Pokemon out and about in the world.

Pokemon Bank Update

On the 3DS hand held side of the franchise, Pokemon Bank has finally been updated to work with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  You can now move Pokemon from previous 3DS Pokemon RPG titles into the latest game.

How things line up now

How things line up now

In addition you can get the Z-crystal for Mew by scanning the QA code in the linked announcement.

Hearthstone on My iPad

After dumping Candy Crush Saga from my iPad, I found I did not really have a good “sit on the couch and play while I watch TV” sort of game left.  With the fancy new iPad able to run more modern games, I started poking around at the App Store to see what I might download.  I also went down the list of games I had already tried and found Hearthstone.  So I grabbed that.

HearthstoneWhite_450

I had not really played it since the game came out, and I only played it then because Blizzard offered up a mount for WoW players who won three games.  I had put it on the old iPad 2 as well, but never got into it.  This time around things have been a bit different.  So far it sort of works as a replacement.  I am not into collectible card games at all, so it being a dumbed down version of whatever probably means it is well suited to me.  I barely remember how the game works, but I seem to win once in a while, so it is working out.

Also, looping back to a previous bullet point, Superdata reports that Hearthstone is the highest grossing collectible card game, with the money quote being:

Hearthstone earned roughly four times as much as its closest competitor in 2016 and is forcing the digital CCG market to transform

And so it goes.  I still don’t plan to spend any money on the game myself unless I somehow really get into it.

EverQuest II Down

And,as a final item, it was reported over at EQ2 Wire yesterday that EverQuest II had to be taken down unexpectedly yesterday and problems logging on still persist as of the latest update this morning.

That is it, on towards the weekend.

Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?

A staple of MMO blogging is going on about the good old days, and no days were gooder and older at the same time than classic EverQuest.

EverQuest

I will stop for a second and define “classic” EverQuest as a time somewhere between late beta and the final days of the Planes of Power expansion.  Legacy of Ykesha changed the world too much in my opinion.  But if you’re down with Frogloks, the era was certainly dead with Lost Dungeons of Norrath, which made instanced dungeons a thing.

And in that time frame, the classic era, EverQuest was at its most popular, as millions of players passed through the game and as many as 550,000 were subscribed at once.  Most popular has to mean best product, right?  That number is how we know that we aren’t just suffering from selective memory that is editing out the bad bits.

So there have been calls to return to or recreate that era… probably since that era… to bring back all sorts of things like the harsh death penalty, simple classes, spells every five levels, mandatory grouping, open world dungeons, steep level curves, travel time, contested raiding, mobs that chase you right to the zone line, and probably dozens more that I cannot think of at the moment.

And yet, despite that, SOE quite deliberately moved away from that list.  It was as though some old school fans made a list of things that made the game great… that list I just started on myself… and the company said, “You like that?  Well, it has to go then!”  So we got instancing, easier levels, solo quests, a light death penalty, mercenaries, the Plane of Knowledge, player vendors, and some of the most awkward looking mounts ever to grace a video game.

The time seemed ripe for a successor, somebody to get back the essential hardships that molded a generation of MMO gamers.  But who would take on this task?

Mark Jacobs had EverQuest in mind when he said he wanted to take the “suck” out of MMOs.  But his game, Dark Age of Camelot, was really about realm vs. realm combat and not the Diku raiding and level grind on which EverQuest was built.  So I don’t think we can count that.

SOE themselves offered up EverQuest II, dreaming of it being the successor.  But EQII was build on a base of ideas that seemed to largely revolve reducing customer calls and quieting a few persistent complainers on the forums.  Having played EQ and EQII at launch, I gave my impression of what SOE’s “lessons learned” must have included.  EQII was many things, but it was not a successor to EQ.

Blizzard, of course, brought out World of Warcraft shortly after EQII, and it has dominated ever since.  Openly based on EQ, it sought to make a kinder, gentler, and more colorful version of the game.  It embraced a solo, no-fail, low penalty path through the game, the sort of attributes we now derisively ascribe to millennials.  That couldn’t have possibly been the real successor, and even if it was, they have screwed it all up since then.

Then there was Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the Brad McQuaid attempt to get back to all that was good and right about MMOs, the REAL sequel to EverQuest.  While people blame poor execution on its failure to stick with anything beyond a tiny audience… and, at the time, making MMOs was hard and you had to do all the grunt work yourself… but I still feel he strayed from the true path.  I mean, how many of the fans of the game would go on about how “pretty” the game was to look at?  When was “pretty” ever an aspect of EverQuest, unless the word was paired up with things like, “ugly,” “awkward,” “dated,” or “strange?”

A few spiders were left for us

Oh, the textures!  Classic EverQuest!

And he couldn’t leave well enough alone when it came to the 1999 formula and had to add new things like diplomacy.  So, in the end, not really a successor, as it never attracted enough of those it was alleged to be for.

Meanwhile, in 2006 SOE itself decided to try to farm this obsession for classic servers and rolled up what they called a “progression” server.  It was popular, so popular that the had to roll up a second one.  The two servers, The Combine and The Sleeper launched in June of 2006 and opened up later expansions as the raid bosses for the current expansion were defeated.  A flawed interpretation of 1999, and driven at the pace of raiders who would defeat bosses in short order, it became a staple of the game after free to play, when a subscription was required to wallow in the nostalgia provided.  To this day the servers remain popular, with the latest one, Phinigel, showing high loads on the server status page at even odd hours of the day.

Who is playing at 5am?

Who is playing at 5am PST?

While Daybreak has finally realized the potential of such servers… the first couple of attempts were launched with fanfare and then largely ignored by the community team… and while they do hint at an untapped desire for such an old school experience… they are not really successors in any sense of the word.  Also, the experience they offer is tainted by things that did not exists back in 1999, like crude maps and a quest log.

But for a long time… over a decade really… that was pretty much the only option available for somebody seeking the old school experience.  By 2006 WoW had fully dominated the market, and who wanted to knock-off an MMO that peaked at 550K subs when there was one driving to 10 million subscribers world wide they could blatantly copy.

It took the death of the big budget MMO (Star Wars: The Old Republic implosion), the death of the subscription-only MMO (The Elder Scrolls Online or WildStar, take your pick), and the cancellation of any future plans for Norrath (EverQuest Next gets cancelled) to really get to a point where the industry could even consider not copying WoW and reflect on the origins of the genre and where it first really succeeded.  Even Blizzard is having to acknowledge that their “good old days” are not today, but at some point in the past with the whole Nostalrius thing.

So we have entered the era of the niche revival MMO.  We have Camelot Unchained seeking to relive Dark Age of Camelot in some way, Shroud of the Avatar as some sort of 3D vision of the Ultima series, Crowfall… um… doing whatever it is doing, and Project: Gorgon just getting weird, because why not!

And in this time, it seems like somebody could go back and copy the 1996 Sojourn MUD/TorilMUD flavor of the classic DikuMUD mechanics and make another grouping and level focused MMO in Unity pretty easily.

Yes, I know we already have Project 1999, but having to be able to find a copy of EverQuest Titanium seems like a pretty high bar for entry in 2017.  And then there is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Brad McQuaid’s next run at an EverQuest successor.  But I fear that he will be tempted to stray off the true path yet again.

Isn’t there somebody else out there that could rebuild a vision 1999 for us?

I mean, unless this whole nostalgia thing is just bullshit and the last 18 years of the MMO market has actually reflected what most players really want.  In which case, never mind.

Southward in Minecraft Village by Village

Since my update last week I have managed to make some decent progress on the long road project, covering an additional 2km on the path south.

Where I stand today

Where I stand today

That puts me about 8km along the way to my goal.  Given that I started about 20km from my destination, I am not even at the half way point yet.  But I am getting there.

For this last burst of road building I have been trying to go straight south as much as possible so as to maximize my progress towards my eventual goal.  For the first 6km of southward progress I estimate I built an additional 2-3km of road that moved along the east-west axis, and so brought me no closer to our core settlement.  I did that in order to not spend time trying to fight the terrain.  However, in hindsight, looking at the map as I have moved on, I ended up spotting paths that were slightly more difficult but which would have saved me a lot of bypassing to east or west.  That has led me to try and scout more thoroughly, though I am not sure how I could do this scale of a project at all without being able to render out the map of our world so I can study it for paths south.

One thing I will go at least a bit out of my way for is villages.  I like to put them on the route as they make natural way points for rest and supply.  My recent 2km run was in part lined up to hit a village along the way, which I named Basin City as it was on a hill that ran down to the water in something of a semi-circle.  Also, Frank Miller.

Basin City

Basin City

The down side of villages along the route is that I feel the need to stop and improve them.  I have to level out the paths, fix the buildings, add new doors, light them up, add a horse corral, put up some signage, and work with some of the villagers if I can.

In the case of Basin City here, I also had to thin out the trees as it was in a roofed forest biome, which meant that skeletons and zombies were in the shade when day came, so the sun wouldn’t kill them off.  I cut a fire break around the village, then burned some of the forest beyond the break just to open up some land.

And, since this was going to be a supply point… in order to keep going straight south I was going to need to build a few cobblestone bridges from there to carry on… I started in on a mine, which itself yielded a bunch of iron ore and coal, so I build an auto-furnace and so on.  It is now a nice little place that you could base out of.

Villages have actually become a bit more interesting.  The Minecraft 1.10 update made them a little more diverse, so that the building materials match the biome they show up in.  So, for example, this village I came upon in a savanna biome is made of acacia wood, the local tree type.

In the savanna

In the savanna

That village was also interesting because it turned out to be a zombie village.  Another change with 1.10 was that villages have a 2% chance of being zombie villages, which means that they have no torches placed, no doors, and are populated by zombie villagers.  It took me a bit to figure out what was going on, but once I did I ran off to fetch some weakness potions and a few golden apples in order to convert some of the zombie villagers into normal villagers.  I managed to convert three, one of whom was a nitwit, a green robed villager who has no profession, which is also a recent addition.

You can see by the render of the village above that I lit the place up with torches and supplied doors for the buildings.  Those are birch wood doors, as I happened to have come through a birch forest on the way there, so had a lot on hand.  I tend to prefer oak or jungle wood doors, as they have windows in them so you can see out, but when you just have a stack or two of birch, you use that.

That was sort of a mid-point village, so I didn’t go through the effort of converting it to a full on supply base, but I still had to straighten things out and build a corral.

As I drove the road further south I ended up scouting ahead and found that after I built a nice wooden bridge… I don’t want every water crossing to be a cobblestone causeway, though the continuous cobblestone strip that defined my road still runs up the middle… I was facing a series of hills.  I could go over or through them to keep the the “go straight” plan, or I could veer east and go around, which would also let me pass through not one but two more villages.

That seemed like the obvious plan.  More villages!

Bridge and a turn to two villages

Bridge and a turn to two villages

However, as I scouted that after starting off towards the second village, I saw that the far side to the south went straight into a jungle biome.  And, honestly, I have had my fill of trying to build a road through a jungle biome.  You can’t burn the trees down, the hanging vines suppress fire, so you have to get out the TNT and blast your way through.

So I stopped my effort in that direction, though I did put up some signs about the villages so people can visit if they want (I also “fixed” a good deal of the first village, because me), and checked what lay to the west from the bridge.  I would have to go further to bypass the mountains… more road not getting me to my goal… but once there I seemed to hit plains.  Plains and another village.

Village on the plains

Village on the plains

While I had to bore through a bit of the end of the mountain range in order to head south again as soon as I could, after that it was into a long stretch of fairly open terrain, so road building could go quickly.

Of course, then other issues started to crop up.  By the time I hit that village I was already a day and a half ride on a horse from my last major base, “major” being defined as one where I put up a nether portal.  That connection to the nether becomes important as my logistical tail stretches out behind me and I need to do things like repair tools or I find a need for supplies… like potions and golden apples… that I don’t necessarily keep on hand.

So, while I have pushed past the village a bit, I may need to go back and set that up as another stop on the long rail line connected to our nether transport network.  But that is part of the challenge of doing a project like this, and the challenge is what makes it worthwhile.  I still have another 12km to go and a couple of wide ocean stretches I will need to figure out.