Monthly Archives: March 2017

March in Review

The Site

It can be a bit of an issue, writing a gaming blog focused on MMORPGs when you are not playing very many such games.  Or only one such game, which in my case is EVE Online, and all the more so when you’re off doing something you’re not supposed to blab about.

MMORPGs just feel more conducive to daily posts than single player games like Pokemon or even shared world games like Minecraft.  Those are good for one post a week if I feel like I have actually done something worth posting about.

Also, I have to take Pokemon screen shots with my phone, and they look like crap

That led to me simply not writing as many posts this month, and many of them were focused on game news and updates and wider industry items.  Those are solid posts, things I like to go back to in a year to see how things really turned out.  But they don’t tell my own story, which is the focus of the blog.

One Year Ago

Daybreak announced that they were giving up on EverQuest Next.  That left me wondering what the future looked like for Landmark.  It wasn’t going to have PvP.

I also wrote up a post about all of the SOE/Daybreak MMOs and their current (mostly closed) status.  Things still looked pretty good for EverQuest at 17, though I wasn’t sure how experience injectors were going to play out in EverQuest II.

Also in EverQuest II the PvP version of their retro nostalgia server, Deathtoll, was getting folded into the PvE version, Stormhold, due to lack of interest, thus ending open world PvP in the game outside of that Russian server.  I was looking for nostalgia on the Stormhold side of things again.

Voting kicked off for CSM 11 with Xenuria on the official Imperium ballot.  How things change.

The monthly EVE Online update introduced Project Discovery and made it so you had to be mutual friends in order to track somebody’s online status in your contact list.  The month’s blog banter wanted people to imagine other games based off of the EVE Online IP, so I went with something akin to Diplomacy.

There were a bunch of little EVE Online things, like server upgrades, downtime compensation, and skill injector fun that I put into one bullet points post.  I like those posts when I do them, I hate them a year later when I want to do my summary.  It is easier when each topic has its own post!

Fighting was going on as the Casino War widened.  Some of the coalition was staged in Saranen, which meant flying quite a ways to defend territory on the far side of Tribute, including an unfortunate event with a Higgs anchor rig on my Guardian.  There were things going on in several regions, including a really good brawl in Fade.

Then the weight in numbers began to tell as we had to fight fires on several fronts.  I wondered if we were going to have a last stand at VFK-IV.  The plan, however, was not to waste ships against the superior numbers arrayed against us.  Instead we gave up territory, announcing the abandonment of the Vale of the Silent region, occupied by Lawn and Bastion, with one constellation owned by Circle-of-Two.  CO2 decided to leave the Imperium over this in order to save their territory, which would soon be the front line in the war, betraying us even as the fight was still going on in M-OEE8.  Once the war was over their new friends turned on them and took their territory anyway.  Who says there are no happy endings?

The M-OEE8 fight was still a big one and got CCP some press.  That is one thing null sec is good for, bringing attention to the game.

Black Desert Online went live and much bitching about the cash shop ensued, so I couldn’t resist jumping on that bandwagon yet again.  The cash shop is a necessary evil at this point.

I was poking fun at VR, which is still struggling for relevance.  Meanwhile EVE Valkyrie and Gunjack went live with the official Occulus Rift launch.

Minecraft 1.9, the Combat Upgrade landed, giving us shields.  I stopped wearing one of those ages ago, as you can’t read maps, among other things, if you have one on.

In Minecraft Aaron’s zombie pig farm was causing MC Pro Hosting to lag out on us.  But we made the switch to the much more reasonably priced Minecraft Realms hosting option, which solved that issue.  Premium pricing was not getting us premium service.

In Diablo III I was chasing the Season 5 set dungeon.

And, finally, things looked grim for WildStar, with China cancelled, layoffs, and dwindling revenue.

Five Years Ago

The family and I went and visited the USS Iowa while it was docked up in Richmond.

April Fools spirit hit Wargaming.net a little early.

It only seemed like Zynga was desperate back then.

I took a quick peek back into Need for Speed: World.

Raptr said I could be the top WoW player they tracked… if I just played another 18,999 hours.

I also rolled a new character on a new server in LOTRO because… why not?

In EVE Online voting commenced and The Mittani won the chairmanship of the CSM 7 by a large margin.  And then he named names during his alliance talk and was removed from CSM 7 and banned from EVE for 30 days.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, we were being taunted by a LEGO Rifter that we were doomed never to see and Derek Smart was telling everybody DUST 514 was doomed to fail.  Well, he got that one right I guess.

Meanwhile, the war in the north was heating up again even without The Mittani.  The CFC was picking up systems in Tenal as bases of operation for the upcoming offensive.  Then there was the bloodbath at C-J6MT.

In Rift, we had a couple of runs at the Foul Cascade.

EverQuest turned 13 and went free to play.  That saw more than a few of us run in to give it a try.  Fall nostalgia in the Spring.  We ran the tutorial, tried out mercenaries, and created a guild.  I am not sure what became of our little group.  Nostalgia is like that.

It was also announced that Vanguard would be going free to play as well.  While on the Fippy Darkpaw server, LDON and LoY went live… I think.

Then I was trying to find another blog name that used the TAGN acronym as a setup for an April Fools joke.  That totally fell flat.

And, finally, I attempted to bring together as many memories from the early days of Air Warrior as I could.

Ten Years Ago

In EverQuest II, my swashbuckler Blintz became my highest level MMO character at the time, hitting the level 50 mark.  I was also going on about the pain of the alchemist trade and offline selling in the game.

Meanwhile, I was still griping about the rise in the cost of Station Access, but at least I got something of an answer as to how my Station Access dollars were allocated.  SOE was having problems with their email marketing though.

In World of Warcraft the instance group, after a couple attempts finally finished up Uldaman in one of the more memorable fights of our time as a team, was then coming to a temporary stopping point at Zul’Farrak. Work would keep Earl too busy to play with us for the next few months. Meanwhile, a load of my other friends in WoW disappeared due to server splits.

Proving that random grouping has been a problem for a long time, there was a discussion going around about being able to rate people with whom you have grouped.  That option doesn’t seem to have come to pass.

CCP was whispering in my ear about resubscribing for their Revelations expansion.

EverQuest turned 8 years old and the blog itself hit the six month mark.

And, finally, I had a comically large arrow stuck in my head.

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. Quote of the Day – CCP Picks Winners
  2. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  3. YC119.3 Update Brings Rorqual Nerfs and Bubble Decay to New Eden
  4. Burn Jita Returns for 2017
  5. PLEX Shattering Proposal for New Eden
  6. The Ongoing Tension Between Solo and Grouping
  7. Oscar at Peace
  8. Pondering That Legion Level 100 Boost
  9. Nostalgia for a Virtual Spaceship
  10. Minecraft and Coming to the End of My Road
  11. The Coming of Refineries in New Eden
  12. Reflections and Postcards from Burn Jita 2017

Search Terms of the Month

cleric spell syntax torilmud
[c ‘full heal’ meclin]

twitter vanhemlock
[Not as amusing as the blogging or podcasting vanhemlock]

how to make a charged creeper farm survival
[Aaron did that already]

eve how to get places faster
[Jump clones? Interceptors?]

hussein althumani buffalo
[I don’t even know how that string got you here]

EVE Online

The first half of the month was fairly quiet.  We got the monthly update, I did some ratting, but not much exciting happened.  For the second half I have been on a deployment, but I do not write about deployments until they are over.  A post about that will come as soon as we are home.  I did do my first combat probe scanning, though if you look at my kill board, I only had simple targets in mind.

Minecraft

I continue to work on the long road.  With less than 2km left to go, I should be able to wrap the project up.  Then I will have to ride it end to end to see just how long it takes to go 20+ km on a horse.  Meanwhile, a couple of people from my corp in EVE Online have joined our server, so more people are building things in our world.

Pokemon

I went to town with Pokemon Sun, wrapping up the main story line and the post story activities and finishing the Alola Pokedex.  However, that really hasn’t sated my Pokemon playing binge, so I am wondering what to do next.

Pokemon Go

The rainy weather abated in California in time for the Water festival in Pokemon Go.  That actually let me catch a number of new Pokemon, though I did not get nearly enough Magikarp in order to evolve a Gyrados.  Playing it gets me to take a walk every day to pick up a few of the nearby Pokestops.  My basic stats this moneth:

  • Level: 27 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 149 (+21) caught, 172 (+19) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Final evolution of any of the starter Pokemon
  • Current buddy: Hoothoot, who earns a candy every kilometer.

Coming Up

It is April Fools tomorrow, so prepare for the few funny, and the many unfunny, attempts to play on the theme of the day.  There are already some items out there, like the Reddit post about Brave Newbies disbanding.  Be more skeptical than usual through the weekend.

We should be getting a lot more EVE Online news next week, as Fan Fest runs April 6-8.  We will also learn who will be sitting on CSM XII.  And we should get the usual monthly update as well at some point.

Our deployment in New Eden seems likely to wrap up soon-ish, so I will post about those adventures, such that they were.

I will likely finish the long road.  Then it will be a matter of what to do next.

We will also hit the 10 year anniversary for Lord of the Rings Online.  I have to imagine they will have somethings planned for that.

And I have to our income taxes and make our property tax payment.  The joys of adulting.

The Fall of Club Penguin

No.  No more kids games.  Kids don’t spend well and it’s very difficult to run a kids game.  Turns out Kids do mean stuff to each other a lot.

John Smedley, Reddit AMA

Time for another MMO for kids to fall by the wayside.  Club Penguin, the 12 year old kids MMO with over 200 million registered users (as of 2013), has been closed by Disney.

We are no strangers to Club Penguin at our house.  My daughter was a fan of the game for a stretch and used to participate in events, was in a band in the game, and collected the various in-game items including hats and puffles.

Waddle around

In fact, it was a desire to collect some special in-game item that led my daughter to get her account banned when she gave her login information to a classmate who then gave it to somebody else.

Forever…ever…ever…ever…

That was a serious blow to her relationship with the game, as she had collected quite a bit of stuff.  If fact, she recently read that post I wrote about that incident and got mad at me when she realized I could have probably gotten her account unbanned if I had set that as a goal, as opposed to teaching her a lesson in account security.  She still misses some of her stuff even though that was half of her lifetime ago.  I cannot recall when I was 15 if I was nostalgic for things that happened when I was only 8.

But it really does not matter now as all of her stuff in Club Penguin is gone.  Disney announced back in January that the game would be shutting down and yesterday was the last day.  Sales have been down, Disney had already laid off some staff and closed down some of the overseas sites for the game, but that was not enough.

In a bit of an ironic turn, at least for our household, getting banned from Club Penguin became a new sport for people playing the game, and my daughter joined in

He last encounter with Club Penguin was trying to get kicked off of Club Penguin.  And that fun is over for good as well now that the game has been shut down.

Of course, I am dubious as to how badly Disney needed to shut the game down.  The financials are all buried in the numbers for the corporation and we are all pretty aware that online games in motion tend to hang onto a core audience that can keep them viable.  I doubt if the game were still independent that it would be closing.  But Disney is in the business of growth, not mere viability, so Club Penguin was sent off to join Toontown Online, another acquisition of theirs they subsequently shut down.

Anyway, the real reason to kill Club Penguin was to keep it from drawing customers from Disney’s new mobile venture, Club Penguin Island which, surprise surprise, went live on iOS and Android yesterday.

Penguins go mobile

The plan was obviously to channel Club Penguin player to the new game.

Of course, the usual reactions from the player base occurred, with people angry and threatening boycotts and the like.

Players like to settled down in their MMOs for the long term.  They want them to remain so they can come back and visit.  They get invested in their virtual goods and hate to lose them.  So expecting people to pick up from a long standing MMO to invest in a new game is a faint hope, and all the less likely when you chase them out of the old one with a stick.  Sequels are difficult as we saw with EverQuest II and Lineage II, neither of which ever outshined their predecessor.

And when the replacement isn’t even on the same platform… well, that seems like a faint hope.

Not that I think Club Penguin Island will fail.   It is a Disney product and will have Disney marketing behind it and will be featured on the Disney channel and on Radio Disney and in the Disney Store and so on and so forth.  It is just a completely different beast and will have its own fans and followers who may not have played the original.

World of Tanks Passes WoW West According to SuperData Research

SuperData Research put up their top ten lists for February 2017 this week.

SuperData Research Top 10 – February 2017 (original)

I noted last month that Blizzard decided to break out their World of Warcraft numbers for SuperData into East and West, which one can assume meant China and the rest of the world.  There was no statement as to why that change occurred, but I speculated that it might have been done to give Overwatch a boost on the list.  Splitting WoW in two pushed Overwatch up into third place.  Or maybe they just wanted to push somebody else off the list.

A month later things have changed. While the East/West designations are absent, I think we can assume that the higher WoW is “West” as it was the higher of the two last month.  World of Tanks swapped places with Overwatch in February while the nineteen year old Korean MMO classic Lineage jumped ahead of WoW East.

Otherwise the list is unchanged from February, with only Blizzard titles losing ground.  I wonder how Blizzard felt about that?

Oh, wait, I bet I know!

It seems as though they called up SuperData and told them to get rid of that East/West split, so that first chart disappeared from their site to be replaced by a new one.

SuperData Research Top 10 – February 2017 (revised)

The recombined World of Warcraft is back ahead of World of Tanks, Overwatch is still down in sixth place, DOTA 2 is up a spot, and For Honor gets a spot on the list.  I suspect we shall hear no more of an East/West split in WoW numbers.

Meanwhile, the report also has more bad news for Blizzard:

Hearthstone hits a new low on mobile. Hearthstone marked its lowest point since releasing on both Android and iOS smartphones. Revenue is down significantly year-over-year and month-over-month. Recent gameplay decisions have been unpopular with the Hearthstone community, and the result has been a sharp decrease in conversion on mobile. Desktop revenue is also down, but to a lesser extent, perhaps due to the more “hardcore” demographic on PC.

Not a good month for Blizzard.

Other items of note… at least items that interest me… Pokemon Go is still holding on to 4th place on the mobile chart, a surprising performance for a game several people have told me is “dead,” and Candy Crush Saga dropped off the chart completely, having lost its hold on the 10th rung of the ladder.

The Ongoing Tension Between Solo and Grouping

In which we are reminded that the “group-solo” dynamic in MMORPGs is not settled and likely never will be.

I have been thinking about the solo/grouping dynamic a bit after a couple of previous posts regarding World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

Yesterday the 7.2 patch went live for WoW, and one of the key items in it for a lot of people was the ability to finally finish up the achievements to unlock flying in the expansion.

Now available

The grind to get there seems, to me, to indicate how much the devs would like you not to be able to fly until you’ve walked the whole expansion. (WoWHead has a nice little tool to track your progress towards unlocking flying.)

However, participating in a raid… which at one point was never going to be available via LFR, then was going to be available via LFR at some much later date… is no longer on the list.  The achievements for unlocking flying are available to the dedicated soloist.

Given the situation, where we learned back during Warlords of Draenor that a very vocal subset of the WoW population believes that flying is part of the social contract between them and Blizzard, and where Blizzard seems to have agreed after its own protestations, making it a soloable venture is the right decision.  “You must raid” as a prerequisite for flying is a non-starter, even with something like LFR available.

Then over in New Eden, CCP announced their plans for refineries in EVE Online.  One key aspect of the change involved moon mining.  Rather than being the passive activity it is now where, once the POS is setup and configured all you do is flying out to it once in a while and collect the resulting moon goo, moon mining is going to become an active process where chunks of the moon will be ripped from its surface to float in space where people will need to undock and harvest it.

Moon chunks in spaaaaaaace!

My own reaction to this was to wonder if this new method would be fun for people as an ongoing mechanic or initially fun before turning into yet another aspect of EVE Online that is grindy boring.  But I do not mine moons… or asteroids or anything really any more… so my thoughts on the topic were fairly brief.

Kirith Kodachi though, he saw this as a blow against the null sec empires.  Rather than being able to simply put up towers and collect the proceeds, people were going to have to work to get those essential… essential to tech II production… moon resources.  And that certainly seems to be the case.  Harvesting moon goo is going to be more work.

Enter Neville Smit, whose own follow up post to the CCP announcement takes this thought a step further.  He sees this as yet another squeeze on the solo New Eden entrepreneur.  Who besides the null sec alliances is organized enough to adapt to these new mechanics both effectively and efficiently?  It is the CSM elections all over again, where a large group that had to organize by necessity is thus already poised to take advantage of something where organization is a critical element.

Basically, the rich get richer and Malcanis wins again.  What is a solo capsuleer to do?

Azeroth and New Eden are drastically different places, but they both still end up walking that same path between what can be done solo and what should require a group, organized or otherwise.

World of Warcraft owes a healthy chunk of its success to enabling solo play.  It is one thing to pine for the good old days of EverQuest, but the fact that solo wasn’t a thing put a cap on its popularity.  So WoW has to keep on the path of allowing solo play to be viable to keep subscribers.  They have to play it safe and not do anything crazy like… say… making mobs in WoW Legion scale to your item level rather than just your level so your daily faction grind becomes a chore… and give solo players crutches in the form of dungeon finder to let them dip their toes into grouping without commitment.

EVE Online, on the other hand, does pride itself on being… difficult.  That alone has put a cap on how many subscribers it can ever hope to have.  But it has been reasonably good at not explicitly killing the viability of solo play, at least for specific definitions of “solo.”  Are you still “solo” if you are multi-boxing multiple accounts?  You don’t need half a dozen people to sign your corp charter or need to form a fleet of a given size to attempt content… you’ll likely get blown up if you do, but if you want to try you’re welcome.

And, in that spirit, there is nothing that specifically prohibits a solo player from trying to set up a refinery to moon mine, just like there isn’t anything specifically prohibiting a solo player from trying to take null sec space.  They can have at it all they want, it is just likely to end badly.  And I think it is okay to have content that requires group play.  But I wonder if CCP should be trying harder for solo and smaller group play, especially when it comes to making changes to things that were once viable for those groups.

Flying Comes to WoW Legion

Today is the day, the day that the Tomb of Sargeras update, Patch 7.2, goes live in World of Warcraft.

Available now!

The update has been a while coming.  Blizzard was talking about it back at BlizzCon in early November.

But the patch delivers quite a bit of content.  The release notes are full of details.  The Broken Shore is now available, there is a new dungeon, pet battle dungeons, new incentives to grind reputation, new class campaigns, and, most of all, flying.

I haven’t played WoW for a while now.  I tapped out of WoW Legion before BlizzCon, having done all the main zone story lines and being otherwise uninterested in the daily rep grind or queuing up for random dungeons.  Flying makes me think about going back, but then I think about all the items on the list to get there and any thoughts of whipping out the credit card to re-subscribe fades.

Still, for those who remain invested, there is a bunch of new content available now.

StarCraft Remastered Announced

I was hoping to hear something about this at BlizzCon back in November, but everything takes longer than you think it will, and at Blizzard you have to dial that up by another half again.  So while the word first leaked almost a year and a half ago, Blizzard has finally announced the remastered version of StarCraft.

About damn time indeed

The StarCraft site has the current details.  Sort of…  And there is a trailer.

The key bullet points for the remaster are:

  • Remastered Graphics
  • Revised Dialogue and Audio
  • Blizzard Friends and Matchmaking
  • Classic StarCraft Gameplay

The graphics will be 4K HD, which is quite a step up from the 640×480 the game has run on for the last 19 years.  The whole thing will still be 2D perspective, it will just finally look good on your widescreen monitor.

The revised dialog and audio… well, I guess if you are in there and changing stuff, higher quality audio might be something you want to change, but I worry a bit about that one.  A lot of StarCraft to me is the way it sounds.  If the marines don’t say, “Jacked up and good to go!” it might be an issue for me.

Blizzard “friends” and matchmaking are fine as far as it goes.  But the important/traditional aspect of the game, the LAN connection, remains which seems to indicate that it won’t be converted into another Blizzard game that requires and internet connection in order to play.  For a stretch back in the day StarCraft was our after hours game at the office thanks to LAN play.

And then there is “classic” StarCraft game play.  This is, after all, the game that was an esport before people were talking about esports, the game that pretty much became the national video game of South Korea.  So while remastering is good, I do wonder how it will impact game play with more data on screen and the whole “zoom out” view.  Part of the challenge of StarCraft was dealing with limited view of the terrain that you were given.  If you didn’t have scouts out and your eyes on the mini-map, your foe could surprise you.

The target date for the release of StarCraft Remastered is this summer.

As part of this, the original standard definition version of the game is getting an update and will be free, which certainly implies that the remastered version will cost you something.  I wonder what a price tag will do to enthusiasm for the project.  Of course, I was happy enough to shell out for Age of Empires II: Age of Kings when the HD remaster of that came out, so maybe that won’t be a barrier.

Of course, the other question that springs to mind is what does this mean for StarCraft II?  I haven’t heard anything bad about the successor title aside from the gripe that, in an effort to not screw up a good thing, Blizzard did not stray very far from the original, so that it did not stand out on its own.  But at least it had up-to-date graphics and supported modern screen resolutions.

What happens to StarCraft II now that the original is coming back in a remastered format that should “fix” the key barriers to playing it?

And, finally, I wonder where things stand on the other two remaster projects, Warcraft III and Diablo II?  The trio being remastered represent the greats of the pre-World of Warcraft era for Blizzard.  What happens when they return fit to be played on modern machines?

The Coming of Refineries in New Eden

Upwell structures continue to take over New Eden.  CCP put up a dev blog about the current state of citadels and engineering complexes with some informational tidbits such as:

  • Over 7800 different player corporations have at least one Upwell Structure in space right now.
  • Four player alliances have active home citadels with more traffic and trade volume than any NPC stations except for the big four trade hubs and the newbie systems. The busiest of them has also surpassed Rens in trade volume.
  • The top 100 most active industry facilities in EVE (measured by industry job output value) so far in 2017 consist of 13 NPC stations, one Outpost, one Starbase array, one Citadel and 84 Engineering Complexes.

The new structures have definitely been embraced by a swathe of the community.

Keepstars are the new centerpiece of player empires

As a follow up to this, CCP also posted a dev blog about the next Upwell branded structures they expect to release, Refineries. (There is also a survey to gauge how you feel about these structures.)

Refineries will replace player owned starbases in the role of moon mining, and the act of moon mining will go from passive act (or passive aggressive according to Kirith Kodachi) to a much more active process, where chunks of the moon will be displaced into space to be collected manually.

Everybody’s current favorite moon chunk picture

According to the follow up questions and answer post, this will mean the end of siphons.  Since harvesting from moons will be a more active process, stealing the moon bounty will also become something you have to get out there in a ship and do directly.

There is still no time frame for when Refineries will be coming to the game.  I suspect that we will hear a lot more about this at Fan Fest, which is coming up in less than two weeks now.  Over at INN there is word that CCP Fozzie will be appearing on the Talking in Stations podcast with Matterall to discuss what has been announced.

This means one less activity for player owned starbases, the familiar old POS that has dotted New Eden for many years now.  With moon mining operations gone, the purpose of the POS will be as a place for jump bridges, cyno beacons, and cyno jammers.

When the POS finally disappears, it will be the end of an era.  I have spent a lot of time in game “shooting the stick” and forming up in the protective force field that surrounds the central tower of a POS.  My first ever fleet op in null sec involved shooting a POS.

Modules blowing up back in 2011

In the new world of structures, with their vulnerability timers that let you control when you have to fight, I have no doubt there will be some nostalgia for the old POS once it finally disappears.  You could go and shoot one to reinforce it whenever you wanted.

Why yes, I will shoot this POS

And nothing will replace the giddy feeling when the shield hit points drop below 25% on a tower you expected to just reinforce.  A boring old POS shoot suddenly becomes a kill mail.  Those days will soon be behind us.