Monthly Archives: May 2017

May in Review

The Site

Not much changed here and WordPress.com didn’t add anything that particularly annoyed me this month, so pretty much the status quo.

As it is May I guess I can talk about my other blog, EVE Online Pictures, the one-time experiment that became an official EVE Online fan site.  It turned nine years old this month.  Next year I will devote a whole post to its anniversary.  This year I will just post the usual page views per month chart.

EVE Online Pictures – Page Views per Month through May 2017

You may need to click on that to see if full size in order to make it legible.

Anyway, that is the page view tale.  You can see the sudden drop off when Google changed how image search worked in February of 2013.  Traffic to the site can be very much peaks and valleys.  There is a fairly regular group that hits the site on the three days a week that I post a picture.  At that rate after nine years the total post count is just past 1,300.  There were times when I was just posting twice a week, and a month stretch during the Fountain War where I posted every day.

But then something will happen and boost stats suddenly.  During January and March CCP Phantom used a picture for the EVE Online week in review post and linked back site.  That prompted a couple of spikes, including the highest page view count in a single day back on January 17th with 939.  That was quite a jump for a site that generally has 25-50 page views a day.

And sometimes a person will show up and scroll through the whole site.  The theme I use there lets you page down while it keeps loading content, so you can browse all the pictures without needing to click.  I will log on and see a spike of 50 page views, but only two unique users have hit the site.  So while the uniques to page views ratio for this site is about 1.5, for EVE Online Pictures it runs from 2.5-4 most days.

Anyway, my time capsule of pictures from New Eden carries on, there waiting to be browsed.  There are some 2006-ish classic graphics all the way through to whatever is current.  New stars was the latest thing and I have a few of those up already.

One Year Ago

Overwatch went live.  Still haven’t played it.

DUST 514 went offline.  Never did play it.

Landmark’s official launch date was announced.  Never did buy it.

There was word about Pokemon Sun & Moon, Civilization VI, EverQuest II prestige servers, the tribulations of WildStar, and the WoW Legion Beta, all in one bullet points post.

In EVE Online I saw my first citadel.  Now they’re freakin’ everywhere.  There was also a free weekend on Steam that got a lot of accounts created, but which still faced the wall of the new player experience.  There was a Blog Banter about Project Nova and that brief experiment with recurring opportunities that granted skill points. There were also details from the CSMXI election and that whole 85% thing, which did not add up for me.

In space the Casino War was still a thing.  We were huddled up in the back room of the Quafe Warehouse in Saranen plotting ways to strike back and keep the war going.  We threw industrials at sovereignty.  That got us a foothold back in Fade for a bit.

Mostly though it was battles in low sec.  Asher led us out to battle in his Phantasm, we squared off against capitals, blew up some fax machines.  There were battles over structures in Saranen and we managed to anchor an Astrahus to face the citadels arrayed against us.  Lots of shooting, but not much changed.

Oh, and SynCaine joined KarmaFleet.  I even saw him on an op.

Outside of New Eden Blizzard could only talk about MAUs after renouncing discussion of subscription numbers.  Given the whole Nostalrius situation I was wondering what Vanilla WoW really was.  And the Warcraft movie was approaching.

In Minecraft I was planning a rail line and finding a path for it to run.  Aaron’s project of the month was a facility in the nether to make the collection of Ghast tears easier.

I was also momentarily nostalgic for Starsiege: Tribes… or for what I could remember of it.

And in TorilMUD the elves were no longer restricted to the isle of Evermeet until level 20.

Five Years Ago

I played Portal finally.  Now Zoidberg makes the cake joke!

I wrote about camping rare mobs and how this all came from the fact that MUDs used to crash pretty often.

There was the start of the first Newbie Blogger Initiative thing.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, The Gates of Discord unlock vote shut down that expansion.  This caused some hard feelings.  And then it failed the vote again.

38 Studios went tits up due to managerial incompetence.  Not how you run a start up.  But the myth of what greatness might have been lives on, fostered primarily by those whose reputations would benefit from such tales.

The instance group was clearing out King’s Breach in Rift.

Diablo III came out and… error 37.  Then error 75.  And installer problems.  High expectations, huge sales, its always online nature, and memories of past Diablo games probably doomed it the eyes of many.  Still, we played it a bit.  I compared it to the beta version of Torchlight II, its primary foe in the click to kill genre.  I moaned about atmosphere and the influence of WoW on it.

And then I complained about talent trees.  Most people seem to like them more than I do.

But mostly I was on about EVE Online.  There was a summary of the first Burn JitaHulkageddon V came and sort of went.  There were spoils from the war in the north to be handed out.  OTEC actually got out there, putting aside differences, to defend its financial interests.  We blew up an IRC CSAA in Cobalt Edge.  There was a question as to whether PLEX was cheating.  I mined in null sec for the first time and didn’t know where to put stuff.  There were stats about Escalation and Hulkageddon and just ships being blown up in general.  And I made a post around John Smeldley’s tweet about Drakes and new missile graphics.  He dropped me a note in reply.  Turns out he is not only a huge EVE Online fan, but was in the CFC as well.  As Mittens would say, one of us.

Ten Years Ago

The then common discussions were going around, what made WoW so successful and what games might contend with WoW?  Some of the so called “contenders” were pretty silly picks.

Speaking of Blizzard, they also announced they were going to back to the StarCraft franchise with StarCraft II.  About time indeed!

The instance group was focused on LOTRO for the first time.  I had things to complain about, especially the state of the economy.  And, only a month in we spotted a level 50 player.  That must have been some hard work, as the game sort of petered out at about level 35 back then.  Still, Middle-earth was a pretty place.  It even had rainbows.

Vanguard was heavily in the news.  Sigil fell and SOE stepped in to pick up the pieces, though I wondered how long before the many problems with the game became attached to SOE.  I was also wondering about the impact of the game’s system requirements.

I was wondering how many more expansions EverQuest would have, while pointing out that you could get the game and all the expansions for only $15.

The owners of Allakhazam, long a staple of EQ knowledge, sold off their gold selling RMT wing, thus removing that taint and a host of gold selling ads from the site.

SOE officially announced the Rise of Kunark expansion for EverQuest II, keeping the game firmly on the nostalgia train.  Meanwhile, I had a suggestion for the new Arasai race.

Finally, there were some podcasts I thought people should listen to again.  I am not sure you can get most of them any more.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Day One of New PLEX
  2. Pokemon Lycanroc event at GameStop
  3. Who is Backing Ashes of Creation?
  4. The EVE Online YC119.5 Update Brings PLEX Changes and More
  5. The EverQuest Agnarr Progression Server to Remain Locked in Time
  6. Visiting the Blood Raiders Shipyard
  7. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  8. EVE Online Turns 14
  9. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  10. Fighting the Blood Raider Menace or How I Rat
  11. Return to the Land of the Ten Dollar Horse
  12. A Return to Form Reinforces the Blood Raiders Shipyard

Search Terms of the Month

cash and carry price list daybreak
[I think you and I are talking about different Daybreaks]

how fast travel eve
[Clone jump is about it, and you leave your ship behind]

show me the planets in the world
[I don’t think it works that way]

nes classic in 25 years
[That’s about the wait to get one]

www pngporn.com
[I don’t even know how this got you here]

EVE Online

I don’t feel like I have played all that much… but then I look at my list of participation credits and I guess I did go on some fleets.  Reavers have been out and about and blowing things up.  We killed four Astrahus citadels in one evening.  I just tend not to post about that until the deployment is done.

There was also the first Blood Raiders Shipyard event, which turned into a bit of comedy in the end.  At least I got to go out and see a bit of the battle.  And, having bookmarked the spot, I was able to guide Mark726 out to it so he could do a post about it on EVE Travel.

Minecraft

The Minecraft server remains pretty quiet.  Aaron has been back a bit and must be working on something.  I have been logging on some myself and wandering up and down the north mansion road and doing improvements to some of the villages and other rest stops along the way.

Pokemon Sun

I have been slowly but surely trading away at the GTS in order to expand my National Pokedex coverage.  I am close to finishing up the first two generations.  I also signed up and tried the May International online tournament.  I battled six people and lost to five of them.  Three of them beat me with the same pair of Pokemon using the same moves.  I’ll have to write about that.

Pokemon Go

There was an event this month that made rock Pokemon more common for a week, as well as reducing the distance required for your buddy Pokemon to earn a candy.  That actually got me a couple of new Pokemon this month as well as helping me level up to 28.  I also managed to finally evolve one of the first generation starter Pokemon to its final form, getting an Venusaur at last.

My basic stats this month:

  • Level: 28 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 166 (+11) caught, 187 (+9) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Gyrados
  • Current buddy: Magikarp… only 230km more to get enough candies for a Gyrados

Runes of Magic

Runes of Magic was sort of the guest host game for the month of May.  I jumped in at the start of the month and was pretty much done with it by the time we got to the last weekend.  It does still feel like 2009 in Taborea… though you’ll have to decide for yourself if that is a good thing… even if the screen has gotten a bit more cluttered since launch.  I think they have hit the limit for the number of icons around the mini map.  I won’t say I am done with it forever, but I am done with it for the moment.

Coming Up

Steam Summer Sale?  Summer is just twenty days away in the northern hemisphere, and said sale usually starts right about then.  A price break might get me across the threshold towards buying Rimworld.  Been on my wishlist for a while, but “early access” is a red flag to me these days.  SynCaine seems positive about it though.  And Zubon seems happy with Mini Metro, another game that has lingered on my wishlist for a while.  Maybe I will buy some stuff.

I also need a replacement for Runes of Magic to fill the fantasy MMORPG void.  Actually, I might have a replacement lined up, and those with a keen eye for detail might be able to tell what it is.

My daughter says that I must play Pokemon: Magikarp Jump on my phone.  We’ll see if that warrants a post.

In New Eden we remain deployed, which means more ops to go on and fights to be had.

The Ashes of Creation Kickstarter campaign winds up in a couple days.  That is closing in on the $3 million mark, so the question is just which stretch goals will be achieved… and what the post-campaign fund raising will look like.  Star Citizen has proven that you should never stop asking for money.

Otherwise, I am not sure what the next month will bring.

The Grind of Aslan

As I moved into the next zone at level 20 the game wrapped up its attempts to introduce me to things and settled down into some good, old fashioned quest based grinding.

Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is clearly THE thing for this point in the game.

I had finished up in the Silverspring zone, with its big city of Varanas… well, finished up to the extent I could, but more on that in a bit… I had at least started to out-level the quests… and moved on to the Aslan Valley.

No lions found so far

The first quest hub in the zone, Qilana Camp, set the tone for the zone by offering up two flavors of quest.  There are some story line quests that have you running about picking things up or interacting with various NPCs.  And then there are the daily quests which have you out grinding mobs for drops.

The story line quests add some variety, though they two generally include a step or two that involved slaying one flavor of MOB until you have acquired the specified number of drops.  The big problem for me with them is that they almost universally lead up to an end quest that requires a group to finish… a fact that the quest text doesn’t always clue you in on.

For example, after running a few errands for one NPC I hit a quest that was basically “cover me!” that, when accepted, dropped a group of aggro anteaters on me, including one elite.  I ran for it but there was no getting away.

Anteater swarm!

Death has a sting of sorts, in the form of xp and tp debt.  The game does give lower level players a daily item to clear out said debt in the form of an Atonement Voucher.

Debt be gone

Pretty much every story line quest has ended up with me needing to use a voucher.  Unfortunately, those quests are also the ones with the gear upgrades I could really use.

Unable to finish those up… grouping isn’t really an option as the zone has also been pretty empty for me as well… I have fallen back on the daily quests.  You can collect those from a couple of places, including the board in Silverfall.  There is a limit to the number of those you can run, but there is also a limit to the number of those I can tolerate in a single session as well, and the latter number seems to be smaller than the former, so the limit hasn’t really been an issue.

These are classic “grind for drops” quests.  Some of the drops are generic.  Killing boars drops tusks, killing anteaters drops scales, and so on, so that if you’ve been after that sort of mob for one quest you might have collected enough such items to immediately finish a quest from the board that wants those.

At other times you need to slay a specific variant of a given MOB in the zone.

Just Demon mane boars

The game does help you by putting red dots for those MOBs on the mini-map to help you find the right mob.  And with the Quest Tracker addon, you can look at the big map and get a sense of where you should be hunting.

Where the right anteaters live…

But one flavor of MOBs is generally mixed in with others of the same type… boars, bears, anteaters… so you may need to clear some of your target’s cousins out of the way.  And the variation in models is often subtle enough that you might not notice that you’re running after the wrong MOB.  The anteaters… what oddly aggressive and heavily armored variations of the species live in Taborea… are so close in model as to be indistinguishable to me, so I found myself running towards what looked to be the next one only to get into combat and find that it was not going to drop the item I needed.

So grind you likely will in pursuit of these quests.

Not that grinding is, as I noted above, necessarily a bad thing.  There can be a Zen-like peacefulness to it, just fighting one MOB after another, clearing a path around an area in search of drops, unworried about anything else.  Well, anything save your bags filling up.  Every MOB seems to drop something, and every quest drop goes into your bag, so inventory management will become an issue sooner or later.

I can do that for a while as I listen to a podcast or some such.  But it isn’t something that I can keep going at for hours on end.  And it isn’t something that entices me to log into the game.

So the time between my logging into Runes of Magic has been getting longer and longer as the prospect of hunting yet another flavor of boars or anteaters fails to spark any flame within me.

Is that Gevlon?

As such, I suspect that my time with the game might be drawing to a close.  I haven’t really found anything else in the game that holds my interest.  Crafting means a long harvesting grind, and why trade one grind for another?  The housing is mediocre at best.   And while I did give the dual class option a shot, I wasn’t too thrilled.  When you go into your secondary class, your character is effectively the level to which you have advanced it.  So while in my warrior guise I was level 20 or so, swapping out to the priest class… I thought having healing might be nice… put me back in gear and skills only suitable for the starter zone.

I went back to the started zone and did daily quests there, but my heart wasn’t in it really.  I tried finishing a few quests as a warrior, then swapping to the priest, and turning them in.  That helped move the priest along to level 10, but I decided I was better off just focusing on the warrior and buying potions to keep health up.

But the game is free to play, so coming and going as I feel the urge is part of the plan, right?  With no recurring subscription nagging at me I am free from worry!

Only Runes of Magic has found a way to simulate that all the same.

As I noted in my post about how they get money from players the RMT currency, Diamonds, figures prominently.  This issue gets forced because there are some things you cannot buy outright.  One of those items is bag space.  As it turned out, the extra bag space I rented ran out as I was playing over the weekend, prompting an immediate inventory management crisis.

So the question became whether or not to invest diamonds, which cost money, in another rental period or let things sit where they are.  I opted to let things sit until I felt the need to get back into the game.  And so it goes.

Still, I did have a decent time exploring a bit of an old MMO.  We’ll see if I get back to it again some day.

Memorial Day 2017

Wait For Me

to Valentina Serova

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply – you knew how to wait –
No one else but you.

Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov, 1941

Mineserver – It Could Still Happen

But backers still don’t know when they will get one.

A regular reader… somebody like Jenks maybe… might recall my post about the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign back in early October of 2015.  The Mineserver was to be… and may yet be… an inexpensive and easy to administer Minecraft server you could put on your home network that would allow your friends to play with you from their homes.

It was all but done according to the Kickstarter.  Specifically, the money was just supposed to help them ramp up production.  Per the campaign:

All that still needs to be finished is the final case tooling, which is coming from a U.S. supplier. That tooling — and pre-ordering a large enough supply of other components at volume prices — is what the $15,000 is for.

That was the story, while the plan was:

Full production will begin at the start of November and our goal is to deliver all Mineservers™ — burned-in and tested — by Christmas.

That was Christmas 2015.

It seemed like a good idea, and was being driven by a Silicon Valley notable Mark Stephens, aka Robert X. Cringely.  Surely his public reputation would keep the project on track.  I went in for a Mineserver Pro.  I figured we could host our group’s Minecraft world there so I wouldn’t have to pay for hosting.

Of course, the devil is in the details… or the software.  Yesterday I chided Blizzard for complaining that something they had proved they had done already was too hard.  This was the flip side, the usual scenario in software development, where a goal as yet unachieved is considered to be trivially easy right up until the coding actually starts.

And so a year after the Kickstarter I wrote a post about project, the ups and downs, the over ambitious statements, the long silences, and most of all, the lack of delivery when it came to the Mineservers.

There was a quick update just after my post, which I linked to as an addendum, holding out hope before the backers that maybe the last problem had been solved and that perhaps we might see Mineservers delivered in 2016.

I haven’t written anything since as there has been nothing to write about.  No Mineservers were delivered, though there was faint hope of that, and between early November and this week there were no updates posted about the project.  More than six months of silence on a project only 19 months in… and 17 months past due.

And then finally Cringely stepped up to the podium and posted an update on his blog.

The gist is that while they raiser over $30,000, they have spent $90,000 on the project and it still isn’t done yet.  Rather than folding up shop and leaving us all hanging forever, Cringely decided to push forward, get more funding, and turn the whole thing into a real business.

This meant negotiations and business development and finding funding and so on, stuff you cannot do in the public eye.  You can go to his post for details.  And there is the promise that those who backed the Kickstarter campaign will get their servers.

Yet I find some of his post irksome, and not because we are again left to guess when we might see the hardware or even if the software is done.  I think it is more a matter of having seen some Kickstarter campaigns run well… campaigns that shipped even later… that it is difficult to be tolerant of an alleged industry expert who clearly doesn’t get it.

I think the issue stems from his mode of operation over the years.  He is somebody who tells you things or repeats stories or other items he has heard and thinks are important.  Sometimes that leads to interesting works.  His main claims to fame, the book Accidental Empires and the InfoWorld column from which he took his handle (though he was neither the first nor the last to use that name there) involved retelling the anecdotes of others.  And he has continued that with his blog, where he ranges from personal tales to the trials of IBM to the non-issue of “buffer bloat,” something that led him to endorse that useless LagBuster product. (I own one; it is snake oil except under very specific circumstances.)

That has all been very much a one-way street of interaction with his audience.  He talks, we listen, and no discussion or interaction is welcome… unless you’re somebody in the industry and drop him an email directly.  But then, that is fodder for future posts to keep the cycle going.

Backers on Kickstarter expect interaction though, and that was something Cringely just wan’t going to give us.  Backing a project is a leap of faith.  The project can take the money and run and there is very little available by way of recourse.  Because of this, backers expect to be heard, and it wasn’t clear anybody was ever listening once the campaign closed.

So his post scolds people for being impatient about long delays and few updates and expects people to be grateful for even as much as he has done.  He ends up trying to make backers feel guilty by claiming that the average price paid was a mere $63 for something that cost him $99.

That number is a few flavors of bullshit from where I stand.  First, he set the price, not the backers.  If he set the wrong price, blaming the backers is bullshit.  Second, doing simple math, the average paid in was just over $70 for basic Mineservers.  I will assume he isn’t bad at math and he is trying to exclude Kickstarter’s cut, as though backers somehow didn’t pay that.  That is bullshit.  Third, blaming a whole group for the average when some people ponied up $99, or even $109 in one case, is bullshit.  Using the average was just a transparent attempt to make people feel sorry for him.  Fifth and finally myself and 52 other backers paid for Pro models, so paid at least $179.  From that vantage point having that average price paid for the base model thrown in my  face becomes an extra special brand of bullshit.

And then there was the sop to backers at the end, the suggestion that he might look into us getting some sort of equity.  I suspect that this was added just to make him look like a good guy and so he didn’t have to end on a note that involved trying to make his backers feel like ingrates.  I also suspect that if we ever hear of this offer again, it will be to explain how it just couldn’t be managed.  My experience in Silicon Valley tells me that doing this will involve way too much work to be likely to happen.

And the final item, the clincher to “Cringely doesn’t get Kickstarter” is that he posted this update to his blog, but not to the Kickstarter updates.  So unless, as a backer, you follow his blog… and perhaps his ego dictates that we all must… you might still be sitting in the dark thinking the November 10, 2016 update was the last word on the project.  Part of the reason you use the campaign for updates is that it sends the updates to backers via email.

Of course, some of that is me being my grumpy old self.  This is hardly the worst or longest delayed project, Kickstarter or otherwise, that I have been involved with.  I have been on the developer side of some bad ones, so I am not unsympathetic.  But I also know bullshit when I see it.

And the question remains as to what kind of product the Mineserver will be.  Once I get one I will most certainly use… our Minecraft world, hosted on Minecraft Realms, still gets regular use… and will write about it here.  If it works as advertised I will no doubt have good things to say about it.

But all these Mineserver plans still have to come to fruition to get to that point.  Perhaps for Christmas 2017 I will find one under the tree.

SuperData Splits WoW into East and West Again

As the end of a month approaches SuperData Research publishes their digital market top ten lists for the previous month on their blog, so here are the stacks from April.

SuperData Research Top 10 – April 2017

This month sees World of Warcraft split out into East and West on the PC list.  This arrangement  first showed up on their January chart.  It was initially on their February chart, but the chart was revised to combine East and West later.  The March chart saw the single combined WoW on the list.  And here we are in April with East and West split out once again.

There is a temptation to ask SuperData to make up their mind.  But, as I have noted before, an analyst firm like SuperData requires the cooperation of the companies they study if they want access to raw data… data they can slice and dice and package to sell to investment managers and such.  That gives the company leverage, so I am going to say that if WoW is split into East and West, or combined into a single enter, it is because somebody at Activision-Blizzard wants it that way.  And I follow the changes just to see if they’ll tell me which way the wind is blowing.

Anyway, for this month League of Legends continues its reign at the top of the PC list, followed by three Chinese titles, then WoW West.  That seems to indicate either a boost in fortune for WoW outside of China, or a fall in the fortunes of World of Tanks, which dropped to sixth place.

Behind that is a new title on the list, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a $30 early access game on Steam that more than a million players pain in for and which might be bad news for H1Z1: King of the Kill as it seems to be targetting the same audience with a survival battle royal theme.

Then there is WoW East followed by Overwatch, which overtook its nemsis CS:GO after falling behind it the previous month.

Dropping off the list from last time is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands and Lineage.

On the mobile side of the house, Pokemon Go held on to 8th place again this month.

The notes for the month talk up Overwatch’s MAUs, which confirms to me that Activision-Blizzard is pushing their agenda.  A jump up the revenue list would have been more impressive.  Other notes from the post include:

  • U.S. digital slows down but still shows year-over-year growth. U.S. digital revenue is up from April 2016 but down from March 2017. Free-to-play MMO, console and mobile all had high-single-digit revenue growth, more than offsetting slight declines in social and premium PC revenue.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds tops this month’s premium PC digital revenue despite being in Early Access and breaks into the top 10 PC overall list with titans like League of Legends.  While still in Early Access, made an estimated $34 million in gross digital revenue in April.
  • March’s new releases, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, experienced sharp declines in digital revenue in April, possibly due to mediocre reviews.
  • Hearthstone mobile fully recovers from February, one of its worst months ever in terms of digital revenue, on the back of its latest expansion “Journey to Un’Goro”.
  • EA dominates the top console rankings. FIFA 17 and Battlefield 1 were the top grossing console titles in April. FIFA 17 digital revenue jumped double-digits y/y, a large portion of which came from Ultimate Team. Battlefield 1 was down slightly from March but still showed strong traction for the recent DLC “They Shall Not Pass”.
  • Grand Theft Auto V benefits from a new online update. GTA V digital revenue is up from last year. This was primarily driven by an uptick in GTA V Online micro-transaction revenue on the back of the “Tiny Racers” update, which was a unique throwback to retro, top-down, racing games.

Finally, in a post earlier this month, SuperData mentioned that  the Chinese giant Tencent Holdings, which counts Riot, developer of League of Legends, in its portfolio, might be looking to license Daybreak’s H1Z1: King of the Kill.  The quote from the May 2nd post:

Sources show that Tencent WeGame is surveying users’ intention if H1Z1 is to be moved to a “non-Steam platform,” leading to the discussion around whether the company has decided to publish H1Z1 on its newly rebranded WeGame platform. The game’s launch of a China-limited patch, altering police cars to cabs and blood to black fluid, are also considered signs of DayBreak prepping the game for officially entering China.

The source of the information is a web site in Chinese, so I’ll take their word for it since Google translate barely helped make the statement clearer.  The news, should it come to pass, could be a big bonus for Daybreak.

Agnarr Server Success and the Nostalrius Question

It looks like Daybreak did manage to get their new EverQuest nostalgia server, named Agnarr for a raid boss of old, up and running and open to the public around their 2pm Pacific time target.

While I was at work, I make this assumption after the fact because there was already a thread up in the EverQuest forums by 2:01pm complaining about overcrowding.

Agnarr the Stormlord approves… I think…

Reading the forums there was apparently over a 4 hour queue to log into the server, problems with user creation, problems with disconnects, problems with zones crashing under load, and a problem with some starter zones being denuded of MOBs by the rush of new characters.  And, just to pile on, Massively OP reports there is even a duping situation on the server, something that can destroy a server economy.

Just another day at Daybreak where “dey break games” in the grand SOE tradition, right?

And there is certainly an element of that in the situation as the crew down in San Diego carries on the SOE habit of being unprepared as events carry the day.  Laugh at them, they’re used to it by now.

But the element that pervades every nostalgia server opening is overwhelming popularity.  Before the Agnarr server launcher, the most popular EverQuest server was Phinigel, also a progression server, followed a ways back by Firiona Vie, the RP preferred live server.

After Agnarr launched, looking in last night and this morning, Angnarr and Phinigel both have full server status indicators and Firiona Vie is out in third place.

Nostalgia sells, these servers are popular, they offer something people want and, more importantly, something people are willing to pay for.  You have to have a Daybreak All Access subscription to play on these servers, so everybody sitting in the queue trying to get on is a paying customer.

This is all the more interesting when you recall that just over two years back SOE blessed Project 1999, the EverQuest classic server emulation project, which you can totally play on for free.

Conclusions one might draw:

  • Nostalgia is popular
  • People are willing to pay for it
  • People want an official server

All of which brings my mind back to another MMO that stopped talking about subscription numbers because they were tanking so bad a while back, World of Warcraft.

Things are better now, or were better with the WoW Legion expansion at least until the end of Q1.

And yet Blizzard wants nothing to do with this nostalgia stuff.  A development team that probably has a larger head count than all of Daybreak combined won’t even glance in the direction of a special server.  Last year Blizzard were keen to shut down Nostalrius, the rogue WoW classic server emulation project, but had not plan to offer anything of the sort on their own, claiming to be unable to even manage what a small group of outside amateurs did.

Initially unmoved by the ensuing drama, Blizzard did eventually agree to meet with the Nostlrius team, listened to them politely, took their user data and code, said a few bland words, mumbled something about maybe a special server of some sort at some future date, then threw the whole thing in the trash bin and went back to working on their master plan to make unlocking flying in the Broken Isles a horrible grind.

In a situation where the burning question for the WoW team ought to be, “Do we have a wheel barrow big enough to hold all the money classic servers would bring in?” the team has stuck to their trifecta of responses, claiming that it would be too hard, nobody wants it, and that the current game is better in any case.

The first is offset by money.  Doing that difficult task would earn money that would make it worthwhile.  And I know it won’t be easy, something you assign to the summer intern, even if that was pretty much the Nostalrius level of effort.  Blizzard has quality standards that they would not want to compromise.   But this isn’t the impossible task that some are making it out to be.  We are not living in some dystopian fantasy future where mankind has lost the ability to make a pre-2007 World of Warcraft server.  While I hate to that guy, since I have been on the recieving end of this quip several times in my career, but it is only software.  When you have coded something once, doing it again is much easier because you solved all the real problems the first time around.

Again, The WoW team is huge, beyond 300 members last I heard, and yet they cannot do what the tiny EverQuest team does and put up a nostalgia server… and get an expansion out every year?  Yes, the two courses are not parallel.  The Daybreak team is a lot more keen to take risks, that they fall on their face before us as often as they do is evidence of that.  And, of course, the EQ team didn’t destroy their original content when pressed for an expansion idea, a fact that does make WoW’s path to nostalgia more difficult.  But a game that is still bringing in more than half a billion dollars a year has the budget to get past that.

The second is just bullshit.  The popularity of the Nostalrius server, the popularity of the EverQuest nostalgia servers, and the willingness of EverQuest fans to pay to play when a free alternative exists argues heavily in favor of any official WoW server offering being off the hook popular.  WoW and EQ share a common bond in that they were, in their times, the first and formative MMO experience for a lot of players.  The key difference is that while EQ peaked at 550K players, WoW peaked beyond 12 million.  That means there is a huge patch of fertile ground on which Blizzard could farm nostalgia.

And the third… the third just seems like ego… ego or fear.  If the current WoW team did roll out some sort of nostalgia flavored server and it turned out to be as hugely popular as I suspect it would, it would be, in the parlance of the genre, a slap in the face.  Nothing hurts like being the new guy and people loudly and exuberantly extolling the virtues of the old guy.  There has to be a strong desire to avoid that sort of public comparison on the team.  It would be bad for them if WoW fans voted with their wallets heavily in favor of the old stuff.  Better to claim it can’t be done.

However, while I argue in favor of some sort of special WoW server, I doubt we shall ever see such a thing.  Even as Blizzard is exploring the idea of farming nostalgia… there was the unsatisfying attempt to recreated Diablo in Diablo III along with the coming remastered versions of StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III… the WoW team doesn’t seem at all enamored with any such move towards the past.

Still, the ongoing popularity of EverQuest nostalgia does seem to be getting around.  Over at Trion, a team with some old SOE members, there is some talk about special servers for Rift.  I am not at all keen on the challenge server idea, but Trion rolling up an original content server with some special achievements and such might get me to install their launcher again.  Original Rift… vanilla Rift… had some of the tightest, well put together zones I have ever played through.

Anyway, if you’re keen for nostalgia in Norrath, you’re in luck yet again.  If you’re seeking other worlds, your mileage may vary.

The Agnarr Server to Open Another Door to Norrath Nostalgia

Over on the EverQuest front a new progression server is slated to open up this evening.  The Agnarr server, named for the raid boss Agnarr the Stormlord will add a new facet to Daybreak’s nostalgia farming techniques.

Agnarr the Stormlord is judging you…

As I mentioned in my post about progression servers last week, Agnarr is perhaps not really covered by that name.  It will, in fact, progress, though it won’t go through any of that voting or content unlocking in order to do so.  The Agnarr server already has a fixed schedule:

  • May 24, 2017 – Agnarr server opens with original EverQuest content
  • August 16, 2017 – Ruins of Kunark expansion unlocked
  • November 8, 2017 – Scars of Velious expansion unlocked
  • January 31, 2018 – Shadows of Luclin expansion unlocked
  • April 25, 2018 – Planes of Power expansion unlocked
  • July 18, 2018 – Legacy of Ykesha expansion unlocked
  • October 10, 2018 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath unlocked

And once there, progression will stop, as laid out in the server FAQ.

This will give a very vocal segment of the EverQuest forum community something they have been asking for since progression servers started; a server locked in the past, that will sit at content released in September of 2003.  It is the classic server that has been demanded for so long.

While Daybreak is calling it a “PoP-locked” server, PoP being the Planes of Power expansion, one of the most ambitious (and bug plagued at the time) raiding expansions in the game, a watershed in the game’s history, and the last hurrah for open world contested raiding, two more expansions will follow on, Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath.

There is a certain irony here, or a certain symmetry if you want to look at it from a different angle, in stopping at LDoN.  That is where SOE introduced instanced group content to the game, a full year ahead of the launch of World of Warcraft.  Who copied whom here?

But the Agnarr server will include all of the features and details of the past servers.  It will be a “true box” server, so no multi-boxing will be allowed.  The server will be able to spawn multiple instances of zones to deal with any crowding issues.  And raids will be instanced.

from the FAQ:

Q: How Does Raid Instancing Work on Agnarr?

The system will allow a full raid (72 players) into an instance. You will need at least 6 players in your raid to request a raid instance, and the players in your raid need to be level 46 or higher.

When you request a raid instance, the player that requested it, and his or her entire raid, will be given an account-wide request lockout for that specific raid for 2.5 days.

Each “boss” in the zone will grant a 6.5 day account-wide lockout. For the most part, this is just the big boss (Lord Nagafen, for example) and the stuff in his/her/its immediate vicinity.

For launch, Plane of Sky is an exception to the above instancing rule. Each island will have a lockout. Kill any NPC on that island and everyone in your raid will receive a 6.5 day account-wide lockout for that island.

You will be able to raid in peace with your guild, fighting the boss when you can get your group together rather than having to worry about vying with other guilds.  Raid PvP won’t be a thing.  Even the nostalgia experience has to bend to the reality of player behavior.

The server is set to go today at 5pm 2pm Pacific time, which is UTC minus 7 currently.  Given past launches, I expect there to be some delays.  But maybe they have this progression server thing locked down by this point.  We shall see.

I am sure some people are excited.  I see Keen is hyped up for this server.

I am a bit indifferent.  I like the idea, but even with casual grouping generally a thing, going in alone without friends of a regular group doesn’t appeal to me.  Also, the initial time frame before the first expansion feels a bit short to me.  But the server won’t have moved too far along if I join later.

Anyway, the classic server idea, locked in time, that some have been clamoring for will soon be a thing.  Again, you can find the server FAQ here for the details.