Monthly Archives: December 2017

December in Review

The Site

Welcome to the 350th and likely last post here for 2017.  I mean, unless there is some dramatic news like Daybreak announcing EverQuest III, this is pretty much it for the year.

For this section I will drop in a bonus, end-of-year list just because I like lists.  In this case, the list is of the five most popular posts from the site in 2017 with a little commentary as to why I think they topped the list.

1From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun

This is just a strange aspect of Pokemon Sun & Moon… and UltraSun & UltraMoon… in that, unlike past versions of the game, there is no National Pokedex to unlock.  As the post notes, Nintendo wants you to track that through the Pokemon Bank app, which is good in that it keeps track across multiple games, but bad because you cannot actually access it to see what you’re missing without going into Pokemon Bank.  Basically, people Google to try and find the National Pokedex and end up ere.

2April Fools at Blizzard 2017 – Not Much to Talk About

Google was kind to me for some reason this year.  Unlike the other posts on the list, which were spread out over the course of the year, this one had 90% of its traffic over three days.

3Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!

This one pops up on Reddit every once in a while, but with the announcement of WoW Classic it suddenly started showing up a lot more frequently.  Nostalgia for the win.

4Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?

I have no idea why this one gets the constant drip, drip, drip of traffic, other than the oft broached idea that there is a market out there for a successor to the now classic Diku MUD translation to a 3D world.

5At the Camp in 68FT-6

I think this one just gets people coming for the LOL picture.

Bubble arrangement for the win

Anyway, that is one more bit of 2017 blog trivia here on the last day of the year.

One Year Ago

As happens every December, I reviewed my predictions for the year, assessed the highs and lows, and made some attempt at a gaming outlook for 2017.  For the last I was feeling somewhat adrift… which turned out to be right on the money for most of 2017!

At Daybreak we found out that Russel Shanks had been replaced as CEO.  Still not sure what changed with that, if anything.

A little later former Daybreak CEO John Smedley announced the end of Hero’s Song and PixelMage Games.

Meanwhile Turbine was losing Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online to a spin-off called Standing Stone GamesAsheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 were to be closed and Turbine was slated to become solely a maker of mobile games.  Standing Stone Games also had some deal with Daybreak, they were even mentioned in the EULA, so maybe that was what changed.

In New Eden we had Blog Banter #78 which asked the pwipe question about EVE Online.

Then there was the rumor that CCP might be up for sale for ONE BILLION DOLLARS!  I followed that up with my thoughts as to what would happen to EVE Online if certain companies bought CCP.  EA, for example, would end up shutting down the game and closing the studio, if history is any guide.

I also listed out what I felt were the top five problems with EVE Online, then added a bonus item, because EVE is like that.

There was also the traditional Yoiul gifts, if the launcher would let you into the game and the last update for YC118, which included music.

Then there was null sec, where I was celebrating my fifth anniversary.  Down in Delve we managed to lose 600 billion ISK on our own cyno beacon.

In space the war in Tribute was heating up.  Asher led us up there to shoot targets of opportunity in M-OEE8 as Pandemic Legion and friends contested the timer on CO2’s Keepstar.  That was also the second day that the PCU passed 50K since the Ascension expansion.  I went back north on my own to be there for the death of that Keepstar.  The heralded the exit of TEST and CO2 from the north.

That in turn led to the opening of a Winter war down south, a war that eventually fizzled when the participants decided nobody wanted to fight a Fozzie Sov war, so new boundaries were negotiated instead.

Reavers went out to help one side in a structure fight in Catch and went to join in on yet another Keepstar fight.  That one survived but another one got popped.

I was mucking around a bit in EverQuest II, trying to find my way in new content.

In Minecraft my mansion road project required the application of TNT to blast a road through a jungle.  Minecraft also had nice packages and Skronk made me a cobblestone generator for Christmas.

And no December would be complete without a Steam Winter Sale, and no such sale would be worth its name without issues!

I didn’t notice it at the time, but a German gaming site called Plarium put me on their list of the 8 best MMO blogs.  Of course they also put Tobold, who doesn’t actually write about MMOs anymore and Tipa of West Karana, who hasn’t been updating for a while now, and themselves, which seems like a bit of ego, but still it was cool to find.  Also, it was probably a year and a half ago, but I just found it recently so I’m going to pretend the date is in US format because then I can mention it here.

Finally I was going on about companies making MMOs… and the people playing them… feeling that every single title had to be all things to all people, leading to dissolute efforts and titles that do a lot of things but don’t really stand out in any particular aspect.  Just because YOU like housing doesn’t mean every MMORPG absolutely HAS to have housing dammit. (Sorry Syp.)

Five Years Ago

I wrote a post looking at 50 years of James Bond.  It included ranked lists for people to argue about.

There was my standard Highs & Lows post for the year gone by, and I reviewed my questions for 2012.

Turbine announced that they were bringing back Asheron’s Call 2.  That ended up going mostly wrong in the end.

I was deep into my World of Tanks binge.  I was up to the KV-2 on the Soviet heavy line, choosing that path after the three way split at the KV-1. (And the T-28.)  I was also still working on the German tank destroyer line.

We were having a bit of fun in Need for Speed: World.  I even made a holiday video.

In Rift we were having some trouble getting a full group together, so we were doing some lower level instances as a group of four.  I was also struggling with the whole dimension thing.

Gaff and I took a quick peek into EverQuest II.  Nostalgia didn’t last long.  I also took a one-time shot at Wizardy Online.  It just wasn’t a game for me, but not every game has to be.

I was looking back on a year in null sec in EVE Online.  The Retribution expansion went live.  Also I hit 90 million skill points.

I crammed together all the ads I could find from the EVE Online splash screen.  The then new launcher killed off those ads… sort of.  They’re just elsewhere now, but not so easy to screen shot.

Ten Years Ago

December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE.  First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha.  Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment.  And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan.  All of which I wrapped up in one post.

Another EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities, including grousing about keyboard settings.

I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” the whole “predicting Kunark” thing from the year before having gone to my head.  I was also looking at crafting after the Rise of Kunark expansion shipped.  I hit level 61 and then 62, but I wouldn’t get much further for a long time.  And I was looking at shrunken owlbears and trolling in Darklight Woods.

The Saturday Night Instance Group was in World of Warcraft and finishing up Blackrock Depths.  This was back in the days where you didn’t just run an instance in 15 minutes with some strangers then queue up again in dungeon Finder for the next one.  Our first run got us through the detention block, our second run got us to Lord Incendius, and our third run finally finished off the instance and got us on our way to Marshall Windsor and Lady Prestor.  That was basically four Saturday nights dealing with one instance.  Good times.

I was also happy about a feature of the WoW Armory.

Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.

was interviewed over at World IV.  That was back when I was somebody I guess.  At least somebody worth interviewing.

I was annoyed at Lord of the Rings Online, which was updating a lot of files and killing my video card, but still wasn’t giving me a horse.

lost my first battlecruiser to pirates in EVE Online.  Meanwhile, after pissing away a lot of ISK on invention, I was not getting a lot of results.

We also got the Trinity expansion, which had some issue… like deleting the boot.ini file on people’s drives.  #NeverForget

CCP was also telling people to get out of Jita, it already having grown to be the trade hub of New Eden.  A couple of jumps over in Hageken somebody built one of the first space designs I had seen.

I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.

X-Fire was still a thing and putting out stats about what their users were playing, including MMOs.  EVE Online figured on the list, as it did on the F13.net poll about MMOs.

There was a Duke Nukem Forever trailer, just six years after the last one.  The game still wouldn’t come out until 2011 and remains the yardstick for delay to which even Chris Roberts may still aspire.

And the best selling PC games of 2007 were:

  1. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
  2. The Sims 2: Seasons
  3. Command & Conquer 3
  4. The Sims 2: Bon Voyage
  5. Supreme Commander
  6. Lord of the Rings Online: The Shadows of Angmar
  7. The Orange Box
  8. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  9. BioShock
  10. The Sims 2: H&M Fashion Stuff

Twenty Years Ago

Quake II launched, which I recall being mildly controversial and leading to a Quake vs. Quake II division in the community.

The Pokemon anime episode Cyber Soldier Porygon aired, causing hundreds of kids to have seizures due to the rapidly flashing animation.

Also my wife let her recently laid off boyfriend… me… move in with her for reasons I still don’t quite understand.  Any objective outside observer who had ever seen my apartment would have called it a bad idea I am sure.  Also, I had a cat.  An unemployed man with a cat.  What was she thinking?

Forty Years Ago

The Atari 2600 was on store shelves everywhere and I got one for Christmas.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Elf
  5. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  6. Reviewing My 2017 MMO Outlook – What The Hell Happened?
  7. The Demise of BattleClinic
  8. Reviewing My 2017 Predictions
  9. Flying Unlocked in Legion
  10. A Tipping Point for My Time in New Eden
  11. Feature Creep – On The Cost of Making Video Games
  12. Yule Lads Tell Players to Work for Their Damn Yoiul Gifts

Search Terms of the Month

best heroic character everquest
[Aradune?]

eve online grinding sucks
[It you think you’re grinding, it probably sucks in any game]

rift cancel subscription
[I did that quite a while back]

does tetris speed up
[You have never played Tetris I would guess]

plex online
[That’s what some people call it]

daybreak legends what the hell is ap
[No idea man]

EVE Online

I was in for our northern deployment and managed to get on some fun ops.  We blew up some stuff… and got blown up ourselves.  Still, I have four kill marks on surviving ships from these ops and only lost three ships, so that means I win right?

On the Yoiul end of things I remained surprised that CCP was intent on making us work for our presents.  I suspected they would relent and give us something for logging in on the 25th, but no such luck.

Pokemon Go

This month saw the release of the third generation Pokemon into the wild after getting a tease at Halloween.  That meant new Pokemon to catch and evolve.  Also, for the first time ever, I saw a Lapras out in the wild… and then used the wrong berry on it and it fled after I threw the first Pokeball.  So I still do not have a Lapras.  But with the new generation there have been plenty of other Pokemon to catch.  The stats this month:

  • Level: 30 (+0)
  • Pokedex status: 239 (+29) caught, 274 (+37) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Slowbro
  • Current buddy: Slowpoke to earn candies to evolve him… true to his name, this is going slow

Steam

There was a sale.  I haven’t purchased anything… yet.  There is still time though.

World of Warcraft

I unlocked flying and started working on some alts and have been doing a lot of pet battles and collecting and such.  I even managed to get that fox kit in Northrend that only spawns when it is snowing.

Coming Up

A Brand new year.  Some crazy ass predictions are already queued up for tomorrow’s post.  Stay tuned to see what I think 2018 might bring.  And I did an MMO Outlook post as well.  Then we’ll get back to the usual routine.

In EVE Online CCP seems intent on killing off the current, reliable Agent Finder feature in favor of something that mostly works in The Agency window.  People have voiced concern in response to this, but CCP has not acknowledged any of it.  Press on regardless… who needs to find more than a dozen agents anyway?

Actually playing the game I suspect our northern deployment will carry on.  The locals are getting serious about us having dropped a Fortizar on grid with our staging station in NPC null.

In WoW the pet battle crusade will continue.  I think I have managed to scoop up just about all of the caught or easily obtained battle pets.  It is probably time to turn to the “raiding with leashes” achievements to get some more of the raid pet drops.  I’ll need to clear out my bags for that.

The Steam Winter Sale will wrap up soon.  As of this moment I have not purchased a single title, but I still have time.

Otherwise it looks to be more of the same, with Kickstarter projects delaying or failing to deliver, early access cash grabs falling apart, loot boxes for everything, and nothing new or exciting under the sun.

Daredevil Race

Ranger Gama drew Asher in the Theta Squad Secret Santa gift exchange, so his problem immediately became, “What do you get the 23rd best FC in the Imperium?”

He decided to get Asher a Reavers event since Theta just krabs in Delve day and night I suppose.

The event was to be a frigate race.  The route and frigate type were to be announced at the time of the race when Ranger Gama would hand them out.  He imported ten frigates, one for himself, one for Asher, and eight more for whoever showed up in time to claim one.

The planned time for the race was delayed on a couple of occasions, which worked out for me as I happened to sit down at my desk just after Asher pinged Reavers to let them know it was on.  I was in soon enough to claim one of the frigates, which turned out to be a Daredevil, a Serpentis faction frigate.

Me being me, I quickly logged an alt into Jita to buy a SKIN because I just can’t undock anymore without one.  The Glacial Drift SKIN was available and cheap, but then I saw some of the Serpentis Victory SKINs listed as well.  Those were given away as part of Alliance Tournament XV.  They were much more pricey, going for over 300 million ISK, but also more rare.  So I picked up one of those and contracted it to myself and activated it.

Daredevil in the hangar with a new SKIN

The race was originally going to be a point-to-point run, but Asher suggested something to make it more interesting… or dangerous… or both… so the instructions were updated in the fleet MOTD.

The route, with one five minute stop

Each of the ships had a name for the occasion.  I ended up with the ship named “In.”

We undocked our frigates and met up on a citadel in ROIR.  From there the race began.

The frigates themselves were setup for speed, capable of well over 5km/sec with the included faction MWD burning.  Otherwise, as you can see from one of the Daredevils that got caught, there was a bit of shielding and some festival launchers armed with fireworks to use along the way.

Festival Launchers on the ship

As we flew off Apple Pear showed up and was given a ship.  Only seven had been handed out so he started off a few gates behind us.  Given that the route was static and everybody was warping at the same speed he needed some hostile intervention to help his cause.

The rest of us warped along towards the first destination.

Daredevil in warp

This was where I started to have problems.  I was up with the leaders when one of our cats managed to get himself caught in the handle of a shopping bag which was hooked over the door across the hall from me and began to thrash wildly, seeming more likely to harm himself via that than anything the bag would do.  I dropped my headset, grabbed him, lifted him up to take off any strain, then calmed him for a bit before slipping his head out and letting him run off.  He was okay and I had my daughter dispose of the bag, but now I was behind the pack, though still out in front of Apple Pear.  At least I was still alive, having sat uncloaked on a gate for a bit.

Then I ran into another issue.  When we arrived in JU-OWQ in Deklein, my auto-pilot route sent me back the way we came to get to C4C-Z4.  I still do not understand why, as I checked later and did not see any systems anywhere close by on my avoid list.  So I passed by Apple Pear going the other way, made it through CCP-US, where he had reported a gate camp on both gates, and on towards Fade.

Fortunately there was nothing in the rules about the route, just the requirement to hit the specified waypoints, so that my route differed from the route everybody else took didn’t matter.

Some space maps with routes

Well, it did matter a bit.  My route was two jumps longer, but it turned out to be a bit safe as Asher and the rest of the pack ran into some trouble, with two Daredevils getting popped in K4YZ-Y.  I made it to C4C without incident, but was easily 3 minutes behind Asher, Ranger Gama, and Norgraad. I warped on grid with the Keepstar and started burning away from it and the few carriers that had fighters out to try and nab us.

On grid with the PH Keepstar

Asher and Ranger Gama seemed to do okay, but Norgraad managed to get popped by the locals, though gamely carried on in his pod.  They warped off, heading to the next waypoint while I lingered on grid watching the stopwatch on my iPhone slowly count off the minutes.  The leaders were reporting some people waiting for them ahead, but by the time I was able to warp off towards the next destination they seemed to have given up.  I left Apple Pear behind on the Keepstar grid and went in chase of the leaders.

While there was mutterings on coms about the dangers ahead, they were often vague, like the leaders did not want to help those chasing them catch up.  But it didn’t really matter.  The only hope I had of catching up was to warp straight from gate to gate and just hope to crash or burn past any gate camp.  So off I went.

Fortunately for myself an Apple Pear, the path through was pretty sparsely populated.  At least that was fortunate for us as far as staying alive went.  It also meant that there wasn’t much to slow down Asher or Ranger Gama or even Norgraad in his pod.  Norgraad’s slow warps mean I was able to pass him at least.  He got caught in Cloud Ring while I burned on.

The Cloud Ring nebula

The only real peril for me was at the Alsavoinon gate in F7C-H0.  There, on the boarder between null sec and low was the expected camp with a bubble setup.  I landed straight in it and the campers were slow enough to react to my arrival that I thought I might make it through to the gate unscathed.  However, burning in as fast as I did I hit the gate and bounced off it so far that I had to burn in again.  I took some damage, dropping to half shields, as I made my way back to the gate again, but got through and was on my way.

Low sec space posed no threat and it wasn’t until the path brought me back into null sec that I ran into some additional trouble.  There was a drag bubble in EWOK-K on the O-N8XZ gate that pulled me out of warp shy of the gate.

Burning to the gate again

However, no hostiles were minding the store and a lone TNT pilot was plinking away at the bubble to take it down.  I would have joined in to help… Asher and Ranger Gama were already over the finish line… but fireworks don’t do much.  After that it was just a few more empty gates and I was over the finish line myself.  There I burned over to Asher and Ranger Gama and joined in the shooting of fireworks.

Apple Pear showed up after a bit, followed by Elisha Okaski, who made it all the way from K4YZ-Y in his pod, earning him a special commendation.

For my third place finish I won a free ship of the line for whatever Asher’s next Reavers doctrine ends up being, mostly because Ranger Gama was the organizer so counted himself and Asher out of the contest.  Elisha Okaski will get a ship as well for persevering through most of the race in a pod.

I handed Ranger Gama back my ship so he could use them for some future event and thanked him for setting this up and, of course, declaring me one of the prize winners.  We’ll have to see what the next doctrine ends up being.

That was probably my last op of the year.  Below some screen shots of us shooting fireworks.  We had to turn the MWDs off as the ships were otherwise outrunning the launchers.

SuperData Shows PUBG Holding in PC Market

I have been waiting for SuperData Research to do their monthly chart blog post, but I guess they were serious when they said they were going to take the last two weeks of the year off.

So no post with supplementary data.  They did tweet the November 2017 chart before they went on their break, so I might as well put that up.

SuperData Research Top 10 – November 2017

On the PC side of the chart League of Legends remains glued in first place while PlayerUnknown’s Battleground held on to the second spot.  Not bad for a $30 game.  After reaching fourth place in October Destiny 2 dropped two spots, placing it just ahead of World of Warcraft which remained in seventh.  Call of Duty: WWII broke into the list at either, displacing World of Tanks, while Star Wars Battlefront 2, whose business model garnered so much attention last month, took the final position for November.  I expect those two EA titles will rise when we get the December chart.

On the console side of things Call of Duty: WWII topped the chart, displacing FIFA 18, while Star Wars Battlefront 2 grabbed third.   Meanwhile Fortnite: Battle Royale … I guess that whole co-op idea the started with is dead if they’ve put “battle royale” in the name now… made its way into eighth place.  It will be interesting to see if its rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, which hit XBox One this month, will top it on the next chart.

On the mobile side Candy Crush Saga remained on the chart, popping up from ninth to fifth place.  More interesting to me is NCsoft’s Lineage M and Lineage 2 Revolution on the chart.  As we saw on the last NCsoft financial statement, mobile is taking off for them.  It makes you wonder if they might want to dump that whole MMO genre now that mobile is bringing in more revenue than any of their PC titles.

Looking Back at 2017 – Highs and Lows

We are here again at the point of the year where I take a moment to look back at the state of things and wonder how we managed to get things as messed up as they appear to be.

This post follows the usual random stream of consciousness, “oh yeah, that happened” level of effort with no attempt to link out to anything.  I just spew out bullet points.  Past efforts, for comparison or whatever, are available:

So what happened in 2017 that stuck with me:

Blizzard

Highs

  • World of Warcraft team managed to keep delivering new content with the Legion expansion, which seems like it will stem the usual max exodus that comes with the regular second summer content drought.
  • Money money money money… WoW still brings in so much money it has avoided any real F2P lootbox taint so far.
  • New expansion, Battle for Azeroth, announced at BlizzCon.
  • Holy fuck, WoW Classic announced at BlizzCon!!1! one one !
  • Diablo III got the necromancer and that odd Diablo special event.
  • Overwatch is still go-go-go.
  • More Hearthstone card packs to sell.
  • StarCraft Remaster!
  • StarCraft II base game now free.
  • Heroes of the Storm got some sort of revamp… and then another one.

Lows

  • WoW subscription numbers are still top secret and their other metrics are BS; SuperData Research can seem more informative than Activision Blizzard quarterly reports.
  • We haven’t actually hit the second summer of Legion yet; things could still go badly.
  • The renewed Horde vs. Alliance aspect of Battle for Azeroth isn’t a universally inspiring as, say, the Lich King.
  • Blizzard is just now staffing up the WoW Classic team, so the ship date is probably still far away, like 2020.
  • League of Legends still makes more money than WoW and Riot doesn’t have to design huge zones or raids, they just have to sell some skins, boosts, and the occasional OP champion.
  • Diablo III is very much on the back burner now.
  • Still no Diablo II or Warcraft III remasters.
  • StarCraft II feels like it is also falling by the wayside; making it free and putting the remastered StarCraft on the Battle.net launcher feels like the successor never topped the original.
  • How long until Hearthstone card packs hit the level of absurdity?  I suppose if Magic: The Gathering is any indication, the answer is “never.”  But for me that point has already come and gone.
  • Did the Heroes of the Storm updates make any difference?  Is Heroes of the Storm even going to be a thing come BlizzCon 2018?
  • I hate to get all “what have you done for us lately,” but you got anything new planned Blizz?

Daybreak

Highs

  • Still holds a high enough spot in my heart to get its own category in this post despite my not playing any of their games right now.
  • Continued the Norrath development cycle another year, with EverQuest and EverQuest II each getting a new expansion.
  • Planes of Prophecy in EQII got some good reviews by the locals and continues the successful nostalgia plan at Daybreak, it being a call back to the monumental 2002 Planes of Power expansion in EQ.
  • Somebody must be buying the $140 versions of those expansions if they keep offering them.
  • Ongoing Norrathian nostalgia train as post EQ and EQII got new expansion locked progression servers.
  • DC Universe Online remains strong on consoles.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill was the king of battle royale games on Steam for a while.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill is going to China via Tencent, Riot’s parent company.
  • Just Survive is supposed to get some attention and updates.
  • Still a rumor of a new game coming from Daybreak, maybe even a Norrath game.

Lows

  • The EQII fan base remains restive, especially in the forums.  Daybreak inherited a lot of anger debt from SOE.
  • How many special servers can Daybreak roll out before they hit diminishing returns?
  • How many time can EQ go back to Kunark before that well dries up?
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground pretty much dwarfed H1Z1 – King of the Kill on Steam… and then so did Fortnite.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill renamed back to just H1Z1 because the word “kill” kills sales, or so they say.
  • In China H1Z1 will apparently be King of Survival. Bite the wax tadpole!
  • Just Survive seemed aptly named given how long it was neglected.  But at least it did survive.
  • Landmark, gone in a blink, a lesson in early access.  There is nothing special about “going live” when you’ve been charging people to play all along.
  • Rumors don’t pay the bills and any new game will likely go straight on to Steam as unfinished “early access” and suffer the same fate.

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Free from WB and their bottom line expectations, they are focused on their two titles.
  • Continuing to develop and improve both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Launched the Mordor expansion so, after a decade, the end of the War of the Rings is in sight.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online got some updates as well.

Lows

  • Company is clearly tied to milking the final acts of both DDO and LOTRO; they will never create a new title.
  • Since they didn’t get Asheron’s Call, that went away.
  • Still not really sure who owns them; WB doesn’t just give assets away.
  • Still not clear on relationship with Daybreak and who is benefiting from it.
  • Not sure the avatar graphical update was worth the investment; every gripe I had about the old avatars still exist.
  • From Frodo leaving Bag End to the destruction of the ring took about six months in the books (September 23, 3018 TA to March 25, 3019 TA).
  • The end of the War of the Rings means the end of the game, unless we’re going to get a quest to go with Sam to the Grey Havens and then help him run for mayor.
  • The Mordor expansion… just not that appealing… and the expensive versions of the expansion seemed even more over-priced for what one got than even Daybreak’s offerings.

CCP

Highs

  • Consistent updates and big feature expansions are still a thing for EVE Online.
  • A renewed focus on EVE Online late in the year.
  • Promise of a 64-bit client, which should reduce client crashes in big fleet fights… at least crashes from exceeding the 32-bit limit on memory allocation.
  • Can still get headlines out of player conflicts in null sec.
  • Andrew Groen has a podcast going into more detail about null sec history.
  • A lot of community outreach by CCP, with players streaming on their Twitch channel and such.
  • An expansion of Alpha Clone abilities.
  • The company seemed to be a leader in VR titles with Valkyrie, Gunjack, and the new Sparc.
  • Valkyrie now available for non-VR players with the Warzone expansion
  • Project Nova and Project Aurora are going forward with partnered studios doing much of the heavy lifting.
  • /r/eve on Reddit… not as toxic as it once was.

Lows

  • Literally dammed if they focus on EVE Online and dammed if they do not.
  • The cost of focus on EVE Online was layoffs.
  • Somehow, laying off most of the EVE Online community team was “focusing” on EVE Online.
  • This year saw the least number of Dev Blogs published in the history of the game, and at this point they get a dozen gimmes in the form of the Monthly Economic Report.
  • EVE Online remains the only viable post-Hættuspil game for the company.
  • EVE Online also remains firmly in the post “Jesus Feature” era; not much being added to the game that would bring back old players.  Updates in 2018 were mostly iterative.
  • The captain’s quarters are gone.  Some part of me did want that to work out, but CCP just doesn’t have the breadth to do that and keep internet spaceships viable at the same time.
  • Music with updates seems to be a thing of the past, which is sad because EVE Online music is something I actually listen to regularly.
  • Null sec headlines this summer quickly turned to bad player behavior thanks to GigX making real world threats, thus reaffirming that New Eden is a horrible place for horrible people.
  • Apparently nothing outside of null sec and the occasional scam makes for a headline or a story worth telling.
  • Andrew Groen gave up focusing on EVE Online after only a few episodes.
  • The whole Alpha Clone thing opened the door for creeping microtransactions and the eventual shit-death of the universe.
  • Some of our community remains shit.
  • While VR is growing as a segment, it is still very small.
  • Making Valkyrie available without VR doesn’t inspire confidence in the VR market
  • Valkyrie with VR was visually interesting, taking that away makes it feel flat.
  • Need to been an octopus to play Valkyrie well with keyboard an mouse; really requires a game pad… by which I mean an XBox 360 controller specifically, unless you want to configure everything by trial and error.
  • And speaking of things that do not inspire confidence in VR, I hope you really like Gunjack, Sparc, and EVE: Valkyrie exactly the way they are now, because development for the products has been shelved and most of the staff laid off.
  • What are the odds that an EVE Online based shooter or mobile app will be a success no matter who is doing the coding?
  • Ha, ha, ha… I just remembered when they were talking about an EVE Online TV show.
  • /r/eve on Reddit being better than before is a very low bar and hardly worth bragging about.

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch is selling well.  It will pass total Wii U sales numbers soon.
  • Video games on the Switch sell well even with reduced visual fidelity
  • Seemed to figure out its NES Classic issue so SNES Classics are much easier to come by
  • Might actually re-release the NES Classic next year.
  • New Pokemon games in the form of Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.
  • Old Pokemon games in the form of Pokemon Gold & Silver… and Pokemon Crystal soon.
  • Yet more Metroid of some sort.
  • More mobile apps.  Lots of people downloaded Super Mario Jump!

Lows

  • For all its success, I cannot see a reason to buy a Switch.  And it isn’t anything like Wii level popularity.
  • End of the Wii Store is coming… well, in 2019, but still… alright, I was surprised it was still even open.
  • Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon were not a big change over Pokemon Sun & Moon.
  • No Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remake… yet.
  • After Pokemon Go other Nintendo mobile apps have failed to see anything close to that level of popularity or financial success.

Other Games

Highs

  • Unified Minecraft clients so you can share servers with your friend on different platforms
  • Fortnite shows up as an sharp looking co-op survival game.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground takes the Battle Royale idea and runs with it to massive success, leaving H1Z1: King of the Kill in the dust.
  • Star Citizen hasn’t imploded yet and even seems to have made some progress.
  • Word of an Age of Empires remaster to go with my Age of Kings remaster.
  • Steam, still a purveyor of the occasional rare gems, always a sale of some sort just around the corner.
  • Rimworld ate up a lot of my gaming hours over the summer
  • I played a lot of MMOs over the course of 2017.
  • Lots of MMOs still out there surviving many years in.
  • Toril MUD is coming up on 25 years of operation in one form or another!
  • EA going too far with Star Wars Battlefront II microtransactions brought a lot of attention to what is going on with that sort of thing.

Lows

  • Original Minecraft, now called the “Java edition,” was not part of the unification plan.
  • PUBG devs got really pissy when Fortnite decided that it too would become a battle royale game.
  • Have you tried to decipher Fortnite’s purchasing options?  I went to their site and gave up after looking at that.  Also, if you bought in for co-op survival, sorry, battle royale is now the thing.
  • Star Citizen is still a lot a vision and very little reality as fan boys celebrate getting access to an Alpha version only a few months late while a real viable game isn’t even a speck on the horizon yet.
  • Speaking of Star Citizen, giving everybody access to the public test server doesn’t count towards “shippping” the long promised Alpha 3.0 release.  That just says it isn’t ready yet.
  • Eventually we will hit remaster saturation… or start having to remaster the remasters as tech progresses.
  • Steam is still clogged with a huge mass of absolute shit that makes finding gems a near impossible chore.
  • I’m glad I bought No Man’s Sky on sale, as it really didn’t grab me at all. Slowest load times ever.
  • I played several MMOs for less than a month each this year before landing back in WoW, so same as it ever was.
  • I went on a zone (raid) with a group in TorilMUD and my ability to parse scrolling text is not what it used to be.  I was totally lost.
  • Server merges for games like Runes of Magic and SWTOR show the decline.
  • Club Penguin thrown over by Disney for a mobile app.  After “land war in Asia” one of the classic blunders is to force your installed base to change platforms and re-start from scratch.
  • Marvel Heroes suffered a sudden, if not totally unexpected demise, leading to questions about refunds for people who recently made in-game purchases.
  • Are there any Funcom MMOs that are not in maintenance mode?
  • Civilization VI just didn’t inspire me, but at least I bought it on sale.
  • EA managed to go so far on the microtransaction greed front as to attract the attention of various governmental organizations.  That could end very badly for all of us.  Way to shit the bed for everybody there EA!
  • Trion, apparently missing the whole EA fiasco, decided to sell a $100 lockbox in Rift with a random “premium” mount, some of which are available in-game for much much less.  Then attempted to deflect criticism via derision and sarcasm.  At least they saw the light after a few hours of being pounded.
  • Games I backed on Kickstarter continue to fail to ship, with Mineserver leading the way in the ratio of promise to actual delivery date failure metric.
  • Early access, Kickstarter campaigns, and beta have all become pretty much synonymous with getting the money up front and delivering shit as the industry does its usual gyration where somebody succeeds on good faith and then others take the most superficial lessons from that and pile on simply looking to make money before delivering.
  • Fewer high quality video games showing up as the expense to make them continues to rise while older games hang on through DLC and other monetization plans.  How long ago did GTA V ship?
  • As I write this I cannot think of a new video game title to which I am looking forward to seeing launch.

Media

Highs

  • Blade Runner 2049 really looked, sounded, and “felt” excellent.
  • Dunkirk was beautiful and engaging to watch.
  • Lots of blockbuster superhero movies, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi for pete’s sake!
  • Fantasy Movie League has been fun.
  • Finally watched Breaking Bad.
  • Stranger Things 2 gave fans of the first series something new to binge on and was strong enough that a third season has been green lit.
  • Comcast put Netflix and YouTube apps in their cable box so I can now easily switch to either service and watch them on the TV.
  • Amazon Prime video remains worthwhile.
  • The beloved celebrity death train that was 2016 seemed to have subsided somewhat.

Lows

  • Box office confirmation that Blade Runner was a cult classic and not a mainstream success in any way.
  • I saw Dunkirk in IMax and it was so loud I think it damaged my hearing.  Also, I refuse to believe in Spitfires that can glide forever.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me feeling dissatisfied.  We’ve also hit a point in the franchise where you can neither like or dislike a film, or any aspect of the film, without somebody declaring your opinion flat out wrong because you’re either too big of a nerd or not big enough or a nerd.  That’s not how this works.
  • I am not very much into the superhero things really.  Can we get some better science fictions movies… that aren’t necessarily Star Wars of Star Trek?
  • Fantasy Movie League can seem really random in results unless you are REALLY into keeping up on details and projections.  I fail at that more often that I succeed.  My ability to care is limited and sometimes I just want to roll the dice.
  • Cannot get my wife to buy into watching The Walking Dead.
  • Stranger Things 2 lacked the punch, got off track, and was a lot more interested in itself than the first series.
  • If I couldn’t figure out where Stranger Things 2 was going to go, where in the hell will Stranger Things 3 end up?  How much can Hawkins take?
  • You don’t want to see my Comcast bill.  And I have to have them because there are literally no other choices in my area.
  • And in this era where I am paying so much to Comcast, HBO, Netflix, and Amazon for streaming, the best and most cost effective way to see a new release at home is still getting disks in the mail via the old Netflix delivery service.  All hail the postal service I guess.
  • It is a good thing the video has value because Amazon Prime shipping… let’s just say I wouldn’t order anything breakable from Amazon these days.
  • I watched YouTube’s 2017 Rewind video and… boy do I feel old.  I got fidget spinners, the eclipse, and maybe that planking is dead?
  • I might be willing to sacrifice a few more celebrities if it would keep the president from provoking North Korea on Twitter.  Maybe we can get some deal on all the ones suddenly accused of sexual misconduct?

The Blog, internet, and other things

Highs

  • The blog, it still lives!
  • I managed to just about keep up the pace, posting more than 300 times.
  • People still show up here, read posts, and occasionally leave comments.
  • I still actually enjoy writing.
  • There is still a pretty active MMO blogging community out there.
  • There is even something of an MMO press still.
  • Net neutrality was good while it lasted.

Lows

  • More blogs I have known have fallen by the wayside or disappeared.
  • Reddit, Twitter, and Twitch are a far more common outlet for gamers than blogs and podcasts these days.
  • The alleged MMO press can’t really stick to MMOs most days without stretching the definition to mean simply “online multiplayer.”
  • Massively OP continues to demonstrate that they have some sort of institutional axe to grind when it comes to EVE Online and Daybreak.
  • My rate of posting, while still beyond my “every weekday” goal, continues to slacken.
  • People showing up and leaving comments is, likewise, falling off.
  • Do I really play anything besides EVE Online and WoW?  So what will I write about?
  • My typos are starting to become more common and more egregious… it now compares with Apple’s auto-correct in absurdity some days… to the point that I am starting to wonder if I have some sort of neurological disease.   Stapling machine.
  • I am starting to enjoy what I have written more than what I am writing, so that the looking back section of the month in review posts have started to expand considerably.  Blog founded largely on nostalgia likes nostalgia!
  • WordPress.com is getting more aggressive in monetizing free blogs, injecting more ads and pushing their subscription plans constantly.
  • For all of WP.com’s ballyhoo’d features I still have to keep a Rube Goldberg-esque series of technologies in harmony to have a dynamic blog roll in my side bar.
  • Patreon managed to screw a lot of small content creators by announcing (then withdrawing) a horrible cash grab that was badly disguised as an improvement.

Well, that is all I had from 2017 stuck in my brain.  The time left in the year is easily measured in hours at this point.  On to a new year.

Was anybody else looking back at the old year?

2017 MMO Blogging Champs

Things change, people change, hairstyles change, interest rates fluctuate.
-Hillary Flammond, Top Secret!

It isn’t 2008 any more. Hell, it is going to be 2018 in just days, at which point I will have to retire this image my daughter made for me.  So I might as well use it again!

The strict MMORPG market has peaked and the lines between what we call MMOs and what would have been, in the past, mere multi-player games has blurred. I’m pretty sure that the original Diablo, a co-op game with a lobby from 1996, could be spun as an MMO in today’s market.

Meanwhile blogs have long since ceased to be the trend on the internet, with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Reddit splitting out those who might have blogged in the past from those of us more dedicated to the solo, long form existence. Sitting down to write a new post on a regular basis is a different experience than the interplay on Twitter or the caustic comment culture of Reddit.

And yet some of us remain, bloggers who focus on the MMORPG niche who write something on a regular basis.

My Feedly account is littered with the titles of MMO blogs long gone dormant. But the tradition remains and I see posts daily from blogs. Some stray from the core topic… but that was ever the case even back in the heyday… and, as noted above, with the lines blurred one can argue as to what is and is not an MMO. Raph Koster says that Pokemon Go is an MMO. Are you going to believe him or Tobold?

Anyway, in these times I thought I would call out a dozen MMO Blogs who bring it on a regular basis.

  1. Aywren Sojourner
  2. Endgame Viable
  3. Going Commando
  4. Growing up in Azeroth
  5. Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah
  6. Inventory Full
  7. MMO Fallout
  8. Nomadic Gamers
  9. Tales of the Aggronaut
  10. The Nosy Gamer

Which isn’t to say that those are all that remain in our little corner of the internet.  Ten is an arbitrary number, small enough to make the list easy enough to fill.  There are still others out there, some on par with any on that list.  Yes, there are others who don’t bring the content as often or who have branched out regularly beyond just MMORPGs, but are still part of our little community in spirit if not in every day practice.  So if you’re thinking MMO blogs have disappeared or died off, you can sort through this list as well.

Blogging about MMOs is not yet dead.

Winter Movie League – Darkest Jumanji

The big four day Christmas weekend has come and gone for the winter season of our Fantasy Movie League.

The question of the week was really whether or not Star Wars: The Last Jedi would prevail as the best anchor choice or if one of the week’s new arrivals would take that spot. The options for the week were:

Star Wars                  $815
Jumanji                    $275
Pitch Perfect 3            $251
The Greatest Showman       $110
Downsizing                 $72
Ferdinand                   $67
Father Figures             $54
Coco                       $51
All the Money in the World $31
Wonder                     $28
Justice League             $17
Daddy's Home 2             $20
The Shape of Water         $23
Darkest Hour               $16
Best of the Rest           $15

It was a given that Star Wars would rule the four day box office, but pricing would allow players to pick but a single screen of that.  The other likely anchors, Jumanji and Pitch Perfect 3, were both good for three screens.  Would three screens of either beat out one screen of Star Wars?

I went back and forth on that through the week.  Star Wars seemed like the safe play.  Pitch Perfect 3 was capping out the marketing side of the equation by a fair margin.  And then Jumanji, which opened early in the week, seemed to be coming on strong.  As the deadline for picks closed in I opted for safety and went with Star Wars as my anchor.

Meanwhile it was clear by Thursday that the pricing for Darkest Hour was really low and it seemed likely to be the price/performer of the week, so my initial inclination to pick Best of the Rest fell by the wayside.  There was still a fair amount of budget left behind so I put a screen of Downsizing in the mix since that seemed likely to do better than Darkest Hour, even with the bonus.  So my screens looked like this.

My Winter Week Four Picks

I settled on that with about 20 minute left before picks were locked.  And then it was time to see what the weekend would bring.

Saturday looked good, with Star Wars estimates marking it as the winning anchor.  However, I do not call it the “Saturday of false hope” for nothing.  Reality has often changed radically between the Saturday morning estimates and the final score.

Sure enough, come Sunday the balance had tipped in favor of Jumanji.  Star Wars was still strong, but not strong enough, and Pitch Perfect 3 faded and did not come close to being a viable anchor in the end.

The perfect pick for the week ended up being three screens of Jumanji, one screen of Greatest Showman, and four screens of Darkest Hour, a select worth about $191 $215 million.

Winter Week Four Perfect Pick

Nobody in the Meta League picked that.  Most of us anchored on Star Wars, so the four who anchored on Jumanji led the way.  The scores settled out like this:

  1. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M)$186,810,116
  2. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M)$186,810,116
  3. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T)$186,736,142
  4. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T)$171,511,156
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $154,230,311
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $154,230,311
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $151,781,915
  8. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $146,964,536
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $146,964,536
  10. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $120,913,670
  11. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $120,612,642
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $120,243,581
  13. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $119,841,779
  14. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $118,023,711
  15. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $117,892,261
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $117,668,287
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $116,225,055
  18. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $113,081,211
  19. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $110,925,055
  20. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $109,357,237

Meta League Legend

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Aure got the win for the MCats league while Pak got is for the TAGN league.

Those numbers are not “official” because the Jumanji numbers are still estimates at this point.  Hollywood is mostly off this week, so some numbers take time.  But I can’t wait any longer so that is what I am reporting for now.  I doubt anybody will change in the lineup once the final numbers are in unless Jumanji is way over-estimated.

UPDATE: The final numbers for Jumanji are in and it did even better than estimated.  The ranking above reflects the final numbers.

We also have one new person in the TAGN league as of week 4, making the Meta League a total of 20 in size.

The stratification was those who went with Jumanji at the top, followed by those who went for Star Wars and Darkest hour, in turn followed by those who went with Star Wars and something besides Darkest Hour.  Nobody went with Pitch Perfect 3.

That left the overall Meta League rankings at the end of week four looking like:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M)$433,712,727
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $418,221,987
  3. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M)$408,162,978
  4. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T)$401,732,215
  5. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T)$401,348,433
  6. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $386,208,484
  7. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $383,010,343
  8. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $381,349,688
  9. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $380,133,410
  10. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $355,895,828
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $351,494,606
  12. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $344,267,851
  13. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $341,678,005
  14. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $338,997,819
  15. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $338,357,463
  16. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $331,395,978
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $325,810,538
  18. Movies Movies Movies (T) – $324,614,661
  19. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $315,947,954
  20. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $120,612,642

The Jumanji gap and the bonus from Darkest Hour was enough to shake up the rankings a bit.  It wasn’t enough to shake Corr from the top of the tree however.

UPDATE: Jumanji final numbers shook up the overall ranking putting Ben out front.  The ranking above has been updated.

And now we are off to week five.  Star Wars still looks like a strong anchor while Jumanji looks to be getting punished a bit for exceeding expectations so much in week four.  Likewise for Darkest Hour.  The options for week five are:

Star Wars                  $610
Jumanji                    $588
Pitch Perfect 3            $242
The Greatest Showman       $143
Ferdinand                  $131
Coco                       $110
Darkest Hour               $93
The Shape of Water         $73
Downsizing                 $64
Father Figures             $48
All the Money in the World $40
Wonder                     $32
Molly's Game               $21
Best of the Rest           $21
Lady Bird                  $20

Justice League and Daddy’s Home 2 both fell off the list this week, the latter meaning SynCaine will have to find something else to pick to fill out his screens.  They were replaced by Molly’s Game and Lady Bird, which returns to the list at an odd $20 price, below the Best of the Rest pick. I’m not sure how that works out, but there it is.

The conservative streak in me at this point says Star Wars all the way as an anchor, but I know my mind has been changed on picks as late as Friday morning.  Still, the weekend estimate seems low.  My own informal polling over the holiday weekend ended up with most people I spoke to having not seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet but were planning to see it.  However this is also a dead week, so there was opportunity to see if before the weekend.  We shall see.

Reviewing My 2017 Predictions

As the end of the year looms, the arbitrary line in time where we declare things to renew, it is time once again for one of the default end of year posts in which I seem to enjoy indulging.  So here is the 2017 version of prediction reviews.

For past versions of this, both predictions and results, you can consult these links:

Way back during the waning hours of 2016 I scrambled to put together what seemed at the time to be sage and well considered thoughts as to what 2017 might bring.  I let those ideas loose and have now returned to the scene of the crime to see how they did out there in the harsh light of reality.

So what the hell did I think was going to happen in 2017?  And what was I on when I was thinking these things?

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

Well, no.  At BlizzCon they announced the Battle for Azeroth expansion with a cinematic and everything.  So there we are, the continue to conform to the “about every other year” pattern they had previously established.  0 points.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

Well, no.  No sequel has been announced in any form, China-only or otherwise.  Duncan Jones has been talking to people who ask and telling them what he would LIKE to do, but that is just so much chin music.  CCP has been talking about an EVE Online TV show as well and that doesn’t seem likely at this point either.  0 points.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

Well, sort of.  Blizzard came out of the gate in 2017 with that as a stated intent.  Then they made some small changes in the very conservative way Blizz can be at times, and more changes were mentioned at BlizzCon for 2018, which went live already, but there hasn’t been anything I would call radical and the game remains the also-ran in the MOBA category.  Still, better an also-ran than being shut down altogether.  4 points because some changes were made!  Twice!

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

Well, no.  I mean, I guess there might have been.  But hell, Wikipedia still says that Russell Shanks is CEO, and we’re pretty sure he was replaced by Ji Ham in October of 2016, so it doesn’t seem like anybody is paying that close attention to the whole thing.  Anyway, as far as I can tell there has been no change.  0 points.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

Well, no.  Daybreak still has a lot of positions open and there have been a few rumors very much on the down low, but publicly we’ve heard diddly divided by squat.  0 points.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

Half right.  Landmark went down like an overused sexual metaphor back in February.  But the game now known as Just Survive has lived up to its name, surviving another year.  There is even talk of work done on it.  We shall see.  5 points.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuestEverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

Well, no.  No more new currencies and things have been awfully quiet on the current Daybreak Cash front.  0 points.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

Well, no.  No new currencies and no new cards.  I was really kind of fixated on this a year back, wasn’t I?  0 points.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

Well, no.  Fixated is the word.  0 points.

10 – And Access for All – LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

Well, no.  I also wanted to make something out of this SSG/Daybreak partnership, probably so it would make sense.  Daybreak is there in the LOTRO EULA and all.  0 points.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

Well, no.  What happened to you NCsoft?   You used to be so reliably hard hearted.  The way you’re acting now its like your distracted by something else… like mobile games maybe?  Anyway, 0 points.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

Well, no.  Cloud Imperium doesn’t have anything far enough along to sell to the general public, so it continues on with its “milk the invested” strategy, now featuring claims for virtual real estate.  It’s almost enough for some sort of P.T. Barnum award at this point.  0 points.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

Sort of.  Hello Games has been quietly grinding out updates and there are new play modes and some work done towards what they call ” synchronous co-op” and what you and I would actually call “playing with other people,” but it is still a lonely universe.  Nobody of note has bothered to re-review it, but it does get a bit of nice press now and again.  5 points.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

Well, no.  We got moon busting instead.  Maybe, some day.  0 points.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

Maybe.  Note to self: When you make predictions like this you need to specify in the post exactly how the measurement will be done.  Maybe I had a plan a year back, but I forget.

Anyway, going to EVE Offline and looking at the twelve months before the Ascension expansion, the PCU average was ~32K.  The average PCU for 2017, the time span for the prediction, looks to be 35K.  That seems to just fit into the 3-5K range I predicted.  I’m going to give myself 10 points and move on quickly before anybody has time to contradict me.  Sorry, too late, I can’t hear you, la la la la la la la…

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

Well, no.  It hit the shelves in March and despite rumors there has been been no official sign that the core Pokemon RPG franchise will ever appear on anything but the dedicated handheld Nintendo hardware, currently represented by the Nintendo 3DS and its offspring.  0 points.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

Yes… mostly.  We got Pokemon Gold & Silver… and Pokemon Crystal was finally announced, but we won’t get it until next month.  I’m giving myself 9 points.

18 – Forsaken Avatar – Shroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

Well, no.  Not really.  I mean, they are pushing the game hard in every weekly update, but they haven’t convinced me it is ready for prime time.  0 points.

19 – Not Shipping – Camelot UnchainedCrowfallPantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

Okay, I had to get something right, even if it was something of a gimme.  I need more predictions like this.  10 points.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Mostly right.  The core was a new expansion, which was announced and shipped.  Heart of Thorns did not go free. though there was a slight discount to buy both expansions at one point.  Still, I think the expansion was the thing.  7 points.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

Hahaha… no.  That I had an expectation of action from Daybreak on that one that was clearly unrealistic.  Nothing new under the sun at Daybreak.

So now it is time to add up the score and… holy crap, I believe I have hit an all time low score for predictions.  That is 50 points out of a possible 200, or a 25% success rate.  I clearly need to invest in a new crystal ball!

Either than, or just admit that my predictions are mostly speculations just to give me something to write about in a market where I don’t really care very much for anything new.  Sometimes crazy predictions are enough to make things interesting.

Anyway, with that new low I have to start thinking about 2018.  What will the new year bring?

Note to self: Remember to put in more easy ones next year.

Steam Winter Sale 2017

The Steam Winter Sale is upon us again.  Having kicked off yesterday, it will run through to January 4, 2018.

Holiday Sales are Here Again

I was aware that it was here largely because I got the Paradox winter newsletter in email announcing sale prices, and they pretty consistently put stuff on sale through their direct store to match the prices on Steam.

As with last year you can vote on the Steam Awards, go through your suggestion queues to earn trading cards, and find lots of games on sale.

Naturally, I have my own gripes, though they are mostly about me.

The big sale is here and I am not really looking for a new game.  Last year I actually picked up a few titles and, more surprisingly, I actually played them.  Imagine that!  At some point I decided that there will always be another sale so there is no rush to collect games in my library that I might play some day.

Plus I am in something of a happy spot with gaming right now.  I am in the late expansion groove with WoW Legion, with a little something to do every day plus pet battles and alts to play with when I’ve done a few tasks with my main.

Likewise, in EVE Online there are a few ops a week to go on and not much logistical support needed to keep that up.

So I look at my Steam wishlist and am not burning to buy anything there.  Most of the titles on the list have been there for a year or longer at this point.  What are the odds I am suddenly going to buy GTA V this time around?

And there isn’t anything new out there that has my interest.  I mean, there are plenty of new games on Steam, but the barrier to entry is so low these days that you have to assume everything is crap until proven otherwise.  I suppose everybody is up about PlayerUnknown’s Battleground.  I am mildly interested in that… though it isn’t on sale so I can buy that any time.. but the voice in the back of my head wants to know if I really need another shooter to be bad at.  I bought Doom during a mid-year sale and, while it was an awesome, visceral experience, my badness kept it from being all it could be.

I guess I can always look at my daughter’s Steam wishlist to see if there is anything she wants.

Is there anything new in the Steaming pile I should be keeping an eye on?

Picking My Favorite WoW Expansion by Reputation

There is always a desire to rate and rank things, to quantify things down to a simple calculation.  Sure, you wrote a nice 2,500 review of that game, but how many stars did you give it?  What is the Meta Critic score.

And I am not immune to such things.  I can ramble on for hundreds of words about something, how I feel about it, what I liked and what bothered me, but sometimes I’d like a nice objective measure of my real reaction.

Which brings us to World of Warcraft expansions.  I had this idea rolling around in my head and then Syp moved me to action by essentially praising what I found to be one of the worst aspects of the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.

Looking out from the Portal

I find expansions problematic in general.  They must change the game and, in doing so, alienate some segment of the game’s population.  They seek to extend the support of the fan base yet risk driving it away because every horrible feature, no matter how seemingly universally reviled, is somebody’s favorite.  So when an expansion makes something better it inevitably wrecks the game for somebody.

I’ve long said, only semi-sarcastically, that EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark was the only “good” expansion, mostly because it expanded Norrath without changing it too much.

And yet I am always at least somewhat enthusiastic for expansions, so I am even at war with myself over the idea.

Anyway, my gut ranking of WoW expansions has generally been:

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Mists of Pandaria
  4. Warlords of Draenor
  5. Cataclysm

Vanilla can’t really be ranked in that list, it is more of a baseline, and WoW Legion is still active and I am still playing it, so the jury remains out.

But I do wonder how much of an effect distance in time has on that ranking.  If it wasn’t for a peeve of mine about quests in TBC it might actually contend for first spot.  I mean, I loved the dungeons, there were plenty of them and, at the time, that was more important than a lot of other things.

So I started fishing around for a way to quantify my activities in each expansion.  Ideally I would be able to extract something like total play time or number of quests or number of dailies or number of dungeons run while each was the current live expansion.

I stopped for a bit at measuring the number of characters who hit the level cap during the expansion, that being at least theoretically being a measure of how much I enjoyed playing in an expansion, but discarded it when the list turned out like this:

  1. Warlords of Draenor – 7
  2. Mists of Pandaria- 3
  3. Cataclysm – 3
  4. Wrath of the Lich King – 2
  5. The Burning Crusade – 2

Hanging with Khadgar and Thrall in Draenor

This is more a measure of how easy it was to level up rather than an indicator of enjoyment.  Plus, WoD started the trend of giving players a level boost and ended on the pre-launch event for WoW Legion where I managed to get two character to max level.

So I fished around some more and settled upon factions.  More specifically, how may factions from a given expansion did I end up getting to exalted status?  It is a decent measure of how long I stuck with a given expansion and it is something I tend to do with a single character.

So I went over to the WoW Armory and looked at Vikund’s standings, took the total number of “main” factions and the number I managed to get to exalted and ranked the expansions based on the percentage, which looked like this:

  1. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  2. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 73%
  3. The Burning Crusade – 6 of 13 or 46%
  4. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  5. Cataclysm – 1 of 4 or 25%

Jumping into Pandaria

Of course, there are problems with that measurement.  To start with, not all expansions have the same, or even comparable, numbers of factions.  And there there is the question as to which factions should really count?  I put “main” in apologetic quotes above for a reason.  I somewhat arbitrarily decided individuals in Mists of Pandaria should not count, nor should the Sholazar Basin factions in Wrath of the Lich King.

If I add those in MoP goes to 63% and WotLK goes to 61%.  Since that keeps the ranking the same I dismissed that for the moment.

Going the other direction, I might argue that the sub-factions of Alliance Vanguard in WotLK ought not to count the same way the Sholazar Basin factions didn’t count, which would give the expansion an 86% score, putting it on top.

And then there is the question of which factions did I get to exalted in one expansion AFTER a later expansion appeared.  Things get ugly for TBC with that, since I did at least three of those factions long after the fact, and even uglier for Cataclysm, which drops to zero.

  1. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 86%
  2. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  3. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  4. The Burning Crusade – 3 of 13 or 23%
  5. Cataclysm – 0 of 4 or 0%

Valiance Keep Harbor

This is the reason I cannot rate Vanilla, I am pretty sure I only had one or two factions to exalted at the most during the reign of the original game, and maybe not even that.  The Argent Tournament in WotLK got me to exalted on most of the main alliance factions  Also, there are a those wacky factions, like the Bloodsail Buccaneers, or raid only factions, like the Brood of Nozdormu, that I was never going to crack.

And this brings in a side issue, which is the expectations set by the previous state of the game.  After Vanilla my expectations for TBC were pretty high.  They were met on the dungeon experience side of things, but were dashed by how Blizz decided questing should be handled.  And don’t get me started on ugly equipment or the introduction of some really dull daily quests.

So my expectations were more modest for WotLK.

Then came Cataclysm, the expansion I spent the least amount of time playing.  That set expectations so low that I punted on Mists of Pandaria until it had been out for a year, then found it to be a really solid expansion.  But with only 5 level boost in the level cap you could get to dailies and follow on items like playing with your farm or doing fishing quest pretty quickly.

That realization, along with the return to TBC vibe that Warlords of Draenor started with and the idea of housing, again set expectations high.  The zones were fine, the dungeons good, but garrisons sucked the life out of things, seemingly having been designed to prove a comment that Blizz made long ago about why they didn’t want housing; they pulled people out of the world into their own little domains.

To add to the list of things that this might measure, I should also consider what I got out of getting various faction standings to their current state.

In WotLK getting to exalted unlocked mounts.  Many mounts.  Likewise, mounts were a motivator in MoP.  I know that the only faction I have at exalted in Cataclysm is there because I wanted that camel mount, while in TBC the Netherwing and the Sha’tari Skyguard specifically to get their mounts.  But in Warlords of Draenor I either didn’t want mounts or they were not there.  I can’t remember.  All I really wanted was to unlock flying, and that

And over the course of all of this the game has changed, the market changed, and we have all changed.  Goofy stuff that my daughter and I used to do, like wander far afield just to find a specific pet, have been replaced with other tasks.  The instance group, with whom I ran though Vanilla, TBC, and WotLK, started to fall apart as the years went by, our lives changed, and our ability to stay up late diminished.

So I have gone from a situation where the dungeon content has been supreme in my mind to being much more interested in solo items with some touristy group things via Dungeon Finder and LFR.  That means my rankings are flawed in an even more esoteric fashion.

So TBC and WotLK were good at dungeons when that was important to me while Cataclysm was not, while MoP was very good for solo when that was important to me while WoD wasn’t quite there.  But WotLK was also very good for solo for me once the group tired, while the TBC solo content didn’t hold me very well once the group was done with dungeons.

So maybe, in my own little world, I can admit that WotLK was a good expansion and put it alongside Ruins of Kunark.

Basically, 1,500 words in, I think I have decided that I have wholeheartedly liked two MMO expansions, but I don’t expect you to agree with me.