Monthly Archives: December 2018

December in Review

The Site

Here we are at the last day of 2018 and the 402nd and final post of the year… unless something big and/or stupid comes up and I feel compelled to post about it before the end of the day.  I think we’re pretty safe though.  Who announces things on New Years Eve?

402 posts is kind of a lot for a single year, especially when my goal is just a post every weekday. I didn’t post every single day.  You can see by the chart below I missed more than a few days.

Graphical Representation of Days Posted – I added the day guide to clarify it

The gray squares mean no post.  But I made up the missing days with double, and occasionally triple, post days.  Those are the darker squares.  I did not post more than three times in a single day.  I usually like to leave a time gap of a few hours between posts, since it is my impression that some visitors only read the top post.  And most things I write aren’t all that time sensitive.  I make a point of writing about things soon after I have done them, things like fleet ops, more because my memory is fresh than anything else.

(The same chart for my other blog is all just black squares as I never post more than once a day.)

Anyway, a lot of posts in 2018.

But 402 is not the most posts in a single year.  The current ranking is:

  1. 2007 – 490 posts
  2. 2011 – 488 posts
  3. 2012 – 442 posts
  4. 2010 – 406 posts
  5. 2018 – 402 posts

2007 is explicable in that I hadn’t really settled down on what I wanted to do, so I was posting a lot of very short and random stuff.  The run from 2010 through 2012 corresponds with the peak of the blog in many ways; traffic, posts, games I was playing and writing about, interest in new games, and so on.  That probably represents the final gasp of the pre-cynical era for me.

Well, pre-cynical relative to my current outlook anyway.

There is also a correlation between the wave of Kickstarted and early access games and the end of blog’s peak era.  I’m not saying they’re connected, but the coming of one seemed to herald the end of the other.

In total words, or even average words per post, 2018 is at the top of the list

  1. 2018 – 427,278 words (without this post, so add another 2K words)
  2. 2014 – 395,517 words
  3. 2013 – 346,436 words
  4. 2015 – 342,813 words
  5. 2016 – 334,911 words

That gives me another correlation.  Traffic has gone down as my word count has gone up.  Again, I cannot definitively say that one caused the other… I’m not going to follow the madness of Gevlon and assume correlation means causation without evidence… but it sure looks suspicious.  Or it would, except, as I noted in the highs and lows post on Friday, traffic to the site went up a bit this year.  So who knows what it all really means?  As I have said in the past, there are many factors in play here, including Google’s search result algorithms.

One Year Ago

We got the Ring of Scale expansion for EverQuest.

Nintendo and Game Freak released what might end up being the last Pokemon title to arrive on their handheld hardware in the form of Pokemon Crystal for the Virtual Console.

I was kind of bummed when Blizzard took away my sunglasses.  But I was still out fishing and doing pet battles in World of Warcraft.  And, most important of all, I unlocked flying in the Legion expansion.  I also spent some time trying to find an objective way to measure my favorite WoW expansion.

CCP launched the Arms Race expansion for EVE Online which included expanded Alpha Clone abilities and special skill injectors just for them.  The Agent Finder also got moved into The Agency completely.  Meanwhile, the Yule Lads weren’t delivering presents to us in New Eden.  We had to go find them ourselves.

I also hit a tipping point in the game, where now most of my time playing was now in null sec.

Actually out in space Reavers were deployed into Pure Blind and were quite active in December, with the following posts about fleet ops:

There was the usual set of review posts for 2017.  I looked at my predictions, my MMO outlook, highs and lows, and some MMO bloggers.

And there was, of course, a Steam Winter Sale.  I was in the “not enthusiastic” part of my relationship with Steam.

Five Years Ago

It was the final shut down for Warhammer Online.

It was also the end of the road for World of Darkness at CCP, which shut down the project and laid off much of the staff.

CCP did give me a copy of the EVE Online Second Decade Collector’s Edition.

Actually in EVE, I was looking at flying a dreadnought, looking at my hull tanking certificate, and actually went on a couple of ops, blowing things up in NS2L-4 and BW-WJ2.

Shroud of the Avatar was an actual thing.  You could log in and see stuff.  Granted, a year later it was still in alpha and had a long way to go, but at least progress was being made I guess.

Turbine threw their hat in the ring with their own insta-level scheme for Lord of the Rings Online.  It got you all the way to the doors of Moria.  I was not impressed.  Not only was the level cap well beyond Moria at that point, I tend to believe that the best content in the game is the 1-50 run.  But that is the nature of level based games.

Blizzard put a cash shop in World of Warcraft.  But don’t call those microtransactions, because they are not.  Microtransactions require an intermediate currency.  If you’re selling in straight up dollars, pounds, and euros, it isn’t a microtransaction.

The instance group in World of Warcraft ventured under the sea and into the Mount Hyjal region, then ran through the Throne of Tides and Blackrock Caverns instances.  Meanwhile, I had an alt finish up The Burning Crusade for me.  And then there was my character a level cap, swamped with options including Timeless Isle.

I reviewed my goals and tried to sum up 2013.

I did some book reviews of a sort, looking at The Kindly Ones, The Circle, and some space operas.

Finally, we were very sad at our house when our cat Fred died.  We still miss him.

Ten Years Ago

December seemed to be all about the micropayments and the like.  Sony Online Entertainment surprised some by putting Station Cash driven stores into EverQuest and EverQuest II.  The selection wasn’t great and the pricing seemed a bit off, but I was more interested to know what other SOE products would get the Station Cash treatment.

In EverQuest II I ran Reynaldo Fabulous from creation to level 50 in an very short (to me) stretch of time.  And then I stopped.

And then EA announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be microtransaction financed.  Or maybe they didn’t.  It ended up that way eventually, but three years later when it launch it was very much a subscription game in the classic sense.

In Azeroth we were still coming to grips with the Northrend instances.  In Utgarde Keep we managed to kill off Prince Keleseth, but couldn’t hold it together to finish the instance.  Outside, we were running around doing quests.

Meanwhile, somebody was working on a WoW code, akin to the old geek code that used to clutter many a .sig file back when Usenet was cool and we knew the spammers by name.

I actually found some time to play Lord of the Rings Online.

And on the MUD nostalgia front I was reminding people what quests used to be like and sharing some really bad limericks.

Best selling PC Games from 2008:

  1. Spore
  2. Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
  3. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
  4. The Sims 2: FreeTime
  5. Spore Creature Creator
  6. Sins of a Solar Empire
  7. The Sims 2: Apartment Life
  8. The Sims 2: Kitchen & Bath Interior Design Stuff
  9. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Soulstorm
  10. The Sims Castaway Stories

Twenty Years Ago

The original Baldur’s Gate was released.

And, in something of a reductive cycle, the first video game version of the physical Pokemon Trading Card game, itself based on the Pokemon Red & Blue video games, was released on the GameBoy in Japan.  In a nod to simplicity, it was called the Pokemon Trading Card Game by the time it arrived in the US.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  2. Finding Evendim
  3. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  7. Delta Force – A Memory of Voxels
  8. A Short Rant About the State of the MMORPG Market
  9. Gamers are Not a Unified Demographic
  10. Daybreak Offering a Lifetime All Access Deal for $299
  11. Some Better Luck with Operation Permafrost
  12. My Five Books of 2018

Search Terms of the Month

lotro emulator
[Let’s not go there quite yet]

whats the orcs name from warcraft
[Azog? Gorbag? Grishnakh?]

how much.gold.can.a.portable.hole.hold
[All of it?]

eve online spider tank
[I don’t think that is a thing any more]

images of people reenlisting inside a battleship barrel
[Gun barrel? Pork barrel? Pickle barrel? I am not sure I get this.]

Spam Comments of the Month

Do not underestimate the power of contemporary flowers.
[Well, alrighty then!]

When guests click on advertisements, publishers earn money.
[So that’s how that works!]

No matter funeral particulars you favor, it is important that you make your wishes clear in writing.
[Just put me on the curb with garbage on pick up day]

Now YOU Can Grab Our New Web Traffic “Robot” That Works 24/7 to Bring You Free Traffic and Subscribers!
[Act now!]

This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
[Spam bots are the worst liars]

EVE Online

My time in New Eden this month was dominated by the events in wormhole J115405, known as Rage, where the Initiative setup operations to destroy Hard Knocks structures there, including the first Keepstar deployed in the game.  After that I mucked around with some high sec alts playing the Operation Permafrost event and logging in every day for the holiday rewards.  The only other item of note was that, after a bit too much red wine on Christmas Eve, I signed up for Liberty Squad, one of the Imperium SIGs and squads that are responsible for much of the activity during what one might otherwise call peace time.  We’ll see how that plays out.

Lord of the Rings Online

I carried on with the Legendary server, keeping up a pace of logging in almost every single night.  At least until I got to the holidays and the Misty Mountains.  Those two together caused me to slack off a bit.  But I remain determined to get through the epic quest line and up to level 50 before SSG gets around to unlocking the Mines of Moria expansion.

Pokemon Go

I managed to make another level this month, largely thanks to the bonus points you get for achieving friendship levels with other players.  Still, it is a long way to level 40.  I am also stuck on the task where you have to make an excellent curveball throw.  This is the second time that has come up.  I got it done the first time, but this time around I have yet managed it.

Level: 35 (+1)
Pokedex status: 380 (+9) caught, 400 (+9) seen
Pokemon I want: Rhyperior, the Rhydon evolution, but I need about 70 candies
Current buddy: Togetic

RimWorld

RimWorld left early access and went live a while back this year.  Some people I read/know started playing it this month, which got me back to playing it a bit.  It is still an epic consumer of free time.  My usual loop tends to have me playing for a stretch, then some huge bad event hits and I save and go away for a while.  Then I come back later, clean up the mess, or the corpses, or both, and carry on.

World of Warcraft

My account hasn’t quite lapsed, so I keep thinking I’ll go play a bit.  I did log in to get the holiday present and achievement.  But other than that it is in limbo.

Coming Up

Happy new year I guess.  I’ll have to remember to put the right year on checks.

Of course, the first thing out of the gate every year here is a predictions post.  Look for my doom and gloom about 2019 tomorrow.  Also, some sort of MMO outlook for the year will likely show up as well next week.

The Steam Winter Sale will wrap up come Friday morning.  I’m sure there is a post in what I bought… if I end up buying anything.  So far I haven’t purchased anything for myself.  I did grab a title for my daughter however.

With the new year there will also likely be some news and forward looking statements from various studios about what they plan for the year.

In addition to all of that, I still have quite a few half done posts in the drafts folder to work on.  I shan’t fall off the face of the internet, at least not for lack of topics.

Otherwise it will be EVE Online and Lord of the Rings Online and Pokemon Go I suppose.

The Reavers Drake Race

The comedy race event returned last night, with Ranger Gama setting up another run for the SIG.  It was the fourth such race for Reavers this year, and the third one I was able to make.

The first one was actually almost exactly a year ago, in 2017, so not really this year I suppose.  That was the first one.  We flew Daredevils around the north, hanging out on the Pandemic Horde Keepstar as one of the way points.

I missed the second one, which also flew through the north, while the third one was out of Delve and had us flying Ventures.

This time around Ranger had a bigger ship in mind.  This time he set us up with Drakes.  As usual, the fit was more for comedy than anything else, with four festival launchers as the main armament.  They were also fit with hyperspatial rigs for faster warp speed, but the prop mod choices were frigate sized.  The one saving grace was that he fit a micro jump drive.

Nine of us were there for the race.  Ranger handed out the Drakes and I immediately insured mine, figuring that such a big target was likely to be blown up flying through the hostile space that we would likely be traversing.

It also gave me a chance to use the Drake SKIN that came with the holiday event in EVE Online, the Chromodynamic Candy SKIN.

At the Keepstar with the fresh Drake SKIN

I also grabbed some mining drones.  Ranger was offering a bonus prize for the first person to show up with a cargo filled with Veldspar.  He also wisely bought all of the Veldspar off the market in 1DQ1-A to keep us from simply buying it before we started.  We would have to mine it ourselves, or buy it along the way.

Then he gave us the route and we were off.

Candy Drakes on the way

We had to travel first to ZWV-GD, then to 0-MX34, then to C9N-CC, and finally to HED-GP where we needed to warp to Ranger’s alt to finish the race.  The total distance was 67 gates.  That route would put us through some fairly active systems.  But first we were off toward Period Basis and our neighbors to the south.

Hitting a RED Alliance gate

We started out with most of us neck and neck gating our way to the first way point.  It didn’t seem like we would face much trouble until we hit TEST space.

Middle Management Dino on the Gate

And, sure enough, just a couple of gates into the Paragon Soul region and TEST space we came through into a gate camp.  At the time Ranger was first through the gate, followed by Losmortos Nolm and then myself, with most of the rest close behind.

A bubble was up on the gate as we came through.  Ranger was the first to break cloak and managed to pull all the aggro immediately.  Losmortos Nolm managed to slip past while I tried to activate my micro jump drive before breaking cloak.  That led me to fumbling about a bit, which let those behind me break cloak as well.  That probably saved me as I was able to MJD out of the bubble and warp off while the camp was busy with other Drakes.  In all more than half of those in the race, five Drakes, were blown up and the pods destroyed as well.  Ranger Gama, Arianhrod Begin, Shokalokaboom, Buer Argarves, and Roy Garfield, were all done in 0SUF-3.

Meanwhile, Hoff Talvanen, who was running behind, managed to get picked off back in Period Basis in VYO-68.

That left only myself, Losmortos Nolm, and Grodd Gandar still in the running.  Losmortos Nolm and I were already past the camp so kept on the most direct route while Grodd Gandar, who was also a bit behind, decided to take an alternate path to the first marker.  That put him many jumps behind us.

Losmortos Nolm and myself had a fairly smooth run after that.

Into the Minmatar part of null sec

It wasn’t until we had hit C9N-CC and had turned around for HED-GP that the first bit of trouble came up.  We ended up with an Ares flying along with us.

The Ares decided to take a run at me, getting ahead of me through a gate and pointing me.  However I was able to light the MJD again and jump away from him and then warp off, jumping through the next gate while he was still waiting on his aggro timer.  But he was quick and tried to grab me two gates down the line.  At this point Losmortos Nolm was maybe half a system ahead of me.  I took the next gate and, instead of following along, I warped off to an asteroid belt hoping to maybe mind a bit for the Veldspar prize and ditch the persistent Ares.

The Ares kept on going, following after Lormortos Nolm, so I was alone in the system.  However, the rats in the asteroid belt were not happy to see me and I had nothing with me to take them out.  Also, I had forgotten how slow mining drones are.  I recalled them, then had to fly towards them before warping out, my shield down below the 10% mark.

That delay put Losmortos Nolm about eight gates ahead of me.  He was good about mentioning what he was facing, giving me some heads up as to what was coming.  It wasn’t until GE-8JV that he ran into significant numbers in space.  There a battle seemed to be in progress between the locals and some Imperium pilots with about 100 people in local.  The conflict seemed to be centered on the gate to V-3YG7, with forces on both sides of that gate.  Losmortos Nolm managed to slip past.  But by the time I got there a camp of Brave pilots were on the far side of the gate.  When I came through there was a bubble up.  There was enough firepower to take me down before my MJD could spin up.  My ship exploded.  I was out of the race.

Candy Drake coming apart

Losmortos Nolm managed to get through into HED-GP and was the winner of the race.

Meanwhile, Grodd Gandar, who had taken the long route around, was still something like 40 jumps from the finish line.  However, being that far behind worked out for him.  He had been watching the Gate Camp Check site, but by the time he arrived in the vicinity of GE-8JV the battle had subsided and the gates were clear.  He was able to slip through and get to HED-GP and Ranger Gamma’s alt.

He also said that he had collected a cargo hold full of Veldspar along the way.  However, it wasn’t clear how to verify that, so his Drake got blow up so people could examine the kill mail and see what he had on him.  Sure enough, a bunch of Veldspar was in his cargo hold.

And so another race ended.  First place went to Losmortos Nolm and second to Grodd Gandar, with the third place prize being rolled over for next time.  The route most of us ended up flying looked like this:

The route with death locations noted

Grodd Gandar went through Stain, which added a lot of jumps to his path.

It is always interesting to see who is out and about in space when we are flying.  There is very much a randomness to it.  You can fly through a dozen systems and see just one or two names in local, then stumble upon a gate camp or a battle with dozens or even a hundred people around.  They will be for a bit, then gone a little while later.  The same route can be safe for one person and a death trap for somebody else ten minutes later.  But that is the way of null sec.

Where Are All the Ship SKINs?

The joke that isn’t really a joke has been about CCP being unable to run a store to sell EVE Online merchandise.  Granted, there are difficulties serving a world-spanning audience, and everybody who says, “They could make so much money if the just sold…” is completely wrong… I went over all that already… but it still seems to take them to get something going only to be disappointing.

The in-game store though, the New Eden Store, that ought to be different.  That has no shipping or currency conversion or inventory cost issues.  Just get the art team to make some nifty, infinitely reproducible ship SKINs and put them up for sale.   I know there are people who don’t like ship SKINs, but there are people who don’t like puppies and kittens as well.  And judging from the fleet ops I go on, there are plenty of people who do like SKINs.

Reavers fleets are always full of skinned ships

And if you have a titan it seems like having a SKIN is almost mandatory judging from what I saw of those fleets over the summer.

Something, something, titans will never be common…

So, with that in play, you would think the New Eden Store would be full of ship SKINs.

Not too full, mind you.  I get the whole scarcity and exclusivity thing.  And, of course, the UI of every online store becomes a burden when there are more than 20 things in any given shopping category, so you want to avoid bloat.

Even given all of that, I still fully expect that I should be able to open up the New Eden Store and find a SKIN for the ship I am flying, no matter which ship it is.

But, this is CCP, so of course I can’t.

It is the holiday season… you know, when people go shopping for gifts, a time when it is good to have a full selection of items available… and the Reavers had a Secret Santa gift exchange again this year.  The person I drew wanted an Apostle and I figured I could swing that.  But I hate to give just a ship.  I like ship SKINs and so throw some in with every Secret Santa gift.  I even have a few of the Blaze SKINs socked away to go with gifts at a later date.

So I wanted an Apostle SKIN.  But when I opened up the New Eden Store I found that there were no Apostle SKINs for sale.  Frankly, there are barely any Amarr SKINs for sale… or Minmatar.  There are just five Amarr and six Minmatar SKINs in the store.

I hope you are flying one of these ships if you want an Amarr SKIN

Gallente is a bit better.  They have some coverage, though it is far from universal.  Only the Caldari, of the four main empires, seems to have a good selection of SKINs.  They are mostly the white Ghostbird SKIN, which I admit I really like, but at least you have an option as Caldari. (The Triglavians, the new hawtness, have a couple SKINs per hull available, and the Gila is also well covered.)

But no Apostle SKIN.

I had to get out an alt in Jita to go shopping.  And that is okay.  I understand that SKINs from events and old SKINs area meant for the secondary market.  And I was able to find a Purity of the Throne, a Dark Iron, and an Exoplanets SKIN to go with the gift.  I had to run them out to Aridia in an interceptor so my main could pick them up and fly them back into Delve, so a little inconvenience, but not much.  I just feel lucky that I was able to find three quality SKINs without breaking the bank.  If he had wanted a faction battleship SKIN I might not have been so lucky.

I won’t pretend I am an expert on in-game, cash shop marketing, but it does seem like the holiday season would be a good time to have a selection of SKINs available for a much wider selection of ships.  And the art team at CCP has show itself able to knock out a good SKIN on short notice for fundraising events.  So what is going on here?

Looking Back at 2018 Highs and Lows

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.

-James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion

We stand together again at the end of of another year; at least those of us who survived the journey do.  And, as has become the tradition here, I set aside some time to reflect and sum up the year that was 2018.

As usual, this is more of a stream of consciousness sort of affair as opposed to a rigorous study of the year.  Some things loom larger in my mind than others, especially the more recent.  I can’t really remember what happened in January, but BlizzCon was in November so my brain is still full of that.  Because of the method, and my general laziness, I don’t link out in this post (save for one exception this year).  You sort of have to know what I am talking about or else just let it pass.

For comparison… I suppose there is a study that could be done on my moods and views over the years… you can read the versions of this post that has come up in past years.

Not everything listed as a “low” is necessarily a tragedy, nor is everything listed as a “high” really something that was headline news to celebrate.  One year I inserted a “middle” category and then found I wanted to put most everything in there, so I set that aside.

There is also something of the accountant in me that tries to turn this into a balance sheet, with every “high” having a corresponding “low” on the list.  That works a lot of the time, but not always.  Some things are just one or the other.

Also, I remain undecided on punctuation in this sort of post.  To my mind, bullet points shouldn’t get punctuation.  Sort of.  They do when the bullet point is a question.  Also, I use a lot of semi-colons while eschewing the sentence ending period.  And then there is that exclamation point.  Does that wreck everything?  I think my life would be easier if I just made them sentences, but I am writing this after all the stuff below and I am NOT going back to change all that.

Anyway, on with the show.

Blizzard

Highs

  • A decent start of the year for Blizzard, building momentum for the WoW expansion and BlizzCon
  • Battle for Azeroth launched very well, with the build-up to the expansion drawing a lot of attention
  • Hearthstone did very well, even breaking into the digital revenue top ten on the PC platform
  • BlizzCon for once did not ignore any of the main Blizzard franchises
  • Blizzard showed they were very serious about getting WoW Classic right
  • There is even going to be progression in WoW Classic so the raiding is done with the right gear
  • We got an official announcement for the second of the three planned remasters, Warcraft III Reforged
  • Plans for upcoming Battle for Azeroth content
  • New expansion for Hearthstone
  • New hero for Overwatch
  • New champion for Heroes of the Storm, plus more plans to fix the game
  • New co-op commander for StarCraft II
  • New game for the Diablo franchise
  • Hey, Lindsey Stirling was one of the BlizzCon closing ceremony acts

Lows

  • BlizzCon seemed to kill fan enthusiasm for the aforementioned momentum
  • Even I am starting to feel that the BlizzCon formula might be wearing a bit thin
  • They say that all press is good press, but burning down that tree is going to take a while for some people to get past
  • After a strong start, flaws in Battle for Azeroth around gear and such began to tarnish the experience
  • Wait, as my ilevel gets higher mobs actually get harder rather than easier to kill?  And Blizz thinks this is fine?
  • BlizzCon divided up by six franchises means a preciously small slice of pie for any fan of only a single franchise
  • WoW Classic might be so authentic as to do to retro servers what WoW did to fantasy MMORPGs
  • Did you say WoW Classic would have progression?  This will inevitably lead to people wanting progression into expansions
  • Still waiting for news on that third remaster, Diablo II
  • The Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t all that exciting, even for a year with no expansion announcement
  • Unsure if the Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t exciting because the game is getting old and tired or I am… or both
  • Heroes of the Storm is losing its epsorts league and most of its devs as Blizz restructured it to keep it going with a smaller staff
  • I’m not even sure what a co-op commander is in StarCraft II
  • Complete fail on the part of Blizzard for expecting core Diablo fans to embrace  the mobile title Diablo Immortal
  • Failed to mitigate the above by not mentioning anything about Diablo VI, more Diablo III content, the Diablo II remaster, or anything else the core fan base might care about; vague references to multiple Diablo projects doesn’t cut it
  • Trifecta of Diablo franchise fails when rumors hit that they were going to announce Diablo IV but pulled it at the last minute, followed by a statement that the rumor wasn’t true, all of which will pretty much pull the punch from any future Diablo IV announcement
  • Gaming press proceeded to vilify Diablo fans, pretty much going full on “Imma let you finish…” over Blizz even as Blizz was owning up to badly setting expectations
  • Few people attended, and no press covered, the “Play Nice, Play Fair” presentation at BlizzCon which, among other things, presented evidence on how vilifying your player base as toxic tends to actually enable toxicity from your worst fans while alienating the 99% of your fan base that isn’t a problem
  • Allen Adham says senior devs at Blizzard are playing mobile games now, and Blizzard makes games they want to play by improving the games they are currently playing, so expect anything new from them to be on your phone

Daybreak

Highs

  • Company not shut down due to connection to Russian oligarchs via Columbus Nova
  • EverQuest still holding on as the standard bearer
  • EverQuest turned 19 and launched a new progression server called Coirnav
  • The Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest progression server is still running
  • Likewise, EverQuest II celebrated its 14th anniversary
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got an expansion again in 2018
  • DC Universe Online continues to hum along, getting some updates
  • As rumors indicated, PlanetSide 2 got a new map and some updates
  • Rumors also mentioned a new Norrath game, possibly EverQuest 3
  • H1Z1 actually left early access and went live, adding in a new vehicle mode along the way
  • H1Z1 became a success on the PlayStation 4
  • Some sort of joint venture with NantWorks to redo H1Z1 as Z1 Battle Royale
  • Just Survive looked to have received a last minute stay of execution
  • They finally announced a new game, PlanetSide Arena, the first since they ceased to be SOE
  • They actually sold out their 4,000 lifetime memberships at $299 a pop for a nice influx of cash

Lows

  • Not sure who is still playing on the Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest server, its been up for eight years
  • Company changed its mind rather abruptly about who owned it when asked about Russian oligarchs, deleting all references, attempting to scrub Wikipedia, and claiming that they misstated who actually owned the company for three years and on just about every document and press release they published
  •  After all that, Jason Epstein is/was still clearly tied to Columbus Nova
  • In the midst of changing its mind on the ownership question Daybreak took a moment out to lay off a chunk of their staff, showing that all is not well
  • Then, earlier this month they laid off another big chunk of the team
  • H1Z1 pretty much fell by the wayside in the market under pressure from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds then Fortnite
  • The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China also failed when the Chinese ethics review board rejected H1Z1 because of “blood and gore” and “vulgar content”
  • There went that H1Z1 esports league
  • The NantWorks joint venture, NantG Moblie, seems pretty nebulous so far, and uncertainty isn’t helping
  • The NantG Mobile plane, such that it has been stated, sounds suspiciously like “What if H1Z1 were more like Fortnite?
  • EverQuest is tied up in this deal in some way, but nobody has explained how
  • Just Survive’s stay of execution turned out to be an illusion and it was shut down
  • The new game, PlanetSide Arena, seemed to be just PlanetSide 2 with well worn shooter modes… including battle royale, of course
  • Lifetime subscribers are all people who won’t be paying a subscription going forward, so Daybreak essentially took a one-time buyout from some of its core fanbase
  • Lifetime subscriptions only apply to the four oldest games, nothing new-ish is covered nor are any console players covered
  • Not sure if NantG Mobile ought to come under the Daybreak heading
  • Not sure how many products Daybreak really has now
  • Not sure how healthy Daybreak is at this point
  • Nothing so far has really quashed the rumors from early in the year about Daybreak’s plans, for good or bad

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Found new ways to expand LOTRO and hey, it was free content
  • Raised the level cap in LOTRO to 120
  • Continued updating character models
  • High elves were added in, because we need more elves in Middle-earth
  • Possibility of a new class for the game
  • Female dwarves in Middle-earth, so now the Tolkien purists can be angry
  • Some mention of a 64-bit client in the offing
  • LOTRO Legendary server proves so popular they have to open a second server
  • A new musical instrument was added, so now you can play the bassoon
  • LOTRO lifetime subscription remains the best MMO deal I have ever made, all the more so since I am back playing
  • DDO got a new race, so you can unlock your inner wood elf; go team elf
  • DDO also got some other updates I think and sold some of those two year subscription deals

Lows

  • Nothing else on the horizon for the company at all
  • Still really don’t know who owns SSG
  • LOTRO remains difficult to pick up with an aging and awkward UI, a balky client, a patcher that is in no hurry to get you patched, and that whole legendary weapon thing which should have been left behind in Moria
  • The rise in the level cap was not universally applauded, but you have to gate content somehow
  • Managed to screw up the Shire for a bit like they were Sarumann
  • The need to make money meant more focus on lootboxes and making the in-game currency situation worse by adding “ember” currency to the list
  • An announced new Middle-earth game won’t shut down LOTRO, but it won’t help it either
  • The “legendary” aspect of the LOTRO Legendary server seemed more than a bit oversold
  • And yet SSG managed to poorly promote the whole LOTRO Legendary server thing at the same time
  • LOTRO Legendary seems most popular with those already invested in the game, so likely pulled a lot of its population from the live servers of players
  • Those LOTRO Legendary queues pretty much went away inside of two weeks
  • A second server and no more queues portends a server merge when the new server joy wears off
  • DDO news was so sparse that I don’t really have anything besides the wood elf to add
  • There was bluster about what the two year subscription might get you, but since two years of normal VIP actually cost $100 less I expect to hear some buyer’s remorse

CCP

Highs

  • CCP purchased by Pearl Abyss ends having to please direct investors
  • CCP and Pearl Abyss claim to be sympatico in their outlook on games
  • CCP says they will get to keep operating on their own
  • CCP got recognition from Guinness finally for the battle at 94P-I
  • A new war in null sec has made some additional headlines
  • Lots of people got to get their titans out and shot things
  • Lots of updates and improvements over the course of the year
  • Abyssal Deadspace was especially popular
  • It is a good time to be farming Gilas
  • In game events are generally getting better
  • CCP is FINALLY trying to fix War Decs
  • With FLEX structures the problematic POS code is almost ready to be expunged from New Eden
  • New Activity Tracker shows you what you’ve been doing in New Eden
  • New games, EVE Echoes and Project: Nova coming next year
  • Working with NetEase, their new partner, to re-launch EVE Online in China
  • Didn’t lose any major third party sites on which EVE Online depends
  • EVEMon is actually back again after the swap to ESI
  • EVE Vegas was a lot of fun
  • I gave a presentation at EVE Vegas

Lows

  • Pearl Abyss, whose reputation from Black Desert Online is that of “cash shop pay to win atrocity horror show” now owns EVE Online.
  • We will see just how sympatico the two companies really are
  • CCP trading external investors for one owner probably means a lot more direct scrutiny
  • CCP will get to run their own show only as long as the money keeps flowing, you can bet on that
  • Monthly updates, some of which can be quite meaty, do make it hard for named expansions to stand out for EVE Online
  • The New Eden concurrency number keeps slowly moving down
  • Null sec wars only last so long, then we all go home and mine
  • Peace is boring since I neither rat nor mine anymore
  • I may, in fact, be a bitter vet at this point
  • The null sec balance of power is now skewed such that the China syndrome seems a possibility, where one power bloc essentially “wins” null sec and everybody else quits
  • Faction Warfare has gone stagnant, with key players leaving it completely
  • The change from passive income to active moon mining sent some low sec groups into decline, hurting low sec even more
  • I’ve added “when will the in-game economy collapse?” to my list of concerns about the game
  • Even the people who used to bristle when it was claimed low sec was dead are starting to feel that low sec has gotten much less active
  • Abyssal Deadspace depends on RNG to stay fresh and still has become mostly a solved problem save for some very bad luck draws
  • Still can’t figure out how CCP went this long without looking into War Decs given how completely problematic the data ended up showing they were; they were pretty much universally declared as horrible years ago
  • Seems likely that CCP will muff fixing war decs, though in their defense there is no simple answer that will please everybody nor one that adheres to the spirit of the game
  • I am going to miss the good old POS bubble when they’re finally removed
  • What were they thinking with that Federation Grand Prix event?
  • Activity Tracker is essentially achievements for New Eden
  • Activity Tracker doesn’t count anything you did before Nov. 13, 2018, which kind of stings for those of us around for more than a decade
  • EVE Echoes is a NetEase mobile game completely disconnected from the main game
  • Project Nova looks nice and could connect to New Eden, but otherwise seems to lack a distinct personality and CCP wants to make it as complicated as EVE Online if they can
  • Oh, and even CCP thinks Project Nova has issues, so it has been delayed
  • Total EVE, EVE Files, and Dotlan EVE Maps all stumbled this year, making us all aware of how fragile the third party ecosystem for New Eden really is
  • There is always a period of post-event malaise for me after the excitement of an event like EVE Vegas wears off
  • In a room with seating for 800 people easy, I had 30 people at my presentation at EVE Vegas, with even some fellow bloggers blowing me off
  • My presentation was also neither streamed nor recorded, so it remains just a special moment in the memory of a very select group
  • Whatever happened to that EVE Online TV series?  I am sure Netflix would buy it

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch continues to prove itself a surprising force in the console market
  • Among titles arriving on the Switch was Diablo III
  • Pokemon for Switch looking to be popular
  • Pokemon Go revenues keep on going
  • Pokemon Go released the 4th generation Pokemon, which was a nostalgia rush for me
  • There will be a link between Pokemon Go and the new Pokemon titles on the Switch

Lows

  • The Switch version of most games cost more than on other platforms
  • The Switch isn’t up to supporting ports from other platforms for some games
  • All that Switch news is cold comfort if you’re invested in the neglected DS handheld platform
  • The Switch is not a handheld, portable platform; it is too big, too fragile, and lacks the battery life to be considered as such
  • No more Pokemon on the DS line, ending more than 20 years of the franchise’s link with Nintendo handheld platforms
  • Hilarious attempts to justify the easy nature of the Switch Pokemon games by claiming that those games are “for children” as though the past 20 years of Pokemon handheld games were not
  • Nintendo actively pushing its latest/last handheld model, the 2DS XL, while pretty much winding down the new game queue for the platform in something that feels a lot like dishonesty
  • Pokemon Go is pretty much the only winner in Nintendo’s mobile strategy
  • Pretty much have to admit that Pokemon games on handhelds were the last thing Nintendo had that interested me, in case you missed that, so they probably won’t even get a category here next year

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD made it to 25 years; long live the MUD!
  • Fortnite found its niche and conquered
  • I enjoyed some time with Rift Prime
  • Having enough leftover credits from the free to play conversion, I didn’t even have to spend a single dime on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar left early access
  • Project: Gorgon arrived on Steam
  • No Man’s Sky seemed to be finally living up to some of its pre-launch promises
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be a rock, able to carry on even as other titles falter and fall into neglect, maintenance mode, acquisitions, or closure
  • Everybody seems to be raving about Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Finally, somebody mad about loot boxes and set to do something about them
  • A ruling from the Library of Congress extending DMCA exemptions for video game archiving and study to include server/client based games like MMORPGs
  • We got a good Minecraft expansion with the Aquatic Update and Pandas are on the way
  • Steam declared they weren’t going to reject any games based on content, save for those titles it felt were just “trolling”
  • Civilization V got an update… it was only to the launcher, but the launcher needed it
  • Bomber Crew ended up being a nice little game, I should write about it

Lows

  • This section is getting harder to write every year as I rarely seem to play anything new
  • Fortnite has become popular enough to start facing backlash like a ban by the NHL
  • Battle Royale as a feature is now a requirement in all shooters
  • Rift Prime, like Rift the first time around, was guaranteed to lose my attention at Storm Legion; as it was I didn’t even make it that far
  • Trion’s games were bought by Gamingo as Trion folds up shop leaving an uncertain future for their titles; I guess I wasn’t the only one not spending money on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar then proceeded to go free while the studio laid people off
  • I still haven’t given Project: Gorgon much of a shot
  • I can’t really tell anymore, is Star Wars: The Old Republic on an uptick or a down tick this year?
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea developer Portalus Games is calling it a day, leaving it to an even smaller group to run which does not fill one with confidence
  • Wildstar and Carbine Studios are no more, victims of their own hype as much as anything
  • Tried Anarchy Online and, as it turns out, nostalgia for the “good old days” only applied to reliving your own hardships, not the hardships of others
  • Every time I see “RDR2” my brain converts it to “R2D2”
  • RDR2 is a console game and my latest console was a PS3, not counting the 2DS XL
  • Loot boxes became a political football for those looking to score points on the “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” front; actual change outside of Belgium was pretty much zero
  • Riot  Games giving the industry an even worse reputation as Kotaku exposes their caustic bro culture
  • Riot Games attempting to fix their horrible culture through platitudes and PR; I only wish I played League of Legends so I could quit dramatically
  • Library of Congress ruling is essentially useless as it only allows museums and the like to archive MMORPGs if they can legally obtain the server code, which just isn’t going to happen
  • The eventual crashing of fan euphoria as they found out the DMCA exemption also prevents remote, off-site connections to preserved MMORPGs; The Library of Congress is not interested in letting you play SWG just because you miss it
  • The last refuge of closed MMORPGs remains the pirate emulator, which live a perilous existence in the gray space between popularity and a lawsuit
  • The Civilization V launcher update seemed primarily put in place to serve as an advertising platform to push the disappointing Civilization VI
  • Just to repeat, Civilization VI was quite the disappointment so I uninstalled it and play Civilization V when I have the Civ urge
  • As it turns out “trolling” isn’t well defined and Steam pretty much rejects the same games it always has, only now that is their excuse
  • All the same, the number of new games to hit Steam every day continued to grow, leaving only those studios that can afford marketing or who have a solid reputation likely to make any money at all
  • Many game developer careers remain Hobbesian in nature (nasty, short, and brutish) as studios abuse the seemingly endless supply of young developers seeking to do what they love in order to live the dream; the dream being 80 hour weeks, low pay, and no long term employment stability
  • Gaming media, another realm where an endless supply of replacements await those who can’t generate clicks, continues to play both sides of the game as they stoke up fan expectations with uncritical assessments of studio promises and then tar video game fans with whatever negative euphemism comes to hand (e.g. entitled, man babies, entitled man babies) over any backlash when the expectations they helped set fail to deliver; but controversy gets views man
  • And yes, some fans just need to shut the fuck up; but drawing attention to them, bringing them fame, and reporting their every complaint isn’t going to make that happen… and conflating the words of a tiny minority with the views of a whole community remains asinine

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Even more Star Wars in theaters
  • Lots of new shows and movies on services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu
  • Season five of Bojack Horseman was excellent
  • The First was slow, but good; despite his personal life, about which I could stand to never hear about again, Sean Penn remains an actor dedicated to his craft
  • Still some really nice, serviceable shows on what one might still call “basic cable” these days
  • Better Call Saul might be better than Breaking Bad
  • Honest Trailers and Honest Game Trailers just never get old for me; the Screen Junkies team is awesome
  • Honest Trailers Commentaries is my new YouTube addiction
  • Somehow Zero Punctuation has stayed pretty fresh for me as well despite the fact that I still reference videos Yahtzee made over a decade back
  • Twitter, for all its faults, remains pretty useful to me

Lows

  • Even Disney now believes that there can be too many Star Wars movies now
  • Solo was there to answer questions nobody was really asking
  • Is there any series or movie so bad that Netflix won’t pick it up as an exclusive?
  • House of Cards ends on a silly/disappointing season though, like the original, the first season was all that really made it matter
  • Whoa, have you seen the Netflix earnings lately?
  • Every network now seems to think they need to get on the exclusive streaming service train to gate in their content leading to market fragmentation and, likely, eventual failure for all but the strong
  • The strong are, inevitably, Amazon and Disney, and we know what they’re like
  • There are so many options on basic cable that I often miss good stuff until a season is part way through and then have to wait until it makes it to Hulu or Netflix in order to watch it
  • Kind of starting to resent shows that only drop an episode a week; I want to binge… and binging helps me keep the plot and characters straight
  • Screen Junkies owned by yet another new company now, I hope they continue to survive
  • CinemaSins has gotten pretty stales for me; I like to hear Jeremy talk on the podcast, but the same old complaints, like “47 seconds of logos,” have been beaten to death
  • Pretty sure at this point that Zero Punctuation is all that is keeping The Escapist alive at this point
  • The Escapist pretty much broke being able to watch Zero Punctuation on their site back in July; I hope they get revenue from posting it to YouTube, because that is where I go to see it now
  • Google announced that, due to low usage and a security issues, they would be closing Google+ in August 2019
  • And then another security issue came up and Google moved the end date for Google+ to April 2019
  • That threat by people to leave Twitter made me realize how much I depend on it
  • Mastadon, a Twitter alternative, is great… if you just want to be in a tiny echo chamber of stifling conformity
  • Facebook looks worse as a company with each passing day

The Blog, Internet, and Like Items

Highs

  • Somehow, after a dozen year, here I am still
  • The month in review posts have become pretty special to me as I get to review past posts every month
  • The MMO Blog Feed in the side bar continues to function, amazing given the hack that it is and that several times the companies involved were set to make changes that would break it completely
  • A really nice Blaugust event this year, combining both the usual activity with some of the Newbie Blogger Initiative stuff
  • Blaugust was low pressure and not even gaming blog oriented, which brought in a lot of faces, new and old, to participate leading to a lot of good cross-pollination
  • Blaugust Discord was fun and has kept going as a place to chat for some of us
  • The whole thing was objectively a success on many fronts, including traffic, which ticked up noticeably
  • Traffic to this site was not only up for August, but stayed up for the months following
  • For the first time since 2012 traffic is actually up for the year when compared to the previous year
  • Average word count per post was up this year; I assume that is a good thing
  • Also, and odd metric, but “likes” were up quite a bit on the site, something I think was directly from Blaugust
  • Stalking the tags and categories feature in the WordPress.com Reader has actually led me to several new blogs, which should be a reminder that people should try to use standard tags if they want their blog to be found

Lows

  • Blogging continues its decline as an influence, remaining a hold out for those of us who prefer long form, words, and being able to collect our thoughts into a single site
  • The month in review posts are becoming more bloated and no doubt helping to inflate that average word count
  • Always somebody keen to declare any social event like Blaugust a “failure” if their own independent measure wasn’t met, even if they did not participate or understand the premise
  • Not sure traffic boost was solely related to Blaugust as search engine quirks seem to be in play as well given the specific posts that are seeing ongoing interest
  • While likes were up, comments were down for the year, and rather dramatically so; on balance, a good comment is worth a half a dozen likes in my book
  • There are days when I feel I am stuck between people who can accept no criticism of their current favorite game and those who feel that in order for their game to fully succeed somebody else must fail
  • My cynicism about new titles remains driven by the unwarranted optimism certain repeat offenders seem willing to invest in studio generated hype even after they have time and again become resentful when reality fails to meet their inflated expectations
  • So much for net neutrality
  • So much for the alleged benefits of dumping net neutrality as the promised increase in infrastructure building actually went the other way
  • So many bloggers use bad tags or categories for their blogs (e.g. “wow” rather than “warcraft” or “world of warcraft” and “eve” instead of “eve online”) which makes finding them a low percentage accident at the best of times
  • WordPress.com ads have officially crossed the line into obnoxious, proving once again that ad block is pretty much a requirement on the internet
  • My brain has started auto completing words for as my fingers type them, and the result is even worse than when my iPhone does it

Final Thoughts

My temptation is to continue to beat to death the “and so it goes” line from Vonnegut.  I read a lot of Vonnegut in college… I actually read all of Vonnegut in college, or all that there was at the time, short stories included… and it clearly influenced my somewhat fatalistic outlook on life.  Maybe “no damn cat, no damn cradle” would be better.  That might be the lesson of life in the end.

Another year has passes and the trivial pursuits of our lives continue.

Daybreak Sells Out Lifetime Membership Limit, Decides Money is Good and Opts to Sell More

Daybreak was offering a limited number of lifetime subscriptions for $299 last week.

Firiona Vie never gets cold

The count of 4,000 was reached on Christmas Eve, at which point the sale was done.

However, Daybreak has relented due to “popular demand” and has decided to take more money for lifetime subscriptions through the end of the year.

LIFETIME ALL ACCESS MEMBERSHIP (PC) BACK DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND!!

This is not a drill! Lock in membership to your favorite games with the Lifetime* All Access Membership. Available for a limited time, this special offer grants lifetime membership benefits in every All Access game. All Access currently includes DC Universe Online, EverQuest, EverQuest 2, and PlanetSide 2.

No more resubscribing. No more recurring payments. All the access. All the time. Plus, if you already have an active All Access membership, we will convert your unused time to Daybreak Cash when you upgrade to this offer!

The Lifetime* All Access Membership is available on PC for $299.99 USD, now through December 31, 2018. Get yours today!

I’m going to guess the that the 12 month “bonus” deal, which was only double the price of a normal one year subscription wasn’t as big of a hit as they expected.

Anyway, if you were on the fence about the lifetime subscription, you now have a few more days to dither about the whole thing.

Addendum: At some point in the middle of the night Daybreak added a limit of 6,000 to the renewed offer.  Either that, or I totally missed that in my first read.  But I was looking for some sort of limit when their post went up, so I strongly suspect it was added later.

I guess they feel that scarcity makes people more likely to buy.  They are probably right, but I bet if they sold all 6,000 right now, they’d “find” another few thousand to sell tomorrow.

Players Will Optimize

I remember back to the early-ish days of TorilMUD, back when I was first getting into groups to do zones.  Doing a zone was akin to what we would call raiding now, where a max size group, sixteen characters total, would set out to fight their way through a series of rooms and bosses, culminating the in the main boss of the zone.

Specifically, I remember doing the City of Brass zone.  It was a popular zone to do for quite a while, one done almost every boot. (See an old post about how MUD crashes were a good thing back in the day.)  It was an older zone, it wasn’t too big, there were a couple of possible drops for class quest items so somebody was always keen to go, and the general loot was pretty decent if you were just starting off doing zones.  There were upgrades to be had and everybody wanted that flaming halberd for an alt.

Back then the approach to the zone was slow and plodding.  Once through the Plane of Fire (you needed flying gear or the spell plus a fire protection item to go on this run) , the group would assemble and prepare outside the first room.  Once spells were up the tanks would roll in, engage the mobs in the room, call everybody else to come in, and we would unload everything to clear the room.

We would then sit down, mem up our spells, then stand when we were done.  When the call “spell up” came again, we would hit all our targets… as a druid I would cast vitalize, a hit point boosting spell, on some of the non-melee characters and maybe barkskin on the tanks and anybody who requested it… then the tanks would move into the next room, call us to come in, and we would burn down the next room.

It was rinse and repeat, taking down every room as a set piece battle.  At boss mobs we would get special instructions.  When spell feedback was introduced, a mechanic that would damage players if two people cast the same area effect damage spell at the same time, there would be some coordinating of who would cast which spell first.  But otherwise it was the same thing every room, and it stretched out the time it took to run the City of Brass into a three hour event.

But as time went along the runs began to speed up.  First, the overall quality of people’s gear began to improve.  This made players more effective at slaying mobs as well as surviving fights.

Then there started to develop an ideal group composition.  For example, whoever was leading the zone would never take more than one druid unless there was an empty slot that they couldn’t fill.  They wanted a caster who could do the “dragon scales” spell on the tanks rather than the lesser spell “stone skin.”  There were classes with buffs that were deemed essential for a run.  Getting the right group comp made runs go more smoothly, especially at boss fights.

And the zone itself became a solved problem.  The efreeti never changed.  There were a couple of random spawns, but otherwise how to do the run was well understood.  There were no surprises, a well defined route existed, and the boss mechanics were old hat.

Finally, there was a big change in how zones were run.  Groups stopped doing each room as a set piece battle.  Clearing up the trash mobs on the way to the boss was now easier due to gear upgrades, so we would roll through all of that with the various casters just keeping critical buffs up, refreshing them at need.  To sustain this, the concept of “mem out” was introduced, where the raid leader would call “mem west” or the like to indicate where the casters could move to refresh their spells while the battle was still raging.

The latter kept everybody busy.  Rooms with trash mobs took marginally longer without everybody blowing their whole catalog of damage spells, but that was heavily outweighed by the reduction in pre and post battle activity.  Only boss fights got the big “spell up” treatment. The time to run the zone, from starting out in to returning home to Waterdeep, approached an hour if everything was going right, and it almost always did.

That is a pretty big speed up compared to three hours from the doorstep of the zone.  And the time improvement didn’t stop there.  TorilMUD, around for more than 25 years at this point, has never raised its level cap.  Instead, it has maintained some semblance of stability by adding in new, harder zones for those at the level cap while re-balancing equipment over time with an eye towards keeping most level 50 zones viable.  That generally means any gear that seems over powered, like the glowing crimson dagger or the haste enhanced grey suede boots, are likely to get a nerf sooner or later.

Still, even with that optimization happens.  Old hands who have run a thousand zones have a bag full of gear so can pull out a set perfect for each task.  I bet if I told long time zone leader Lilithelle I needed something from the City of Brass today, she’d throw together a group of eight to ten people and drag me along, finishing the zone in 30 minutes or less.

As the kids say, “Cool story bro.”  But what am I getting at here?

This is what happens to content over time.  Player optimization alone pretty much cut the run time for City of Brass by two thirds.  And that three hour number was after the “learn the zone and the bosses” part of the process.  Add it some of the usual gear inflation and that time is now down to one sixth the original time, and doable by half a raid group.

This is what happens to content over time, especially PvE content.  It becomes a solved problem.  Players learn how best to assault things and share that knowledge.

Sometimes that is okay.  In MMORPGs where expansions use levels and gear to gate content, it is pretty much expected that older content will be made obsolete.  Often, after enough time has passed, old raids become solo projects that people run to collect gear for cosmetic reasons or to fill out missed achievements.  That is certainly the accepted state of affairs in World of Warcraft.

In other games it can be problematic.  In EVE Online optimization is an ongoing battle for CCP.  Without levels as a gating mechanism any new PvE content is pretty much solved immediately.  So, despite there being something like four thousand NPC missions in the game, the PvE is generally considered boring and is subject to pretty extreme levels of optimization.  This goes especially for null sec anomaly running, where titans are the latest high yield ratting option.

Only the Abyssal deadspace content isn’t completely solved, and that is only because it has a random aspect to it.  Once you start one you are committed and cannot go back and refit if you have chosen poorly.  And even that is only an issue for the level five runs.  CCP last said that the percentage of Abyssal deadspace runs that ends in a PvE death is very, very low.  I cannot find the number at the moment, but 3% springs to my mind.

Then there is PvP content in New Eden, where The Meta constantly strives to find the optimum ship for given circumstances and CCP is constantly tweaking ships in order to try to bring balance to the force, only to find that suddenly every big alliance is now focused on a specific hull for its main doctrine while the small gang and low sec forces have a new favorite of their own.  And then there is suicide ganking in high sec.  That has become one of the few PvP solved problems at this point, something CCP needs to shake up somehow.

And so it goes.

The thing is, a game’s core player base will always optimize.   But outliers and new players tend to get left out of that.  If a studio focuses only on the core, a game can become impenetrable to new players.  But if you don’t focus on the needs of the core your most loyal fans may get bored and walk away.

The Tale of the Two Chocolate Pies

I am almost done with maybe half a dozen posts, but I am tired and haven’t finished any of them, so you get a Christmas vignette instead.

We were up at my father’s house for Christmas, which is about a 3 hour drive away, which is part of why I didn’t finish anything.  Six hours in the car will do that.  Also, I started playing RimWorld when we got home.  That will eat up time.  So here I am writing this on Boxing Day, with the cat watching me… from a box… I am serious.

A cat in a box watching me write on Boxing Day

Christmas dinner is a pretty stock standard tradition there, and the menu never varies.  My step-mother does the most well-done prime rib possible every year.  And by well-done I mean cooked so that the colors red or pink are nowhere visible.  The president would approve.  Whatever.  She’s coming up on 80 and will do what she damn well pleases.  The meat was still tender and enough horseradish sauce makes up for most sins.

Anyway, after dinner I was sitting at the kids table with my daughter and a few of my nieces to avoid the determined clean up operation gets set in motion the moment it appears people are done eating.  All evidence that there was ever a meal must be eliminated.  The first time my wife ever came to Christmas we went up the street for about 45 minutes to visit my grandmother and by the time we got back both dinner and desert had been served and cleaned away to oblivion.  We ended up eating Christmas cookies in the car on the way home we were so hungry.

My daughter and nieces range from 13 to 24, and two of them are involved in Hollywood so often have interesting tales.  But in the midst of a discussion which involved season five of BoJack Horseman and Ted Danson’s folding straw, my 19 year old nieces saw that desert was being put out on the counter and felt the need to point out that there were two chocolate pies.

Let me make that clear.  There were TWO chocolate pies.  This was significant.

This was important to her because last year, unbeknownst to me, she did not get ANY chocolate pie.  All of the chocolate pie had been eaten before she went to get any, so her chocolate pie aspirations had been thwarted.  Her brother, who has the last piece, declined to share his pie with her, which was no doubt the shocker of the century.

This situation last year was apparently intolerable because there were TWO chocolate pies on the counter.  I imagine my sister had heard enough of this that she just made sure nobody would lack for chocolate pie.

As we are not talking about any sort of extra special chocolate pie here.  This looked to be the stock standard, no-bake, pudding in a pie crust desert that is out every year with its siblings, the pumpkin and coconut pies.  Chocolate was just now 50% of the “pies currently on the counter” demographic.

My sister confirmed that there were a pair of chocolate pies for the reason stated, and did so with a weariness that comes from trying to balance the demands of three teens under her roof.

So when the time came to serve up some pie, I got up and got myself a slice of chocolate pie, just on the off chance there would be a rush for that particular flavor.  I mean, last year we ran out before my niece even got a slice.

I actually had two slices, and managed to get them both without depriving my niece of her slice.  I must admit that my sudden lust for chocolate pie was, in part, to see if we could eat it all again before she got any.  But there would be no pie denial melt-down of any sort.

There was enough chocolate pie for all who desired any.

As I stood in the kitchen by the trash, helping to hide all evidence that there was any desert served after the meal we had so successfully disappeared, my niece walked up to scrape the remains of her pie into the trash.  In her hands I saw a paper plate with a huge glop of chocolate pie filling, missing really only the crust.  The main essence of the chocolate pie, the actual chocolate bit, appeared mostly untouched and she was happily dumping it into the trash.

So I called out in a loud voice, “After all of that talk about chocolate pie, are you telling me that you don’t actually like chocolate pie?  That all you really wanted was the crust?”

My niece confirmed this in a mildly embarrassed voice.  I turned towards my sister and called to her, even louder, so that everybody in the room could clearly head, “Did you see your daughter’s plate?  She was so anxious that she get some chocolate pie that we have TWO chocolate pies, and she is even now scooping almost all of the chocolate from her slice into the trash, having only eaten the crust?”

My sister was willing to play along in some public shaming, but the look in her eyes was, “Welcome to my life.”

In the end, nobody even took a slice from the second chocolate pie.  All of the chocolate pie related needs, including my second slice, were met by the first pie.  The second pie was entirely superfluous.  But at least it got a mention here.  They also serve, who only sit and wait.