Monthly Archives: September 2019

September in Review

The Site

I mentioned elsewhere that, at least for this site, not only does the month of August often see an uptick in traffic… maybe due to Blaugust, maybe due to more posts, maybe due to moon fairies… but then September almost always sees an uptick in traffic from August.  This month continued that trend, though I am pretty sure I can figure out why.

Classic is as classic does

Yes, I once again put up a post every day, making it three months in a row for that.  But quantity doesn’t always trump… well, I won’t say quality.  Rather, I wrote about the right topic this month.

If you look down at the most viewed posts for the month you will see that nine out of the dozen are not only WoW related, but focused on WoW Classic , WoW nostalgia, or zones from vanilla WoW.   When WoW is hot, writing about WoW gets traffic.  Or having previously written about WoW in any case.  A number of those posts are rather old.

One Year Ago

I did my post-event summary of Blaugust 2018.  Also, the blog turned another year older.  It seems to do that almost every year.

Pirates of the Burning Sea was in danger of shutting down.  A player group eventually took it over.  We’ll have to see how that plays out.

WildStar was no so lucky as NCsoft announced its time was coming to an end.  Is there an emulator yet?

Club Penguin Island was done too, though that was the result of Disney being dumb and/or arrogant.  We don’t get emulators for mobile apps, do we?  Not that there would be much call for it given how CPI was received.

I was cynical about Torchlight Frontiers.  But I am that way about a lot of things.

Then there was the crazy Daybreak and NantWorks joint partnership around H1Z1 and maybe EverQuest on your phone.  I don’t know.  But at least Daybreak could announce an EverQuest II expansion.

I actually played some EverQuest II.  I went looking for a path to follow, getting stuck in a waterfall along the way.

I was on CCP about trading their touted “epic” tutorial with a laborious one based around The Agency interface.

That would fade into the back when just days later it was announced that CCP was being acquired by Pearl Abyss, makers of Black Desert Online.  That got me going on about what it is like to be acquired as a company, something I’ve been through a bunch of times.  I even related it to how a studio called Silicon & Synapse got acquired way back in the day, and they did all right, before wondering about the EVE Online store.

The EVE Online September update saw the end of another asymmetrical ship design.

Meanwhile, actually in New Eden, there was a war on.  We had out eyes on that CO2 KeepstarWe blew that up, along with other structures of theirs.  Then we were after more structures in Fade and Pure Blind.  That led to a day when five Keepstars were blown up.  With the war going badly, Dead Coalition bribed us to pack up and go home, ending the war.

Blizzard had a mount for you, if only you would subscribe to WoW for six months.  Speaking of mounts, I got my Darkmoon Dirigible mount at last.  And Blizz said people would get a demo of WoW Classic as part of BlizzCon, even home viewers.

Over on Kickstarter, the World of Warcraft Diary about creating the game picked up $600K.

I did a piece about the Elder Forest zone on TorilMUD.  A great zone and a boon for young elves.

I also had a bit of a time capsule post and a link out to a character name creator.

Five Years Ago

Blizzard said no to its Titan project.

ArcheAge went live, was overwhelmed, and pissed off some people.  But everybody is happy now, right?

Destiny also launched and though I went nowhere near that, I was interested in Bungie’s seven design point.

Project: Gorgon was coming to the end of its second Kickstarter campaign and it clearly wasn’t going to make it.  On the other hand Defense Grid 2 was headed for release even though Hidden Path didn’t make all of their Kickstarter stretch goals.

Also on the developer front, Notch sold Minecraft to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then sales have gone past the 180 million copy mark, which I am sure Michael Pachter thinks is nothing.

Rift was set to join the insta-levels club as part of their Nightmare Tide expansion announcement.

EVE Online had the Oceanus release.  We all remember that, right? Parlez-vous français?

Meanwhile the Lords of Null Sec put our their Null Deal proposal.  In actual space, we left Delve yet again to come home and clean up Deklein. We were out numbered at one point, but we ended up with a nice op at the end of the month.

As part of my Pokemon binge I finished up Pokemon White Version 2.  I still think that is a horrible name, but it was a good entry in the core Pokemon RPG series.

In World of Warcraft I managed to get the Brewfest Kodo.  However, my Loremaster project started to fall apart in the Blade’s Edge mountains.  Well, we had more details about Warlords of Draenor to fuss over.

The strategy group was putting on a shameful display in Total War: Rome II.

I was wondering how long you had to be away before an MMO changed so much it became like a foreign country.

For the blog itself, I was on to the third iteration of my sidebar feed and it had been eight years since I started blogging.  And finally there was a review of the first Blaugust.

Ten Years Ago

I regaled readers with a post about the Adventures of Opus and Mopar Mac, which involved driving around Cupertino at night.

There was a brief moment of nostalgia for Infocom games… or at least for the ads.  Honestly, I think the ads were better than some of the games.

I was wondering if being there on day one was a requirement for MMO players.  It seems to be a thing for many players.

I was still talking about my days of playing TorilMUD, with a description of getting to Kobold Village and the great bronze armplate smuggling get rich quick scheme.

Turbine announced the Siege of Mirkwood expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, which brought out a little guilt in me, since I hadn’t even gotten to Moria yet.  I’ve since made it, but it took me a long time.  Siege of Mirkwood though, that ended up to be an interest killer for me.

Turbine also went live with their free to play program for Dungeons & Dragons Online.

Then there was WoW.  We were really on a WoW binge that September.  After the mention of a heroic version of Deadmines coming with Cataclysm I put up a poll about what instance we didn’t want to see made heroic, and the results were… unsurprising.  Everybody hating on the gnomes again. (We eventually got a pet battle version of Gnomer though!)

There were pirates and Brewfest and I managed to get my chef’s hat and all the sundry cooking achievements.  There was also corpse spam and phasing and maybe a unified auction house.  I think we got that eventually, right? Out in Northrend the instance group ran through Ulduar and the Oculus. and trial of the champion.

And, finally, there was the three year anniversary of the blog, with the usual round of stats and trivia.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Infocom released the text adventure version of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  It became one of their rare titles which I played completely through.  I ended up owning a bunch of their games but  Zork is probably the only other one I finished.  In HHGTTG getting the Babel Fish was such a moment that I bought the T-shirt they offered that said, “I got the Babel Fish!”  I still have, in a drawer somewhere, the “Don’t Panic!” button and the peril sensitive sunglasses that came in the original box.

One Hundred and Twenty Years Ago

Nintendo Koppa, later the Nintendo Playing Card Company, and eventually Nintendo Co. Ltd., was founded in Kyoto, Japan.

Most Views Posts from September

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains
  3. Traveling to the Scarlet Monastery
  4. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. WoW Classic gets a DDoS Attack
  7. WoW Classic and the Hunter’s Path
  8. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  9. Visions of a Sunken Temple
  10. Expecting Too Much from New Eden
  11. Desolace, Feralas, and Thousand Needles
  12. WoW Classic First Night Fun Complete with Queues

Search Terms of the Month

how many people play eve online 2019
[fewer than in 2018]

when will triglavian collective’s end?
[When Hilmar’s dreams tell him to end them]

ukdrillas
[Google says this is the top search term for my site now]

the ancient gaming nood
[This isn’t that kind of blog]

will there ever be a new everquest
[If you believe hard enough…]

Game Time from ManicTime

In which WoW Classic takes over my life.  ManicTime does not distinguish between the retail and classic clients, so it is all lumped in the World of Warcraft bucket.  But trust me, not a lot of time was spent in retail WoW.

  • World of Warcraft – 94.57%
  • EVE Online – 5.16%
  • Minecraft – 0.27%

Also, total hours played was up for the month.  So I played fewer games, but played more of them… or more of one of them.  In short, I played a lot of WoW Classic.

EVE Online

The blackout ended, the cyno restrictions went in, and chaos was… not very chaotic really.  Hilmar’s promise/threat of constant change and not knowing what was coming next seems to have been so much hyperbole.  It was enough to drive some people away and deepen divides in the player base, but not enough to actually change the game all that much.  Op success?  And Hilmar claiming it all came to him in a dream with delusions of game sentience hasn’t burnished his reputation in my book.  But he runs the company and I write a blog, so my opinion hardly matters.

Actually in New Eden I didn’t do all that much.  The Reavers deployed, then had to move due to a change in the political landscape of the war in the south east.  We scooted a bit north, but then Asher went on vacation for a week and not much happened.  I basically went on four ops this month and let my cyno alt account lapse.  My main and my alt are still logged out in a safe in hostile space, meaning they cannot do much.

Minecraft

Minecraft is on the list mostly because I stopped renewing my Minecraft Realms account to host our world.  There isn’t anything wrong with Realms.  It is an easy way to host your world.  But I did a sweep of subscriptions that were not being used, and Minecraft was on the list.  (So was Hulu.)  I mostly logged in to download a copy of the current world so I would have the most recent version available.

Pokemon Go

We saw the release of the first fifth generation Pokemon from the Unova region, the location for Pokemon Black & White.  That gave us new Pokemon to catch though, as I mentioned, there is now something of a Pokemon density problem.  And then there is the special task where I need to catch 50 steel or psychic Pokemon.  They are also scarce on the ground for me.

Level: 37 (+0)
Pokedex status: 444 (+6) caught, 467 (+6) seen
Pokemon I want:  Casting my net for Unova starter Pokemon
Current buddy: Lickitung

World of Warcraft

I did, in fact, log into retail WoW more than once this month.  I ran through a few things in Darkmoon Faire, as is my habit.  However, WoW Classic dominated my time.  They had a pet battle bonus XP week and I didn’t even log in for that.  I never miss out on pet battle bonus XP!

WoW Classic

Pretty much the main focus of my gaming for the month, and by a significant margin.  Just look at those ManicTime numbers.  Maybe 5% of that is WoW and the rest is WoW Classic.  I am not sure I have much to add here that I haven’t already posted about.

Coming Up

I hope you’re not sick of WoW Classic yet, because more posts about WoW Classic seem pretty damn likely.

BlizzCon is also approaching, going live on Friday, November 1st, which means the Blizzard speculation season has officially begun.  We have a month to read the tea leaves, decipher hints, and otherwise wonder at what will be revealed.  Expect a post about that soon.

We also have the last official CCP supported EVE Vegas towards the end of the month.  Basically the weekend before BlizzCon.  After this they will be holding it in San Diego.  I have my own conspiracy theory about that.  But I will be at EVE Vegas to help send it off.

Inside EVE Online the Chaos Era continues I guess.  Not content to stick Triglavian incursions in career agent systems, or between the starter systems and career agent systems, CCP decided to drop one on a starter system.  There is some chaos.  Do you wonder why I doubt they can improve new player retention?

We are also getting towards the time when Daybreak reveals information about the upcoming expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  And The EverQuest Show went to Daybreak HQ to film some interviews and promises a big episode based on that some time in October.

And then the LOTRO expansion, Minas Morgul, is supposed to go live at the end of the month as well.  I will have to see if I have enough LOTRO points to add that to my collection.  I doubt I will play it, but I might as well own it.

WoW Classic Calms Down a Bit

We are now about five weeks into the WoW Classic experience.

I believe this past week was the first since Blizzard opened up name reservations back in mid-August that they have not had to add any further WoW Classic servers.

Classic is as classic does

They started out with 25 servers, 13 US/Oceanic and 12 European.  The count now stands at 74 servers, 36 US/Oceanic (with 1 each for Latin America and Brazil) and 38 European.  That is quite a change, enough to drive subscription revenue up by 223% in August when compared to July.

I remain interested in the mix of server types, which come out as follows:

  1. PvP – 51
  2. Normal – 18
  3. RP-PvP – 3
  4. RP – 2

I would have assumed, given the World of Warcraft care bear, theme park, easy mode, starter MMO reputation that normal rules servers would have represented a greater portion of the mix.

My own theory has been that Blizz effectively making all retails servers normal servers with Battle for Azeroth may have pushed that, though I have been told that PvP is also one thing that the private emulation server community did not do well, so WoW Classic may be the only way to scratch the open world PvP itch for a lot of Azeroth fans.

I also wonder how the success of WoW Classic will influence the industry?  Which games… among those who haven’t already gone this route… will feel pressure to jump on the bandwagon?

I remain happy with my own server choice.  The RP server is about as chills as expected.  The population has been moving up through levels, so the early zones are not as crowded as they were a week or two ago.  I even caught the Defias Messenger outside of Moonbrook.

He made it out onto the road outside of town at least

For quite a stretch there has been somebody waiting for him at his spawn point in Moonbrook, with his corpse usually present only as far as he was able to flee.  He has a drop players need in the quest chain that leads you into the Deadmines, so has been a popular attraction.

In other news, Blizzard posted another video about WoW Classic and its creators, this time featuring Alex Afrasiabi.

 

Like many other members of the team, he found his way into the game as Field Marshal Afrasiabi, who stands at the entry to Stormwind.

He doesn’t have anything to say to me save “Move along”

Blizzard also posted two more WoW Classic city tours on their site, this time for Ironforge and Undercity.  Despite their similar circular layout I have always found Undercity much more confusing to navigate.  It is probably the elevators.

And, finally, Ula put up another video.  She captured a bit of a druid bear form party event taking place around the fountain in Stormwind.

I think the reactions of passers by are pretty amusing.

Pokemon Go Crowds in the Unova Region Pokemon

The latest big update to Pokemon Go was the release of the first Pokemon from the Unova region into the game.  That was the region that served as the setting for Pokemon Black & White and was the first setting for the game not based on a Japanese locale.  But location doesn’t mean the same thing in Pokemon Go, at least not in the sense it does in the core RPG series.

What it does mean is that players get new Pokemon to catch.

Including Snivy, Tepig, and Oshawott

If you have caught them all, then having more to catch can be enough motivation to get out in the world again.  But what if you haven’t caught them all yet?

It has been about a year since Niantic started putting the fourth generation Pokemon, from the Sinnoh region, into the game.  Doubtless with an eye towards slowing down their release, lest they run out of official Pokemon to put in the game, staggered the release of those Pokemon.  They also put in a bottleneck in the form of the Sinnoh Stone mechanic, which I mentioned previously.

The elusive Sinnoh stone

That has left me with a backlog of Pokemon waiting to be evolved.  But at least I have those Pokemon and it is only a matter of time before the weekly task lottery finally delivers the required item enough times to wrap that up.  But I am still quite a ways from the gold medal for the Sinnoh region, much less catching them all.  After a year that seems a bit odd.

Meanwhile, the new Unova Pokemon are not exactly easy finds.  In seeing that, the problem seems to be how Pokemon Go is structured.

The core RPG Pokemon titles all have a base number of Pokemon in each game, usually around 150.  That gets you the regional Pokedex completion.  After that there is the National Pokedex, where you have to catch all known Pokemon, but that is really an end-game task.  There are usually special mechanics and the ability to trade in the online Pokemon auction house to get what you are looking for.

Pokemon Go, on the other hand, is a single game.  It now has to contain five generations of Pokemon within a single game.  After all, if you’re a new player who just downloaded the game, you want to be able to catch up.  And so if you look around you’ll still find Bulbasaur and Charmander and Squirtle roaming about with their first generation companions.  You will also see second and third generation Pokemon out as well.  And then the Sinnoh region Pokemon.  And finally, somewhere in the mix, the new Unova Pokemon.

In my experience seeing half a dozen wild Pokemon on you phone screen at the same time constitutes a “crowd” as far as Pokemon Go is concerned.  In that situation, where the new Pokemon represent less than one in five of the total Pokemon population, seeing something from Unova can be a bit of a challenge.

Which, I guess can be good from some angles.  It does make you pay more attention to the hunt.  But it also makes catching them all somewhat less likely.  If I am still behind on Sinnoh Pokemon a year later, the prospect for Unova doesn’t seem all that great.

And don’t get me started on the egg situation.  The 7km eggs you get from friends as gifts still seem oriented on the Alola Pokemon, which are just graphical variations of first generation Pokemon that don’t even have their own spots in the Pokedex.

Anyway, so it goes.  Pokemon Go remains popular and profitable and a lot of the changes made to the game over the first three years have been pretty good.  But there are three more generations of Pokemon still out there, so the crowding looks like it will only get worse as time goes on.

 

EverQuest Progression Servers vs WoW Classic

For the last few years one of the key arguments to my mind in support of the idea of something like WoW Classic were the progression servers that SOE and the Daybreak rolled up for the EverQuest community over the years, starting back in 2007 with The Sleeper and The Combine.

A splash screen of many expansion splash screens

There was a lot to be learned from even that first rough run, including the idea that it might be more popular than expected requiring the company to roll out another server.

After running lukewarm-to-cold on the whole special server idea during the SOE years, where they would launch with some fanfare and then never mention the servers again in any official capacity, Daybreak has turned the special server nostalgia thing into a part of their ongoing business plan.  When Holly Longdale says that EQ has more players in 2019 than it did in 2015, it is in part due to the cottage industry for Norrath nostalgia they have created.

So now Blizzard is in the nostalgia business with WoW Classic, and is clearly seeing some success from having done so.  But it is interesting to see the different paths Daybreak and Blizzard took to get to their respective positions, both in how the went after the idea and how their respective games evolved over time.

The Classic Splash Screen

The idea for this post came via a comment from Bhagpuss on the post where we were having trouble finding a definitive answer on the functionality of meeting stones.  He noted that information about mechanics in WoW Classic were not as readily available as they were for Daybreak’s games.  While places like WoW Head have been able to recreate WoW Classic versions of their site with quests and locations pretty well covered, they are not quite complete as we discovered.

Meanwhile, if you start digging up stuff on EverQuest you will find old articles, often not updated for a decade or more, are pretty spot on, both for live and progression servers.

Part of this is, of course, due to how SOE and then Daybreak approached the nostalgia idea.  While Blizzard set out to recreate the 2006 experience running in its own version of the client, an EverQuest progression server runs on the same client as live and draws on the same assets and resources.

This was no doubt due to a few reasons, with a lack of resources being at the top.  Blizzard has the personnel and the budget to create something like WoW Classic while the EverQuest team hasn’t had that sort of opportunity since the early days, at which point it probably seemed like a silly thing to take on.  The team was cranking out two expansions a year for quite a stretch, and expansions made money and kept people subscribed.

There was also something of a lack of commitment to the nostalgia idea.  While I give SOE props for even getting into it back in 2007, just eight years after EverQuest launched, it wasn’t until well into the Daybreak era that the company really took the idea seriously, that resources were dedicated to make the nostalgia server idea a thing and address some of the problems that the fans had been complaining about since the first round of them.

But SOE and then Daybreak were able to get away with their half-assed approach to progression servers largely due to the way the game have developed and evolved over time.

The thing is, if you log into an EverQuest live server today you can wander around a lot of old zones that have remained pretty much untouched since they were launched.  The EQ team has released expansion after expansion, adding zone after zone, while never doing anything to really reform or consolidate the world.

Yes, there is the Plane of Knowledge, the travel hub of Norrath, and SOE updated a few old world zones like Freeport, but a lot of content was just left where it was dropped and rarely looked after again.  Somebody might add a new zone connection for another expansion, and a few places got a Tome of Knowledge added to get people to the Plane of Knowledge, but for the most part if you wander through old zones they look like they did back in the day.

And you can add to that the fact that the team didn’t go hog wild on revamping classes with every expansion.  If you roll up a warrior on a live server or a progression server, they still start with the same old skills from back whenever.  Spells got a bit of a revamp, losing the every five level aspect at some point, but otherwise you still get Spirit of the Wolf at about the same point you got it in 1999 or 2007 or 2011 or 2018.

In that environment where you haven’t really added a bunch of new stuff to the old zones, where classes are about the same now at level 1 though 20 or 50 as they were back in 1999, where content has been delivered in nice little stand-alone silos, a company can get away with a low effort, same client nostalgia experience.  Fippy Darkpaw is still running at the 1999 gates of Qeynos. delivering his line, over and over again.  So they can fiddle with some toggles about which zones you can access and play with the experience slider and call it a day.

Yes, there is Project 1999 and the purist attempt to really recreate every little detail of the original game. (They have a new server coming too.)  I admire the effort, but it does feel a bit like a niche of a niche, the desire to get back the entire experience.  Daybreak delivers about 80% of the experience already in a… I was going to wite “modern client” but let’s not be silly… supported client that gets updates on servers that get a lot of traffic.

Compare this with Blizzard’s lot.

The elephant in the room is the Cataclysm expansion, which redid the old content, updated the old world to allow flying, and added zones that adjoined to classic zones, and basically stirred the pot radically.  This is ground zero of the “missing old content” movement.

But that is only the most stark example of change.  Blizzard stirs the pot with every expansion.  Occasionally I see a call for “WoW 2.0″ and I laugh, because we’ve been there already.  The Burning Crusade was literally WoW 2.0, and while its changes were not as sweeping as Cataclysm, the game changed the day it dropped, as it did with Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Panaria and so on and so forth.  And while Blizz gives us a new city to hang out in each expansion, it also pushed to keep us in Stormwind and Orgrimmar as well, with portals to ease getting back and the auction house to serve as a draw.

I have written about how the hunter in WoW Classic is so different that retail, but even the simple classes have seen change.  Compared to rolling a warrior in EverQuest today, rolling one in retail WoW is nothing like the 2004 or 2006 experience.  You go through different content with skills that work differently up a different skill path to unlock different talents on a different talent tree.

In that environment there is no cheap way out to create anything like a vanilla WoW experience.  You cannot half-ass an attempt to test the water, you cannot just roll out a new server with only the level 1-60 content unlocked, because that 1-60 looks different, plays different, and for the most part is different.

I think this is why, as Bhagpuss noted, that some info is just difficult to find about WoW Classic.  With Blizzard shaking up the game and every class with each expansion, there hasn’t been the sort of static, almost sedimentary, layers of development the way there was with EverQuest over the years.  Fifteen year old articles at Allakazam are still relevant because SOE and Daybreak laid down some content and moved on.  Blizz doesn’t play that way.  Blizz changes the whole world, touches most everything, in a regular ~24 month cycle.  There was no simple path back to vanilla because it was so well and thoroughly gone.

And so we got Blizzard pushing off the idea of vanilla WoW and things like J. Allen Brack’s now infamous line for at least a decade.  I was already referencing calls for “classic” Azeroth servers back in August 2009.  Private servers offering a vanilla experience were already pretty common seven years back when I dabbledwith the Emerald Dream server.  But for Blizzard to get there required such a commitment that it was only after retail kept sagging that they decided to play the nostalgia card.

Daybreak got their imperfect nostalgia merely due to their rather silo focused content delivery.  Blizzard got more perfect nostalgia but had to rebuild it as a new client due to their propensity to change the world.

I suppose the lesson to take out of this is to plan for nostalgia… at least if you think your game is going to run 15 or 20 years.

LOTRO Minas Morgul Expansion Coming October 29, 2019

Minas Morgul will take you on an expedition deep into the Morgul Vale in search of answers to a mystery that spans three thousand years. The words of the shade of Isildur will unearth secrets and visions of the Second Age that have remained untold until now, revealing playable landscape and new adventures from a crucial time in Middle-earth’s history.

-SSG description of the Minas Morgul expansion

I must admit I wasn’t sure where Standing Stone Games would go after the Mordor expansion was announced back in 2017.  That is pretty much the big finish for the story and much of what happens afterwards, in the book at least, is just cleaning up and accounting.

But where there is a will… and a loophole… and a need to keep things going… there is always a way.  And so after the Mordor expansion the game will… stay in Mordor I guess, since that is pretty much where Minas Morgul is right?  I mean, it is on the boarder, was part of Gondor, but fell under the control of Sauron and was inhabited by the Nazgul.

Anyway, it is the Minas Morgul expansion! (With expansion FAQ here)

I do wonder if the fact that the URL for the expansion page resolves to “Minas Ithil” rather than “Minas Morgul” is a spoiler or not.

When you buy the expansion you unlock the following content:

  • Level cap raised from 120 to 130
  • Over 250 New Quests
  • 7 New Instances
  • Updated Crafting Guilds
  • Black Book of Mordor Storyline – clean up post-Sauron
  • New Shelob Raid and more!
  • Stout-axe dwarf race
  • Additional character slot
  • 100% XP Boost Scrolls (1hr) x5
  • Reputation Supply Boost x5

That is what you get with the Standard Edition of the expansion, available for $40.

There are, of course, upscale options.

The Collector’s Edition, which runs $80, adds in the following in addition:

  • A Character Level Boost to 120
  • Cosmetics of the Great Alliance – Exclusive armour and cloak
  • Shepherd dog pet
  • Mount of the Great Alliance
  • Two Exclusive Titles – “Hero, Past and Present” and “Heroine, Past and Present”
  • 10 Scrolls of Empowerment

And the Ultimate Fan Bundle, which checks in at $130, add the following on top of the Collector’s Edition:

  • Cosmetics of the Dead City – Exclusive armor and cloak
  • Harnessed shepherd dog pet
  • Mount of the Dead City
  • Cosmetic Weapon Aura – Aura of the Dead City
  • Additional Exclusive Title – “Ablâkhul”
  • Equippable XP Accelerator for all characters
  • Exclusive Housing Teleport for all characters
  • Three Relics for all characters
  • 5000 Virtue XP
  • 10 additional Scrolls of Empowerment

I am glad to see that Standing Stone Games is expanding the world of Middle-earth and that they have the wherewithal and rights to continue to do so.  The new race, the Stout-axe dwarves, strikes me as a bit of padding.  Did the game need more dwarves?  I guess we could have asked the same thing when the added in the High Elves as well.  But otherwise it seems like a solid chunk of content for the money… at least at the Standard Edition level.

There is a trailer for the expansion.

 

The trailer gives such a brief glimpse of thing of things that I would call it more of a teaser.  The graphics they show look good, at least in the scope of LOTRO graphical fidelity, and the peek at what I assume is Shelob in her lair at the end was neat.  But nobody is going to drop something like Black Desert Online for this due to graphics quality.  Turbine’s awkward look is still present.  It isn’t a problem for Middle-earth enthusiasts like myself, but it does make the game feel a bit dated.

As noted in the headline, the target date for the expansion is just about a month out, October 29, 2019. [Edit: Well, they missed that date, but November for sure!]

I couldn’t tell you if Minas Morgul is in my future.  I have a lifetime subscription to LOTRO, own all the expansions up through Mordor, and was playing earlier this year.  On the other hand, nothing past Mines of Moria has thrilled me, coming back to a game so many expansions deep is always such a chore, the awkward legendary weapon system is repellent to me, and in the autumnal nostalgia season this easily ranks well behind WoW Classic and potentially EverQuest II.  But it will be there if I want to give it a try.

SuperData says WoW Classic Driving Subscription Growth

You need this.  You don’t think you do, but you do.

-Me, to J. Allen Brack

SuperData Research is out with its monthly digital revenue chart, so we get to see how things did in August.

SuperData Research Top 10 – August 2019

And August has a few things to note when it comes to the PC side of the chart.

For openers, Dungeon Fighter Online held on to the top spot again this month, keeping League of Legends at bay.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds fell off the list, having surged back last month due to a price cut for the game.

Replacing PUBG was Hearthstone, which had the Saviors of Uldum expansion go live in early August.  Twelve expansions and still able to make the chart.

But the big item was World of Warcraft, which had fallen off the list completely for a few months this year before returning to seventh position.  It jumped up into third place for August, breaking through the solid wall that has been the top six games for most of 2019.

The reason for the jump was specifically called out in a bullet point in the report:

  • WoW Classic drives a huge jump in subscribers. World of Warcraft subscription revenue grew an estimated 223% in August compared to July. Despite this, total revenue was still lower than the Battle for Azeroth expansion last August.

I am sure the total revenue comment has some retail loyalist, sullen that half their guild ditched BFA for the nostalgia ride, happily pointing at that as proof that WoW Classic is all that big of a deal.

Here is the thing.  A year ago BFA had box sales to bolster total revenue.  WoW Classic was free to subscribers.  So that isn’t exactly a bragging point.  And the fact that WoW Classic was able to boost subscriptions by that much is something of an indictment of BFA’s popularity, or lack thereof.

I’ve said that BlizzCon is going to be interesting in light of the success of WoW Classic, but now the Q3 financial reports will be something to watch as well.  Something else to tune into in November.

In the center, Fortnite recaptured the top of the chart again, sending Grand Theft Auto V and its casino gambit down to third place.  Still, respect for the aging game and its ability to hold on.

It also marks a month when Nintendo, which still depends heavily on the physical retail channel, has three Switch exclusive  titles in the top ten, with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2.0, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate all accounted for.

And on the mobile end of the chart Pokemon Go took the top spot, which also earned it a specific mention in the notes:

  • Pokémon GO rises to the top spot on mobile. Pokémon GO generated $176 million in August, marking its highest point since peaking in 2016. Outperformance was partly driven by a flurry of in-game events as Niantic capitalized on what is typically the game’s strongest month.

Candy Crush Saga stayed on the chart, but fell two spots, landing in fifth position for August.

Meanwhile, the comparison list from NPD of August sales is also available.  They show the following:

  1. Madden NFL 20
  2. Minecraft
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses*
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Super Mario Maker 2*
  7. Mario Kart 8*
  8. Mortal Kombat 11
  9. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
  10. Astral Chain*

* No digital sales included in ranking.

NPD is US numbers and focused on retail, with some digital sales included.  So oriented, we see five titles for the Nintendo Switch in the top ten.  They also mention in the notes attached to their Speedrun newsletter that the Nintendo Switch was the best selling console in August as well as for 2019 overall.

Also up there was Minecraft, which was in fifth position last month.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions DOTA 2 led the pack, followed by League of Legends, Fortnite, World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto V.

Other items from the SuperData report:

  • Mobile grows share of total worldwide spending. Consumers spent $8.9 billion digitally worldwide in August across console, PC and mobile, up 2% from last year. Mobile, which was the fastest-growing segment, made up 62% of the total compared to 57% last August.
  • Madden NFL 20 console digital sales come in slightly below last year’s launch. When accounting for early pre-order launch dates, which split sales across July and August this year, Madden NFL 20 console digital units declined 6% compared to Madden NFL 19 through the end of August.
  • NBA 2K in-game spending growth slows ahead of upcoming launch. We estimate NBA 2K franchise in-game spending grew 39% year-over-year, a comparatively weak showing compared to the first seven months of 2019 where sales grew at an average rate of 91%. However, we note that August tends to be a seasonally low point for the franchise.

Exploring Why I Like WoW Classic So Far

I suppose that my current affinity for WoW Classic isn’t exactly inexplicable.   Surely last week’s posts about the effort put in getting to Ragefire Chasm, a dungeon of no particular significance aside from its low level rating and awkward location, doesn’t seem out of place for somebody who, say, put in the effort to build a 20km road in survival mode in Minecraft.

The Classic Background

Still, there has to be something compelling here to get to that level of effort.

Much ado has been made about WoW Classic and what its essence really is, with assertions running along the vectors of simplicity vs complexity, ease vs difficulty, fulfilling vs time sinks, and even modern vs archaic.

There are two amorphous camps out there whose banners seem to be “Why would you play WoW Classic?” and “Why wouldn’t you play WoW Classic?” or something like that.  But the messages can be indistinct and at times I have heard arguments that I was sure were in support of one side of the divide only to reach a conclusion that surprised me.

Meanwhile, I am always suspicious of my own opinion.  I am an unreliable narrator on the gaming journey that this blog covers, and I have often said I would play certain games or that enjoyed specific activities, only to give them up and never mention them again.  So when I say I am enjoying WoW Classic, there is some part of me questions that sentiment.  Am I really?  Am I sure about that?

The only way to tell is whether or not I keep logging in.  I can say whatever I want, convince myself that I am having fun, write blog posts about what I am doing, but if I sit down at my computer in the evening and don’t log in to play, then the reality of the situation has been exposed.  Regardless of what I tell myself, I won’t log in if I am not enjoying myself.

So that I keep logging into WoW Classic seems to be a good sign.  In fact, I keep logging into it to the exclusion of nearly anything else.  I suspect my play time distribution at the end of the month will be very much lopsided in favor of WoW Classic.

Naturally a big portion of this is related to the revival of the instance group.  Getting the band back together to play is a huge draw, and one that is self-reinforcing, as the more the others in the group play or chat on Discord or whatever, the more we are all likely to log in and play.

There is also the chance for a fresh start.  It has long been an open secret that one of the draws to the EverQuest progression servers is the start in a brand new world with everybody at level one again.  That was part of what got me going on the LOTRO Legendary server as well, a chance to see the early zones alive, to have people all around you, to have a place not already filled with people where most every new character you meet is an alt, twinked up to level up more quickly.

And, honestly, I find some satisfaction in there being some effort required to get things done.  Last weekend was the fourth time we, as a group, did the Ragefire Chasm instance.

We did it back during WotLK, over level, but keen to run into Orgrimmar.

We did it during our venture on the Horde side on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.

We did it during Cataclysm when we re-rolled a fresh group.

And we did it last week in WoW Classic.

Only one of the first three was a memorable event.  The first time it was something out of the ordinary that took effort and some patience as we ran into Orgrimmar with our Alliance characters.  That run sprang into my mind right away when we started talking about giving the dungeon a try.  The other two though, if I hadn’t written blog posts about them and tagged them correctly with the dungeon name, they wouldn’t have popped up.

The second time we ran Ragefire Chasm it was as Horde, and there was little effort needed to get to the instance.  It is right there in Orgrimmar.  The instance itself isn’t all that exciting and serves mostly as a training dungeon.  We moved on from there and it left no memory with me.

The third time, during Cataclysm, we did it with our re-rolled Alliance group.  But that was in the Dungeon Finder era after everything in the 1-60 range had been reworked into Dominoes dungeons (done in 30 minutes or less) and the level curve had been goosed once again to speed people up into the latest content.  We did three instances that night; Ragefire Chasm, Shadowfang Keep, and Stormwind Stockades, and none of it has any presence in my memory.  Certainly the 11 minutes we spent in RFC left no mark.   But what should you expect from low effort encounters?

Here is the thing.  Difficulty or inconvenience or failure or shared effort to overcome obstacles, those are things that create memories, that make for interesting tales, that build bonds, and make what you did a solid part of your personal history.

That difficulty, that level of effort required to get things done, that was part of the MMORPG landscape of the time.  Blizz just took what they found in EverQuest and made it more purposeful in WoWBhagpuss did a whole post yesterday that sifts through the level of effort and inconvenience with purpose aspect of this.  If you haven’t read through that, you should.  I am in agreement on how a lot of the effort seems quite well planned to get you involved with the world.  The world was, as Chris Metzen said, the main character of WoW.

And finally, of course, there is nostalgia.  This is a return to not just an older version of Azeroth no longer available in the retail version of the game, but even a return to mechanics and play styles long gone from WoW.  I can understand why some might not prefer that over retail, but to claim there is no substantial difference between retail and classic seems to me to be deliberate self-delusion.  If you draw back far enough, every fantasy MMORPG plays about the same, but those involved get into the details.  You cannot do everything in retail that you can do in classic simply because the world and the mechanics therein are so very different.

I am logging in to return to a game that was no longer there, that retail has replaced, to have an experience that is quite literally no longer possible in the current version of WoW.  I’m not saying retail WoW is bad, but it is very different and it is sometimes surprising at how wide the gap between the two really is now.

And it has also been eye opening to see how well made the original game was and how so much of what Blizzard has done to “improve” the game has only succeeded in taking some of the edge off of what was a pretty well honed blade.  The reason WoW took off back in the day was because it was a well put together MMORPG that made much of what came before… an most of what came after… look like amateur night.

So WoW Classic has clearly clicked with me for a variety of reasons.  Skronk jokingly said that Comcast called and wanted to know why they hadn’t turned on their TV over the last three weeks.  If my wife played I might be tempted to make the same joke.  Four weeks in I keep logging in daily to play.  That is the tell, the indicator that my opinion is in line with reality.  I am really enjoying WoW Classic.