Monthly Archives: December 2019

December in Review

The Site

Here we are at the last day of 2019, which is also the last day of the “teens” of the twenty-first century.  Tomorrow we’ll be in the Twenties, so I can use this graphic for one more post.

The jury is still out if the twenties will be roaring or not, or if I’ll be able to retire by the time the Thirties roll around.  The last run at that decade didn’t turn out so well.

Those dates and decades all seem so odd to me.  As a kid I was fixated on what the year 2000 would bring and how old I would be then, but I never really considered what would come after.  Now we’re well past that point and, as it turns out, time doesn’t just stand still.  It was 20 years ago when I was on the Y2K emergency response team, on call to work on any issues related to that monumental calendar date change.  Nothing happened.  But I still have the shirt they gave us.

As for the site, this will be post 412 of the year.  That puts 2019 in 4th place for most posts, beating out 2018 by just eight and 2010 by six.  2007 remains the champion, with 490 posts, though I wrote less than half as many words per post back then, so 2019 was more work.

One Year Ago

Epic Games set out to challenge Steam with their own digital games store front.  That didn’t stop Steam from going on with its usual Winter Sale.

Somebody was trying to crowd fund yet another gamer social network which got me on a tear about gamers not being a unified demographic.  The Kickstarter failed, as I expected.  It was a dumb idea.

Blizzard stepped back a bit from their MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.

In a season of MMO offers, Dungeons & Dragons Online had a $299 season pass offer, Lord of the Rings Online had a $199 legacy bundle, and Daybreak had a limited $299 lifetime subscription offer, though when buyers hit the limit, the limit was extended.

Daybreak launched The Burning Lands expansion for EverQuest as they were laying off staff.  The layoff was alleged to be focused in their Austin office, where PlanetSide stuff happens.

Daybreak, which had been hinting about a new game coming, then announced PlanetSide Arena, which didn’t feel like a new game at all.  And didn’t they just lay people off from that team?  It was slated to be available by February 2019.

On the LOTRO Legendary server I made a side trip to Esteldin.  I also made a side trip to the fall festival to get drunkLOTRO does a very nice drunk simulation.  Then it was off to Evendim, where I made it through Tinnudir and Annuminas.  After that I was in the Trollshaws.  I even made it into the Misty Mountains.  I was on a roll in Middle-earth.

CCP put out their December update for EVE Online, which included changes to high sec war decs, as well as the assets for the holiday login rewards and the Operation Permafrost event.  I wasn’t happy with that event.  It didn’t measure up to the Halloween event in my mind.  I did have some better luck with it eventually.

I was also carping about the dearth of ship SKINs in the New Eden Store.  How do you run a space cash shop where I cannot buy something for my ship?

CCP also announced the final destinations for the Invasion World Tour, in which they would change things up by bringing EVE Fanfest to eight locations around the world.

Actually in EVE Online Asher brought the Reavers SIG on a wormhole adventure to help blow up a Keepstar, which I recorded in a series of posts:

The Reavers also went out and did one of our null sec space races for fun.

In my usual year end posts, I reviewed my predictions for 2018, wrote about my five books of the year, went over the highs and lows of the last dozen months, reviewed the games I played, and ranted a bit about the state of MMORPGs.

Also, I had something about how the core player base will always optimize their behavior to match game mechanics.  Then there was a throw away post about various game studios.

Finally, I told the story of the two chocolate pies.

Five Years Ago

After my hardware woes the month before, I had to figure out which games to install again.

My MMO Outlook for 2015 was bleak.  But not as bleak as the reality ended up.  And then there were the highs and lows of 2014.

Syp was on about “real” MMO studios, strongly suggesting that you had to have more than one MMO to be legit.  I questioned whether that was really the case or not.  Examples were discussed.

It was the 10 year anniversary of the Nintendo DS handheld system.

Warlords of Draenor having launched at the end of November, the instance group was getting together in Azeroth and building garrisons… so we could be apart.  Of course, my first character into Draenor was already level 100 shortly thereafter.  We engaged in some jumping puzzles and then had to ride across country to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines.

Coming back to WoW also got me to post five seemingly simple things I wanted to see fixed.  I think they’re all still unchanged at this point.

I also spent a bit of time in EverQuest II over the holidays, figuring out where to go, getting some AA points handed to me, and rolling out into the Kylong Plains.  I also tried to recall the events around the great downtime of December 2004.

In New Eden, NCDot’s invasion of Fountain was pushed back.  Reavers were operating in their backfield in Querious, where Asher managed to setup a trap that lead to us killing four supers.  Then it was back to our home in the north.

We also got the Rhea expansion from CCP, which gave us graphical updates, the Bowhead freighter, the removal of clone costs, and Thera, a new kind of wormhole system.  There was also a blog banter about what to tell new players about EVE Online.

I was also wondering if PLEX-like currency items were working out well in any games besides EVE Online.  That was before the WoW Token came on the scene.

And I posted about three science fiction series I had started reading.

Ten Years Ago

Let’s see… a random reader wrote in to tell me that the social aspects of MMOs were insignificant.  It wasn’t even Gevlon.  Still, I don’t think he understood what he was talking about.

People seemed to be getting worked up as to how you define content in an MMO.  Can you compare sandbox and amusement park content fairly?  Taking some of this to its logical extreme, I demonstrated something that trumped all MMO content.

Also getting people worked up was the catch in the whole free to play model, brought up by changes to the store in Battlefield Heroes.  That actually got responses all over the place.

The US release date for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver was announced.

People were warming up for Star Trek Online.  There was a confusing array of pre-order options.  But it was missing some items I really wanted. (I think the awful early movie uniforms eventually appeared recently in the C-Store.)

In World of Warcraft we were busy wrapping up the holiday achievements, including Pilgrim’s Bounty.

We were also playing with this new Dungeon Finder thing that showed up with WoW patch 3.3.  Automated cross-server instance group matching with random strangers?  It will never work.

The instance group, in its horde RP-PvP server form, was hitting Gnomeregan and Shadowfang Keep, both of which seemed… much easier.

And I was officially epic… proven by the achievement.  Of course by that time, somebody already had all the possible WoW achievements.  Too epic to be believed.

Meanwhile, this horrible image was keeping me up at nights.  You just cannot unsee some things once you have seen them.

In EVE Online the Dominion expansion went live, changing how players captured and held.  Out was POS based sovereignty and in was territorial claim units (TCUs), infrastructure hubs (ihubs), sovereignty blockade units (SBUs), and all the fun times they brought.  I wasn’t in null sec at the time, but would learn all about these things later on.

Finally, there was an actual podcast interview with Erik “WoW isn’t easy enough” Estavillo.  He was a surprisingly good sport about being the subject of mockery.

Fifteen Years Ago

In EverQuest II there was the great December downtime, where the game was offline for more than a day when the servers wouldn’t come up after an update.  I wrote up a bit about that a decade later, but you can find some contemporary commentary over at Terra Nova.

Anarchy Online introduced a Free to Play program, five years before Dungeons & Dragons Online made a splash with that idea, replacing trial subscriptions for new players.  It gave players access to the original content for free.  Free players were shown ads on in-game billboards to help fund this new program.  Started as a one year experiment, free is still an option within the game.

Garry’s Mod, one of the oddest early “games” to take advantage of Steam and Valve’s Source Engine, was launched.  A best selling package on Steam, it is a sandbox that lets people tinker with assets from Valve’s games such as Half-Life 2.  It was used as the basis for a number of web comics, such as the famed Concerned, as well as videos and other creations.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Sony launched the original PlayStation console.  Sony’s aggressive courting of third party developers, something the then market giants Nintendo and Sega did in a half-hearted fashion at best, led to a software library that allowed Sony to dominate.  This eventually drove Sega and the second tier competitors out of the console market and led Nintendo to double down on its insular franchise pattern that often goes for years pretending no other consoles even exist.

Maxis released SimCity 2000, the sequel to the original SimCity.  It was a huge leap over the original in many way.  And it came from a time when we felt adding “2000” to a name made it more modern.  That faded a bit about 20 years back.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. The Holidays Come to EVE Online with Login Rewards and More
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  4. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  5. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  6. My Five Books of 2019
  7. The Test of Righteousness
  8. Reviewing my 2019 Predictions
  9. WoW Classic gets Battlegrounds and Key Rings Today
  10. Top Five Rejected WoW Squish Ideas
  11. Gnomeregan Again but Backwards
  12. Return to the Crowd Pummeler

Search Terms of the Month

flattering dominix outfit
[Go with the Hyperion outfit, trust me]

myrmidon or ishtar
[Myrmidon. Is this Gallente “hot or not” now?]

fozzie sov mechanics
[They suxor]

nantworks just survive
[It did not]

what do i get extra if i pre order torment of velious?
[Nothing if you’re asking after it launched]

daybreak all access lifetime
[That was last year]

Game Time from ManicTime

The update for WoW Classic this month changed the name of the executable, so now ManicTime will report WoW and WoW Classic separately.  However, the change was during the month so I cannot break them out yet, but I will be able to do so for next year.  Anyway, I clearly spent most of my gaming time in two places.

  • World of Warcraft – 47.75%
  • EverQuest II – 45.39%
  • EVE Online – 6.12%
  • EverQuest – 0.73%

At some point in the new year I will look at all  the time combined and what it meant and what affect measurement had on my play time.

EVE Online

I dipped into the game for a few ops, but wasn’t out on any deployments.  I also logged into the game for the 13 days of Christmas to collect my free goodies.  And there was a Reavers space scavenger hunt that Ranger Gama set up, which I did exceedingly poorly at.  But otherwise a quiet month in New Eden for me.

EverQuest II

I started off slow in Norrath this month, having hit the pre-expansion level cap with my main.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to play Blood of Luclin all that much, even though I had pre-ordered it.  But then it came out and I did dive in and I did play quiet a bit.  There are posts in store about all of that.

Pokemon Go

My wife and I finally made it to level 38.  I crossed over first, which got her to do a binge evolve session with a lucky egg to catch up.  Now, however, we face the climb to 39 and 40.  40 requires 20 million experience points, which getting to 38 pushed us past 12 million, so we’ve got about 40% of the journey to level cap ahead of us.   I figure if I just get about 100 new friends and get them all up to max friendship level I should be close.  Too bad you can only have 10 gifts in your inventory at one time.

Level: 38 (+1)
Pokedex status: 481 (+11) caught, 505 (+10) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Tepig

World of Warcraft

Retail WoW is not at all my main focus and I spent very little time there.  I did log in with my main to go do Darkmoon Faire, since that is pretty much the only way I am going to make any trade skill progress at this point.  I almost forgot to log back in for the Winter Veil gifts.  There was a nice present under the tree, something new for the toy box.  I am glad I logged in to grab that.

WoW Classic

I started off the month getting back into old Azeroth.  The instance group ran some dungeons and I worked on my alts, most of whom are now into their 30s.  But the holidays were busy and getting together became a bit more dicey.  And then Blood of Luclin came along to occupy my solo time.  Still, it hasn’t faded yet.

Coming Up

A new year and a new decade.  Or have I mentioned that enough already?

Tomorrow will be the usual predictions post.  In the completely unchanged way of things, I thought that maybe I would skip it or change it up… maybe do a few predictions for the decade… largely because I was coming up short on predictions.  But over time they accumulated like a snowball rolling down hill and now you get the same old new year’s prediction posts you always get.

I still might do something looking forward a decade.  But then I think about what I might have predicted back on January 1, 2010 for the last decade.  At least it will likely be comedy in hindsight.  Maybe I’ll go with what I want to see as opposed to what I think will come to pass.  What does optimism look like again?

Otherwise the change of the year won’t see much change in reality.  We all still have to keep going no matter what the calendar says.

Looking Back at 2019 Highs and Lows

What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Here we are again, sitting at the end of another calendar year.  And not just that, but at the end of a decade as well, if we’re going to collect our arbitrary eras of time.  Reality doesn’t care about the calendar, but humans like to put things in nice neat boxes.

As has become the routine every year, I spend a bit of time writing out some of the highs and lows of the year.  This is not at all an inclusive or an exhaustive list of things good and ill that came to pass in 2019.  I inevitably look back at these posts and come up with a dozen more things I could have listed.  Rather, this is more of a stream of consciousness vomit of words into the text editor.  As such, don’t expect to find any links to whatever I bring up.  But you can ask in the comments I suppose.

The only links you get are back to past iterations of this post from previous years.

I think the major change this year is that I decided each bullet point needed to be a complete sentence with punctuation.  That probably means they aren’t really bullet points, but I don’t care.

One thing I will note is that going through some of the older posts… and I now have a full decade streak running from 2010 through 2019… is how much my focus has narrowed.  My ability to care about a wide range of games and genres and technologies has decreased noticeably as the years have dragged on.  I suspect that this is a function of age as much as anything else.  But this means that, over time, the list of categories has decreased and the number of titles I feel inclined to mention has grown smaller.  Still, I will go on about some of the expected standards from the blog.

Blizzard

Highs

  • The Warcraft 25th anniversary and WoW 15th anniversary were highlights.
  • Rise of Azshara update finally gave us the flying unlock for Battle for Azeroth.  That was enough to get a few people back.
  • WoW Classic comes alive and succeeds beyond at least Blizzard’s expectations, picking up the slack for the faltering Battle for Azeroth expansion.
  • Personally WoW Classic was an excellent return to a simpler time in Azeroth.
  • A working version of Diablo in conjunction with GoG.com!
  • Diablo IV announced!
  • Overwatch 2 announced!  It will have a PvE story campaign and will overlap functionality with Overwatch.
  • The next WoW expansion, Shadowlands was announced.
  • More decks and a new game mode for Hearthstone.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged closer to release, and it looks really good.
  • StarCraft Cartooned was pretty funny.  Worth my $10.
  • The promise of more devs for WoW and WoW Classic.

Lows

  • 2019 was a strong reminder that Blizzard is just a company and not a special magic factory or your best friend or an organization that cares a single whit about you.  Blizz is just EA dialed back to maybe 8.  That doesn’t mean you should be mean to people who work there (please don’t be that person), just that you should set your expectations accordingly.
  • The Blitzchung Hong Kong fiasco put a shadow over the whole company right before BlizzCon.
  • Blizzard’s sanctions against Blitzchung, their slow response, their corporate speak, and the lack of clarity as to what J. Allen Brack was actually apologizing for all worked against Blizz.  The only bright point for Blizz in all of this was probably that most of its customers didn’t give a shit.
  • Battle for Azeroth just wasn’t thrilling people.  This is a problem when you have a lot of people to please and you only push an expansion out every other year.
  • Took Blizz a while to get Darkmoon Faire trade skill quests working right with the BfA tradeskill revamp.  Another case of one hand not paying any mind to the other I bet.
  • Blizz wildly underestimated WoW Classic popularity, having to nearly triple the number of servers they started with, then doubling the capacity of the servers just to soak up all those wanting to play.
  • WoW Classic has some odd performance issues.  It is mostly crisp, but crossing zones always has a little hiccup and at times actions fall behind the UI and you’re left hanging while the game catches up.  Maybe that was in vanilla too and I’ve just forgotten.
  • WoW Classic population balance… lots of free character transfer offers, but not sure if they did the trick.
  • Then there was UKDillahs and their DDoS attack on WoW Classic.
  • WoW Classic can’t carry the load forever and there has been no indication that Blizz “gets” the whole nostalgia thing beyond a superficial level.
  • WoW Classic PvP servers once honor was introduced.
  • Paid character transfers for WoW Classic show up now that honor has made life miserable on some PvP realms.
  • The level squish plan coming with Shadowlands if rife with the possibility of problems.
  • Diablo IV is still a long, long way away.  We’ll be getting updates about it for a couple more BlizzCon cycles before it goes live.
  • No Diablo II remaster yet and the original Diablo II devs say it will never happen… though they throw shade at everything Blizz does with the franchise they created.
  • Is Overwatch 2 a dessert topping or a floor wax?  It is billed as a new game, looks like an expansion, and feels a lot like something that should have been part of the original.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged was supposed to launch in 2019.  Only made it to closed beta so far, and only for those who pre-ordered.  The launch should be in January.  We shall see.
  • StarCraft II?  Helloooo?
  • The usual amount of missed opportunities due to Blizzard being both slow and cautious and having grown to be even more lumbering due to its size.
  • Layoffs announced in the breath after celebrating their best financial performance ever.
  • Blizzard margins were way down mid-year, which is never a good look for a public company as Wall Street obsesses about margins.
  • Not a single new game out of the company in how many years now?

Daybreak

Highs

  • EverQuest turns 20!
  • Lots of good EverQuest news about the viability of the franchise.
  • EverQuest II turns 15!
  • Both Norrath games got a new expansion.  The future seems bright for fans.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II special rules servers have helped keep the Norrath franchise alive.
  • Managed to find time to play and enjoy both EverQuest and EverQuest II this year.
  • The EverQuest Show arrives dedicated to covering EverQuest, something I have long wished for.
  • DC Universe Online remains hardy, gets updates.
  • DC Universe Online even got a version on the Nintendo Switch!  No idea how it is doing there, but that they thought it was worth the effort says something.
  • Daybreak launched a new title, PlanetSide Arena!
  • Plans for a PlanetSide 3 announced!

Lows

  • Layoffs.
  • Signs of a possible company break up or sale, with new names being registered and new social media accounts.
  • Daybreak has four viable games: EverQuest, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and PlanetSide 2… and I won’t swear to that last one… the youngest of which is seven years old.
  • EverQuest franchise is a cow and Daybreak is content to milk it.  Same for DC Universe Online.
  • Exec Producer says there could be another EverQuest game someday under the right circumstances, which leads me to believe there won’t ever be a new EverQuest game so long as current Daybreak management are running the show.
  • EverQuest special rules servers tend to work best in one flavor despite different variations.
  • EverQuest II special rules servers do not have the same appeal as EverQuest flavors.
  • EverQuest II seems to be back in the performance issues zone.  When playing there are is a lot of hesitation and delay when using spells or combat skills.  This is more so in group play, like the dragon events, but I see it even in solo instances.
  • The EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin, is… odd.  That may not be bad.  There may be things going on here the industry ought to look at.  But for a company that brings out an expansion annually in order to cater to its core audience, rocking the boat like this is a risk.
  • The EverQuest Show went quiet after a few months.  I hope it isn’t gone for good.
  • No more Player Studio.  SOE/Daybreak were leaders with that, but had to fold up shop.
  • Sorry about that currency exploit which apparently inflated the hell out of the economy in DCUO.  Daybreak had to apply a “fix tax” that basically took everything above 25 billion from anybody’s account.
  • Z1 Battle Royale handed back to Daybreak when NantWorks couldn’t make it work.
  • H1Z1 neglected and mis-handled on the PS4, while the returning PC prodigal son… was also neglected and mis-handled.
  • PlanetSide Arena, a battle royale based on PlanetSide 2 strikes very few as new in any way.  Overwatch 2 has better claim to being new to my mind.
  • PlanetSide Arena failed to launch in February, re-targeted to “summer” to include PlayStation 4 version as well, after which Daybreak goes into its usual silent mode for six months.
  • PlanetSide Arena goes early access on PC only in September (technically just before the end of summer on the calendar) only to be roundly scorned by the dwindling PlanetSide 2 community.  Steam numbers quickly go so low that the game is clearly not viable.
  • PlanetSide Arena gets shut down… would writing just PlanetSide Arena have been enough?
  • Plans to revitalize PlanetSide 2 appear to be to based on… something vague they can’t tell us about.  That generally means they don’t know.  We’ll find out in 2020.
  • PlanetSide 3 plans were to build off of PlanetSide Arena… which is now kaput.  So what happens now?
  • PlanetSide and H1Z1 franchises prove that being a cow and getting milked is still better than some other options.
  • Does Jason Epstein still own this mess?

CCP

Highs

  • Triglavian ships for everybody!
  • Triglavian invasions for most everybody!
  • Skill points for everybody!
  • Really a lot of good, solid, quality of life fixes in the game.  They may be small, but they matter.
  • Moratorium on devs playing EVE Online openly has been lifted after more than a decade.
  • CCP working on the ISK faucet problem seriously, and actually having an impact.
  • War Dec changes finally putting some sort of cap on that scourge of high sec.
  • Some progress on Upwell structure issues like time zone tanking and low powered structure spam.
  • Still some wars in null sec, with TEST and Fraternity battling and the Imperium going north to drive PanFam out of Tribute.
  • CCP said to have gotten lots of good, actionable data from summer experiments.
  • EVE Fanfest World Tour brought official EVE Online events to many people.
  • EVE Vegas and the Permaband performance were excellent.
  • EVE media seems pretty strong on the streaming front.  Lots of streamers and streaming shows covering New Eden.
  • Team Talos created to tackle what are essentially balance issues!
  • Katia Sai making it to all the systems in New Eden without losing a ship and getting wide recognition for the feat, including a monument in game and a Guinness Records achievement.
  • A whole range of new and colorful ships SKINs arrived as the year closed out.
  • EVE Aether Wars tech demo promised better tech infrastructure for online games of the future.
  • Finally progressing towards another live product with EVE Echoes.

Lows

  • CCP bans CSM member Brisc Rubal for cheating… and then does their investigation only to end up reinstating him and apologizing.  The phrase “measure twice, cut once” springs to mind.
  • The CSM remains a bastion of null sec for the same old reasons.  But an elected CSM will always be as such.
  • CCP gets lots of new players, then loses almost all of them in the first week.  Half of people who register don’t end up even logging in.
  • There comes a point where “give away more skill points” might not be the right answer.
  • What Alliance Tournament?
  • Entosis mechanics remain a barrier to sov warfare in null sec.  We shoot structures to fight and only take space when one side decides to pack up and leave.
  • Capital meta still oppresses subcap game play in null sec.  Form battleships and you get supers dropped on you.
  • The “summer experiments,” Hurricane Hilmar and the Chaos, era kills off a lot of null sec and economic activity.  Velocity of PLEX plummets.
  • Imperium campaign in Tribute was brought up short by the completely unfun and unrewarding Drifter attacks.  Player war killed by dubious event.
  • Their own analysis showed that the blackout hit the poor hard and was barely noticed by the rich.  Just like real world economics!
  • HyperNet Relay – Gambling returns to New Eden.  But CCP and the CSM seem quite enthusiastic about a mechanism where almost everybody involved loses their money.
  • Cyno changes meant an end to solo capital play unless you had the budget to pay half a billion for every cyno.
  • No more EVE Vegas.  Its not that I don’t like San Diego.  It is a nice place.  My sister lives there.  But if you’re going to to keep it in the western US, LA is the clear winner (Disneyland for the family) and Seattle is the place different enough to be a runner up.
  • CCP Guard and CCP Falcon, two staples of the community team, left CCP.
  • Written media about EVE Online continues its decline.  Crossing Zebras closed down, New Eden Register faded, EVE News 24 pretty much just reposts dev blogs and press releases, and even INN has become sporadic in its coverage of New Eden.  Streams and videos are great, but I miss the search and index functionality that comes with the written word.  But then blogs are pretty fringe now as well.  The cool kids don’t write.
  • There was a long, dry spell of almost no new ship SKINs for much of the year.
  • EVE Aether Wars is tech that will never make it into EVE Online at this point and the record attempts as part of the tests fell so far short of goals as to be embarrassing after three tries.
  • That Starter Pack deal that gave anybody who bought it a one time million skill point boost for $10 is still there, still available for anybody to buy.  I guess CCP decided they could weather out our 15 minutes of outrage… and it looks like they were right.
  • CCP’s plans for EVE Online are all tactical, which isn’t all bad, since the game needs that, but there is no long term vision of aspirational feature on the horizon.
  • Seriously, when CCP Seagull mentioned player made star gates way back when, was anybody thinking “oh, that will just be the replacement for jump bridges?”  Because I sure thought it meant something more expansive.
  • That chart from Hilmar that seemed to say that the goal of the new player path culminated in anxiety and boredom.  It is in the CSM minutes and it betrays some blurry thinking.
  • Still a lot of goofy, old, out of date, need revision mechanics in the game.
  • Perhaps the first year where I did feel like EVE Online was dying.
  • I am not a fan of EVE Echoes.  It is too complicated to be a mobile game yet too simplified to be EVE Online for me.

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • LOTRO got another expansion with Minas Morgul!
  • LOTRO Legendary server carries on with progression.
  • SSG says they have many years of additional content they could add to LOTRO.
  • An admission that the awful legendary weapons system might need some work.
  • DDO got… some things.  I seem to remember that.

Lows

  • The Minas Morgul expansion is hidden behind the Mordor expansion, which stopped me cold.
  • I honestly think the claims about future content are hubris in the extreme.  Content sells, but the ring was destroyed in the last expansion.  How many “we’re still cleaning up Middle-earth” expansions can they get away with?  Unless they’re going to go the time travel route.  Please no.
  • SSG attempting to cash shop their way out of the awful legendary weapon system that has been a menace following the game since Mines of Moria, like a tedious and time consuming Gollum.  Don’t like legendary weapons?  Just give us $50 and to unlock everything.
  • As I have said before, the company depends on milking their two titles for their ongoing survival.  Any serious misstep could derail the whole thing.
  • Still not clear who owns the company and what the real connection is with Daybreak and whether or not that connection should worry us given the tenuous nature of Daybreak’s future.

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD carries on, has added a new class to the options.  Not bad for a 26 year old game.
  • The Minecraft Village & Pillage update was pretty big, with a lot of great additions to the game.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order, in which it seems like EA somehow managed to make a decent Star Wars game that wasn’t laden with microtransactions, loot boxes, or other heinous cash grabs.  It is like they know what they’re doing wrong, but do it anyway.
  • Google Stadia promised a whole lot of stuff.
  • Auto Battler/Auto Chess gave us a new game mode that was some fun, leading to Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords.
  • The Switch gets a real Pokemon core RPG title in Pokemon Sword & Shield and it sells like crazy, proving once again the strength of the franchise.
  • The Epic Game Store gave Steam some competition, which it really needs.
  • Steam still carried on, even managing to get EA and Microsoft to put their games on the Steam store again.
  • Microsoft launched Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Steam.
  • Niantic has kept Pokemon Go lively by unlocking new Pokemon and adding new features.
  • Niantic even let me change teams in Pokemon Go. It cost a thousand coins, but was worth it.
  • Yathzee Crowshaw’s Dev Diary series on YouTube where he is making 12 Games in 12 Months has been great so far.  Learn about the primary game play loop!

Lows

  • The loss of Brad McQuaid.
  • Shroud of the Avatar getting handed off to an unknown company was a new low point for the game.
  • Not sure the downsides of Google Stadia… like having to buy any game you want to play there again if you already own it… will make the upsides worth it, even if Google manages to fulfill its promises.
  • I don’t even care about Fallout 76 and it annoys me.  Stop being bad!
  • The Epic Game Store lost many fans when it paid devs to sign exclusives that required them to pull already existing pre-order from Steam.
  • Most people are just going to stick to Steam no matter what.
  • Steam sales, summer, winter, and in between, just don’t have the power they once did.  I’ve been saying that for years now, but sales continue to have less impact on me and sale prices are the not-so-new normal at this point.
  • Great moment during the summer sale when Steam managed to get lots of people to purge their wishlists due to being unclear how you might win a game from it.  Lots of dev panic as they saw their games getting dropped and then Valve trying to explain their mistake.
  • Steam continues to have to revise their policy of allowing any game.  They approved a game called Rape Day, then removed it after outrage.  More recently they deleted a whole range of crap… which should be a high, but that they still won’t admit they should have standards makes this a low.
  • Unless you have a current machine, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition might not run very well on your system.  Also, do I want to buy that game for the third time? (Original, HD, and now DI versions.)
  • The last few levels before 40 in Pokemon Go are a drag with little in the way of rewards.  Also, any event that requires me to make multiple excellent curve ball throws is taxing to my patience.  Also also… damned Sinnoh stones.
  • Cryptic killed their player studio stuff in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter.  User created content is apparently more trouble than it is worth.
  • ArenaNet layoffs and the departure of people like Mike O’Brien cannot mean good new long term for Guild Wars 2 fans.
  • Fallen Earth went dark, but plans to come back.  We shall see.
  • Industry cannot stop making lockboxes seem bad, while trying to explain them away as “surprise mechanics” just makes them look like liars.  This is how you get your industry regulated.
  • GameStop is as good as dead now.  You may not love GameStop, but it being there and able to sell me some obscure bit of console hardware no longer made by the OEM was handy at times.
  • More local to me, electronics chain Fry’s, once the Silicon Valley go-to place for nearly everything nerd, looks to be on its death bed as well.
  • Along with the used market, digital is also killing off the rental market.  Redbox said nuts to that and shut theirs down.  GameFly probably won’t be long for this world.
  • Writing this section proves more so every year that I rarely play anything new.  I like my old games.
  • I’m not even good at keeping up with MMOs anymore.  I am not sure I could string together three relevant sentences about games like ESO, FFXIV, SWTOR, or any of the other still viable, still chugging along staples of the genre.

 

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Watched some good shows like The Boys, Succession, The Madalorian, Watchmen, Umbrella Academy, and Russian Doll along with new seasons of The Expanse, Rick & Morty, The Good Place, and The Crown.
  • Baby Yoda deserves a special mention.
  • Good movies as well, like The Irishman, Detective Pikachu, The Dead Don’t Die, Toy Story 4, Dowton Abby, Ford v Ferrari, and Jojo Rabbit.  I was happy with all of those.
  • Working towards cord cutting with a Roku Streaming Stick and services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.
  • On YouTube Honest Trailers, How it Should Have Ended, and a few other channels continue to deliver joy for me.
  • Despite complaints, I find Twitter to be a good source of news and humor.  It has remained the best social media option for me, though I am also very selective as to whom I follow.
  • For all the cries that “Facebook kills democracy” and the like, I’ve yet to see anybody I know post or comment on something politically where I couldn’t have guessed where they stood in advance.  Nobody is swayed by retweeting memes or political ads as everybody makes up their mind first then cherry picks facts to support their point of view.  Facebook just made this more obvious.

Lows

  • No real “great” movies or TV shows however.  That might just be me, but nothing this year made me want to go back and watch it again.
  • Not feeling it for the final season of BoJack Horseman.  They seem to be setting him up for a huge fall just to make sure the series is done.
  • The main high point of Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker is that at least we’re done with that for a while.  I’ll stack rank the series again at some point, but don’t expect episode IX to be near the top.  It mostly felt like wasted potential.
  • Profusion of new specialty video streaming services.  I am tapped out after having to get Disney+ because my wife said we needed Baby Yoda.
  • Cannot really cord cut because the cable company remains the only high speed internet option in my neighborhood and 100 MBit internet alone costs more than 100 MBit plus basic cable.
  • Also cannot cord cut because Hulu “live TV” is over a minute delayed for live sports, and my wife texts her friends about hockey and cannot stand to hear about goals or penalties that haven’t hit our TV yest.
  • Not enough time/energy to go see a lot of movies in the theater, and and many are getting hidden away on some streaming service I won’t be subscribing to.  I didn’t see Avengers: End Game until we got Disney+.
  • Love binge watching shows, but getting all the episodes at once just means waiting longer until the next season becomes available.  But I won’t stop.
  • That drip feed of weekly episode releases is tough to deal with now… but it does keep everybody on the same page and builds up a sense of fan engagement for some shows.  Just stop being in such a hurry to live post all the spoilers as the episode airs.  Some of watch the next day.
  • Horrible Sonic the Hedgehog render for movie gets huge fan backlash, forcing studio to rework the model, leading to the company doing that work getting fired for not going into constant crunch mode to do the fix.
  • Twitter redoing its web interface was an abomination.  I was very happy when a browser plugin showed up to return it to its old format.  But I freak out a bit every time I see the new UI on somebody’s machine.
  • People on Twitter are still horrible.  There needs to be some sort of reminder that the person you’re trashing is a real human being and maybe some sort of five minute delay on posting with a Win10 level “are you sure you want to post that?” and “really, last warning, do you really want to say this publicly and have it recorded for all posterity?” before a tweet goes live.
  • The lack of a typo edit feature in Twitter is just killing me.
  • Facebook is still annoying to look at even if it isn’t killing democracy.
  • The demise of MAD Magazine, staple of my adolescence.  There was much there that made me the cynic I am today.
  • Elementary wrapped up in a semi-satisfying way I guess with a half season finale.  But the previous season felt like they were struggling for a thread, so maybe it ran too long.
  • The end of Game of Thrones… as lots of people have noted… felt rushed and rather half-assed.
  • Also, generally speaking, in a world of LED TVs please stop doing so many scenes of people in black, with dark gear, in unlit rooms, on dark moonless nights.  If you create video that is pretty much unviewable on default settings you suck.
  • Google+ went away, though admittedly few were using it… much fewer than were still using Google Reader when they killed that.

The Blog, Blogging, and things more Personal

Highs

  • The blog carried on for another year.  That makes 13 years in total.
  • Still managed to crank out a prestigious amount of posts and words.
  • Blaugust had a reasonable turnout this year, and the Discord channel for it remained active after it ended. (Unlike last year, when there were like three of us still there afterwards.)
  • MMO Fallout announced it was shutting down… then opened back up to keep covering neglected bits of the MMO market niche.
  • The old instance group back together again in WoW Classic!
  • We got a new oven and I am surprised at how much of a difference it made.  Consistent, even, accurate heat means the directions on the box for most everything I cook are correct.  My wife, who actually cooks real food, likes it too.
  • My wife and I have successfully raised child to legal adult age.  Said child has already been accepted to several universities.  Op success!

Lows

  • Do people still read blogs?  Blog traffic continues to drop off.
  • I remind myself that quantity does not equal quality.
  • More worrying, my own desire to write yet another post about something I’ve probably covered previously feels like it is slipping.
  • The instance group is all older and less able to stay up past our bed times.  Earl being in Japan also makes group times a bit odd.
  • Having adult offspring doesn’t make you feel any younger.  Oh, and now to pay for that university education without incurring crippling debt for anybody.  Welcome to America.
  • What are we going to do when the child, the center of our existence for almost 20 years if you count getting everything ready, leaves the nest for college?  I kind of envy my parents for having kids so young.  When I left home my dad was the same age I was when my daughter was born.  Then again, my parents being young meant that my main parenting lesson from them was “Don’t do what they did if I can avoid it.”
  • Also, everything else in Silicon Valley is so freaking expensive.  If I am able to retire some day, we will have to move in order to afford it.  I hear Idaho is… nice.
  • In a complex world our simian brains fixate on simple answers, often “burn it down and rebuild it from scratch” without any care for the impact.  Humans are dumb when they generalize, freeze up when they get all the details, and I don’t know how to fix that.  It is frustrating no serious public discussion of any issue seems possible.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t as bad as all that.  But I am sure next year will try to prove me wrong.  It is a leap year, which means not only is there another full day for the world to get into trouble, but there is also another summer Olympics to get through.  And there is a presidential election too.  But I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Pilgrimage

From a notebook found in the Qeynos library, author unknown:

I set out from the north gates of the city.  I had sailed there when I had heard the news.  I chose to walk, to see the lands, to feel the vast spread of the Karanas, and even after so much time had passed it still felt both familiar and new.

I followed the same path that spawned so many adventures and saw so many travelers over the years, passing small settlements and camps.

The spires still stood, and the bridges were in good repair and guarded still.  Qeynos may be a backwater now, but its power is not completely spent.

Across the bridge and into the eastern range of Karana I went, and to a small settlement where I found what I sought.

The marker sat there, just as I had been told, his flaming sword now permanently sheathed in the rock that marks his passing.  And I sat a while and thought of all of his works and deeds and adventures we had shared in realms now forgotten.

Aradune Mithara – Outrider of Karana

Perhaps I wept a bit, lost in thought there in a quiet corner of Norrath.  Time passed and day turned into night and back into day as I sat.  There are so many memories and his labors were great.  But now he is at rest.

And he will be forever part of his creation, the land he toiled to bring to life for so many.

WoW Classic Characters Four Months In

WoW Classic is four months old today, so we’ve been through a third of a year with it so far.  I figured this would be about the right time to look at how far I’ve gotten with actual character advancement and levels and such.

Tistann

Tistann and Pet

  • Level 35 hunter
  • Leatherworking: 186
  • Skinning: 225

The first character I rolled out with in WoW Classic, joining Skronk and Ula in the dwarf/gnome starter area for the opening night of scrounging for mobs and standing in polite lines.  He was also there at the founding of the Cragboar Rebellion guild and is the guild master.

With all of that however, he is my designated solo character.  It is not that hunters are not good in groups… they have their place… but I wanted a character with which I could range ahead in levels if I so desired.  And Tistann has served that role.  He was level 30 when the core of the group was at level 20 or so.  He has kept ahead of the group and is still the highest level character in our guild, but he isn’t so far out in front anymore.

Guild levels

Tistann is also the guild leatherworker and has made items for several members of the guild… though we don’t have that many leather wearers.

Viniki

Viniki

  • Level 33 warrior
  • Blacksmithing: 110
  • Mining: 119

Tank for what I will call “group one” in the guild, or maybe “the guild group excluding those currently residing in Japan.”  He was actually a late addition to my list of characters, rolled up just in case we needed a tank as a backup.  He has since become my most played character in group instance runs.

I trained him in blacksmithing with an eye to having him run up the weapons side of the trade, though I haven’t spent a lot of time working on him.  Like almost all of my characters with mining as a skill, he is still in that ugly gap between tin and iron.  Have to get him out to mine some more.

Wilhelm

Wilhelm

  • Level 31 paladin
  • Engineering: 150
  • Mining: 132

The first character I reserved… I finally got Wilhelm as a name in WoW… and the second one I got out to start playing.  He started on the path as a protection paladin, until I was reminded how bad they were.  After that he concentrated on retribution.  He is a possible alt in groups when we have Earl along tanking and we shift roles.

I made him an engineer out of tradition.  My main paladin on live went that route back when I started.  I did get him up into iron for mining at least.

Alioto

Alioto

  • Level 31 druid
  • Skinning: 223
  • Mining: 118

Another character rolled up in a “just in case” moment.  He is full on restoration, which is much easier to play as a spec than a holy priest when you need to go out and solo a bit.  He is the backup group healer.  His intro to the role had him way low level for the task, but I have since caught him up.

I opted just to make him a supplier or raw materials, so he skins and mines.  Still needs to get to 125 so he can mine iron.

Winki

Winki

  • Level 24 warlock
  • Tailoring: 124
  • Skinning: 183

Probably the most “on a whim” character in the group.  At one point we were holding at level 20 and literally all of my possible group characters were already 20 so I rolled something new just to try it out… and got it to 20 as well.  As it turns out, a warlock get the ritual of summoning spell at level 20, which meant I could pre-position Winki in order to bring people out to whichever instance we were running on a given day.  That has paid off a couple of times.  I have leveled him up a bit more just to make running places a bit easier.  Otherwise I have mostly neglected him.

I trained him in tailoring mostly because he had a ton of linen cloth at one point.  Otherwise he is another supplier of skins for Tistann.

Chadwicke

Chad about town

  • Level 21 rogue
  • Skinning: 150

Alas, poor Chad.  When we started to form up the first dungeon group, it seemed like my rogue would be the best fit.  So he was along for the run to Ragefire Chasm, the first big guild project.  And then roles go swapped around and I picked up tank with Viniki while Chad got put on the bench.  I held him at level 20 for a while as Earl caught up.  But Earl caught up so fast he passed by 20 and hit 30 while I wasn’t looking.

Which is a bummer because Chad had his own tag line and everything.

Just time for a catch phrase

I still get him out now and again, but rogue life has been left pretty far behind.

Others and Such

I have rolled three other characters on the Bloodsail Buccaneers server, but the highest level of those is the one I used for the running of the gnomes event, which got him all the way to level 3, which hardly counts.  Still, six characters past 20, and four past 30, is probably enough to keep me busy for quite a while.  That shows my usual inability to stick with one character.

I have been a bit distracted from WoW Classic off and on with the EverQuest II anniversary and new expansion, but I carry on.  The group is still going and I am in this for the long haul.  Also, I haven’t had to worry about gold for a mount yet.

But that is my progress so far four months into WoW Classic.

SuperData Shows Fornite Falling but Driving F2P on Consoles Still

SuperData Research is out with their November digital revenue chart.

SuperData Research Top 10 – November 2019

On the PC end of the chart, last month’s top five, including WoW in fifth spot, remained in place.  The new Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, came in at sixth place as EA went against type and made a single player, non-cash shop, good Star Wars title.  The big surprise on the PC side was the disappearance of Fortnite as its star continues to descend.

In the console column, Nintendo and Pokemon ruled the month as Pokemon Sword and Shield rose to the top of the chart.  Nintendo still depends much more heavily on the physical retail channel than its competitors, so topping the digital chart is a feat for them.  Call of Duty held on in second place while Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order had its debut in third position.  Fortnite hung on for console and, as noted below, drives the F2P revenue market there, but continues to slip.

And on the mobile side the top five just changed positions a bit from last month, with Candy Crush Saga going up a spot and Pokemon Go dropping down on.

Once again, we can compare the SuperData chart with NPD’s video game sales data from November in order to get some sort of sense of the market.  As always, NPD is US only, combines PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  3. Pokemon Sword*
  4. Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield Double Pack*
  5. Pokemon Shield*
  6. Madden NFL 20
  7. Death Stranding
  8. NBA 2K20
  9. Need for Speed: Heat
  10. Luigi’s Mansion 3*

* Digital sales not included

I was a bit bemused that Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield wasn’t at the top of the list until I realized that NPD broke it out into three different SKUs for the list.  While the numbers are not available, it seems that Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield did very well in retail if it claimed three spots on the chart without digital sales being included.  You can see why I moan about the removal of Pokemon from the 3DS killed that console.  Pokemon sells.

NPD didn’t get their Speed Run newsletter out this month, so I do not have anything to add there.

But if you are in need of some more numbers, or want some UK sales data, Gamesindustry.biz did a summary of the 2019 UK video games market with plenty of graphs.  I’ll tease that with their first graph, which covers global sales for 2019 (as estimated with data available in October of 2019).

GamesIndustry.biz 2019 Global Revenue Chart

Other items from the SuperData update:

  • Consumers spent $9.5 billion digitally across all games in November. Combined spending across console, PC and mobile was up 5% compared to the same month last year thanks to a 20% year-over-year increase in mobile spending, which represented 59%, or $5.58 billion of all worldwide revenue.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has the best-selling console digital launch in franchise history. The latest installment in the series outsold its 2017 predecessor (Star Wars Battlefront II) by more than 2 to 1, selling 2.14 million digital units in November alone. The title’s first-month success is partially attributable to increased consumer awareness of the franchise (The Mandalorian, The Rise of Skywalker) and a series return to single-player only gameplay.  
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC finds meek interest on Epic Games Store. Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 408K units as a first-month exclusive on the Epic Games Store, paling in comparison to other exclusive launches like Borderlands 3, which sold 1.78 million units in its debut month.
  • The free-to-play console segment continues to decline, drops 41% compared to the same month last year. Global spending in free-to-play console games shrank to $84.7 million in November, which largely comes from Fortnite ongoing descent after a record-breaking year in 2018. Despite waning consumer interest,  Fortnite remains the primary market mover for the free-to-play console segment, generating 51% of its year-to-date revenue in 2019.
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield cruises past Link’s Awakening to become the top-selling Nintendo title in 2019. Pokémon Sword and Shield sold 2.72M units in its first month, beating out other first-party exclusives like Luigi’s Mansion 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening to lead the charge for Nintendo this holiday season.

 

Arcanist Doan, in the Library, with the Illusionary Rod

The holidays seem to have made it more difficult to get a group together.  A plan for this past Saturday fell through due to a need to install a new clothes dryer.  I am not sure if that counts as a holiday event.  Is a dryer like a Peloton?  But Sunday we were able to get together most of a group.  We met up in Ironforge, where I was able to sit around and watch the guild Sharp and Shiny do their latest performance art routine.

It is a place to see and be seen

There were only four of us, the line up being:

  • Viniki – level 33 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 32 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 32 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 32 gnome mage

Obama was out and it was Monday morning for Earl in Japan, so we were going to have to make do with what we had.

There was a bit of a discussion about our options.  Doing a bit of the holiday event was a possibility.  But we decided just to press on and head to the Scarlet Monastery to attempt the library wing.  As a short handed group mostly at level 32, it seemed like a stretch for us.  The backup plan, should we prove not up to the task, was to fall back and do the graveyard again or, as we were in the area, go look for missing Winter Veil treats.  We got on the bird in Ironforge and flew on out to Southshore, still our nearest flight point.

Flying in formation over the Wetlands

At Southshore Skonk led the group off.  Having suffered previously with my meandering run through Silverpine Forest and around the lake in Tirisfal Glades, he had a short cut in mind.  We were going to take a more direct path, past Dalaran, across the lake, and past the Undercity.

Which wasn’t a bad idea.  We certainly spotted the place where you should go for the Soothing Turtle Bisque quest in Southshore.

Many unmolested turtles

We swam the lake and came around the Undercity, skirting its front door but failing to get a map update.

Pay no mind to us you undead

From there Skronk set a course up the road to Scarlet Monastery.  It was only when we got past there and spotted an innocuous camp on the right side of the road that past memories flooded into my brain and I said, “Bear left!” on coms.  But it was too late.

Path comparison

There is a small camp alongside the road which has a number of high level guards mixed in.  They have slain many an unwary Alliance traveler attempting to reach the Scarlet Monastery, and they were quickly on the road chasing us.  They chopped us down, one by one.

All dead and flagged

So there we were, all dead, quite a ways from our corpse, and all now flagged PvP just a stone’s throw from the one Horde city in the Eastern Kingdoms.  This seemed like foreshadowing to a bloody run.

Also, not a single map update yet either!

We ran back as ghosts, revived, then hid off the road short of Scarlet Monastery, waiting for our PvP flags to time out, lest we run into an eager Horde group of five willing to come get us.

Once safe from the PvP menace, we sat down and got ourselves set to get to the instance.

We have arrived

Scarlet Monastery has four wings and you have to fight your way in through elite yard trash to get to the one you want.  We were definitely suffering from the previously mentioned “Sunday night problem” where nobody else was around so we had to clear all the trash ourselves.  That nearly led to disaster as we ended up with five elites on as at one point after we peeked around a corner a bit too quickly.

In the entry area

Somehow we got through that without loss and were able to pick off the remaining mobs between us and the library wing.  Once we were in, we were looking at groups of mobs to clear.

Starting off for the library

We managed to keep ourselves together and not pull many extra adds as we worked our way out to the courtyard.  There was that one walker, but other than that it was nice little groups of two or three to mop up until we got to the first boss, Houndmaster Loksey.

He was a bit of a chaotic fight, mostly because I think we may have approached it wrong.  Loksey has three elite hounds as companions, and we set Ula to sheep one, Moronae to use soothe animal on another, then concentrate on the third, taking them down before we turned on Loksey.

However, that kept Moronae out of cat form a lot of the time, and he is our top DPS when he is in cat form, so killing slowed down, which meant we needed more healing, plus who was crowd controlling which dog got mixed up mid fight.  It was a bit of a muddle.  But we still managed to pull it off all the same.

Houndmaster mastered

Loksey dropped the dog whistle, which went to Ula in a roll-off.

Popular with some political factions

She says she setup a button to do rolls, but she seemed to have learned from Obama on that front and her button made her a winner more often than not.  And now, between her hat and that whistle, she looked to be ready to go solo.

From there it was into the building which houses the library.  I had a twitch here, remembering that something bad had come to pass in this section before.  And sure enough, after clearing a couple of guys we managed to accidentally proximity pull the next three groups.  However, we were lucky enough to do it one by one, avoiding a wipe but leaving us moving from one unexpected fight to the next.  And we pressed on further into the instance.

In the gallery area

As we moved, the mob levels began to ratchet up.  When we entered the mobs were level 32-33.  As we got further in, the cap on levels moved to 34, then 35, and then 36.  While Moronae popped up to level 33, Skonk and, more importantly, Ula were still 32.  With a four level gap spell resists start to become a regular thing.  We had to make sure to target the lowest level mob for polymorph, lest the sheep not hit.

And as we got to the last groups before the final boss, there were level 37 mobs in the mix.  With that, four levels above Vinki, they were resisting taunts and other high aggro attacks, making it hard to keep mobs off of Moronae at times.

But those were only the last few groups where this became an issue, and once we cleared them we faced the main boss, Arcanist Doan.

Doan’s Library Ahead

The group memory of Doan could only recall that he does a big AOE attack every so often.  The plan we chose to deal with that was for me to pull him to the far side of the room, up against the bookshelves, and hold him there so Ula and Skronk would be out of range of that.  That was pretty much the plan, so in we went to get him.

Fighting Doan

What we didn’t remember was Doan putting a polymorph on the healer after ever big heal, and 20 seconds is a long time to go without a heal in a boss fight.  Moronae got out of cat form at one point to heal me and got the sheeped as well for his effort.  I had to use a health potion at one point, but things held together and we finished him off.

Doan Down, Done

Doan was kind enough to drop the covered Illusionary Rod, the staff that all the casters want.  That went to Ula and her roll button.

Ula got this

Doan also dropped the Mantle of Doan, the cloth shoulders, which went to Skronk.

Better than steak knives for second place

And there we stood, done with the instance, and somewhat surprised.  There was a feeling in the group that we would probably be able to get through Loksey, but that once we got into the higher level mobs deeper in the wheels were likely to come off and we would hit a wall.  Instead we made it through without a death.

There were some tense moments, there were times when runners got away from us and adds showed up and it seemed like we might lose control.  But we never did.  We held it together and finished off the last boss.  Op success.

We also picked up the Scarlet Key from Doan’s strong box, which unlocks the last two wings of Scarlet Monastery as well as being involved with a later instance if I recall correctly.  But we all now have it safely tucked away in our key rings.

Hanging out in the library

We are probably not ready to move on to the armory wing, but we seem able to take on the library at this point.  We will likely return there for another run at Doan to see if we can conjure another staff.