Monthly Archives: April 2020

April in Review

The Site

April is usually a big month for page views.  The Blizzard April Fools post usually gives me a boost in search engine traffic for a day or two.

Googly eyes at the hero select screen in Overwatch was the big item

August generally sees a boost in page views as well due to Blaugust.  So turning that into Blapril ought to have been a double whammy.

The Blapril commeth

And I suppose I did get a boost from the both.  Traffic was up noticeably from March, this month being the most active for page views since last September when WoW Classic traffic was driving people here.  But it was down from last April, which was down from the April before, and so on.  My peak page view date is April 1, 2013, and it has been a slow decline ever since.  Even the pandemic and stay at home orders can’t make blogs popular again.  But I persist.  If I wrote for page views I wouldn’t write how I do currently.  Sometimes it is better to quietly write what you want than to write to seek attention.

One Year Ago

April Fools, once a grand tradition at Blizzard, was pretty sparse.

Google Plus went away.

The Minecraft Village & Pillage update landed.

CCP loudly announced the removal and banning of CSM13 member Brisc Rubal.  And then in what I described as the “nightmare scenario,” CCP hedged, promising to investigate further.  And then they exonerated Brisc and restored him apologizing for all the trouble. A disastrous example of “measure once, cut twice” by CCP.  And Brisc didn’t get his reputation back.  I still see people who think he must have been guilty and somehow worked a deal or threatened to sue in order to get CCP to back down.

CCP also announced the CSM14 election timeline.  Brisc opted to stay away from that.  And the April update brought capital nerfs, especially for the Rorqual.  Hilmar was starting on something about player retention.  And CCP unveiled the Katia Sai monument in Saisio.

Actually out in space myself in EVE Online, I was flying with Liberty Squad as we visited The Spire for a fight over a Sotiyo as well as busting some other structures and setting some timers.  There was also an op from Delve to Lonetrek and another Reavers Race.

NantWorks handed H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royaleback to Daybreak, having failed to make a go of the challenge of reviving the game.

I reviewed a bit of the coverage the EverQuest 20th anniversary got.  There was also some changes to the Selo progression server, which reflected on what players wanted versus what Daybreak was offering.

I was also playing World of Warcraft, binging on pet battles and catching some new pets.  We got some news about the approaching update, which would unlock flying in Battle for Azeroth.  That promoted me to get the first part of the pathfinder achievement done.  I also got my first alt to level 120, though he hadn’t even been to Zandalar or Kul’Tiras.  Pet battles will do ya.

And I came up with a guide to criticizing games you do not like.

Five Years Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right? [Narrator: Xenuria has been in KarmaFleet since August of 2015.]

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  It recovered and went up eventually, but it took a while.  They also had a beta for the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot further back than it did.

Ten Years Ago

Video games as art?  Did we flay Roger Ebert enough over that?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet, though we did get LEGO Harry Potter.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has still not to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

In EVE Online somebody was trying to blackmail Gaff’s corp.  This was an out of game threat though.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

There was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as used to be the case.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand.  On the bright side, while it started as a tease, it ended up becoming a real thing.

Fifteen Years Ago

Guild Wars: Prophecies launched, with ArenaNet going with a “buy the box, play for free” business model for its new MMO, though they wouldn’t call it one at the time.

Twenty Years Ago

The first expansion for EverQuest, The Ruins of Kunark, launches.  We got ten more levels, new races, and a new continent to explore.

Nintendo sold its 100 millionth GameBoy/GameBoy Color.  That total eventually passes 118 million units sold, only tapering off with the arrival of the GameBoy Advance a year later.

Sony announced that the PlayStation 2, which launched the month before, was so sophisticated that the Ministry of Trade would place export controls on it as it could be used for military applications.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2020 is Centered on Overwatch
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. The Hunt Goes Live in New Eden with New Implants
  4. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary
  7. I Fly a Titan At Last
  8. CCP Launches a Surgical Strike on New Eden
  9. WoW Tokens Five Years Later
  10. CCP Quietly Starts a New Login Campaign in EVE Online
  11. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  12. My Actual First Computer vs My First Real Computer

Search Terms of the Month

“world of warcraft” “subscriptions” “2020”
[“sorry” “just” “MAUs” “now”]

is dragonvale dead
[It is dead to me]

sto game sexiest female uniforms in the game
[It is Star Trek]

eve online apparel account wide
[No. In fact, it has to be in your current station to use.\

Game Time from ManicTime

I played, or at least logged into, more games in April than in March, with the time break down looking like this:

  1. WoW Classic – 38.49%
  2. EVE Online – 25.29%
  3. World of Warcraft – 12.57%
  4. RimWorld – 8.91%
  5. EverQuest – 7.45%
  6. Pokemon Sword – 4.89%
  7. EverQuest II – 1.98%
  8. LOTRO – 0.42%

WoW Classic remained the top choice, though not by the long margin it was last month.  I go into the reasons below, but overall I spent less time playing games in April than I did in March as well, which I mentioned in a post earlier this week about motivation.

EVE Online

I did get out and on a few ops at the start of the month, though even the tempo of ops has slackened with the changes that CCP applied mid-month.  Super carriers being more vulnerable means that they don’t undock, so there are fewer to save and/or blow up.

EverQuest

I am not really “playing” EverQuest in anything like the traditional sense.  I have been messing around with the Overseer feature instead.  It does, as some have noted, seem to have more in common with a phone game than an MMORPG, but they gave it just enough depth and progression to keep me logging in every day.

EverQuest II

I am really not playing this, not even the version of the Overseer they have.  Darkpaw updated the feature, actually giving it a bit of progression.  But it still lacks what depth the EverQuest version has, seeming to be more of a magic prize machine rather than a game.  Oh well.  I also used my level 110 trade and adventure boosts on a new character, and then haven’t played them.  But they are geared up.

Lord of the Rings Online

I patched this up and logged in for a short bit.. I was certainly in for a lot less time than the patch process took.  The patcher hs never been a strong suit of the game.  I was primarily interested in purchasing the Minas Morgul expansion with my LOTRO points, SSG having said it would be available in the online store come March.  Here it is, the day before May and it is not yet available.

Pokemon Go

I hit level 39 at last just a couple of days ago.  That sounds like I am almost 98% through the leveling game, but since the gap between 39 and 40 is five million points, or 25% of the total points to level cap, I suppose I am only 75% of the way there.

Level: 39 (2% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 531 (+5) caught, 560 (+4) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Servine

Pokemon Sword

I did play a bit of this, though not as much as I intended.  As a game on the Switch Lite, it is something I can play away from my desk, where I now spend all day for work.  However, I need a kind of quiet place to focus.  I used to go play on the couch when nobody else was home, but we rarely achieve the state of “nobody else home” these days.  Still, I made it through the sixth gym.

RimWorld

I thought I was going to play a lot more of this in April.  It is, in its way, a pretty good game to play while you listen to an audio book or a podcast or whatever, and I am pro multitasking in that way.  And I did play some.  Just not as much as I thought.  Part of that was just not feeling like playing anything, but the fact that RimWorld suffers from the classic mid-game problem added to my lack of play time as well.

World of Warcraft

I did actually play some retail WoW this past month.  As I posted, I unlocked flight in Battle for Azeroth.  And with flying now available on all my alts as well as the 100% xp boost that will be available until the Shadowlands expansion hits, I have been tempted to play more.  I did work on a Horde alt some, but I am not really invested yet.

WoW Classic

As with most of the past six months, WoW Classic continues to top the play time chart.  But it also has the biggest month over month drop in time played.  It has a double whammy in that not only to I sort of have to stoke myself up to log in and play, I also have to figure out what I want to do as my prime alts, who are all in the around level 40 trough where quests ramp up faster than you do.  It wasn’t so bad with my hunter, as it is easy to just grind mobs with him, especially if I can skin them as well.  But my pally… he is sitting at 40 and I now remember why my pally back in vanilla seemed stuck at 40 forever.  The instance group is carrying on, but on the whole we’re not logged in nearly as much.

Coming Up

Another month.  Isn’t that enough?  So tired.

Well, there is the Blapril roundup for sure.  One last time to link out to everybody.  If history is any guide, the title of that post will be The Labors of Blapril.

There are some EverQuest bits and pieces coming up.  I’ll probably get to that tomorrow.  I also want to write something further about the Overseer feature.

There are updates and such for EVE Online expected as well.  Maybe that rather dry login campaign will wrap up and be replaced with something a bit more engaging.

In World of Warcraft Classic it seems likely that the instance group will enter Zul’Farrak.  It is also possible that I will hit level 50 with at least one character next month as well.  Maybe I’ll even figure out where to go with my level 40 paladin.

I am still tempted by the double xp in retail WoW now that I have unlocked flying.  I could maybe get my blood elf paladin to level 120 without much effort beyond seeing the story on that side of the game.

What else is coming up… Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in the US…the Activision-Blizzard Q1 earnings call… and probably a few other things I am forgetting.  Oh, another month of stay at home here as they have apparently have been under counting cases where I live.  Apparently in suburbia we just die at home and don’t tell anybody.

Screecher Spirits and Feralas

Technically I can make the claim that the instance group got together this past weekend.  We were all logged into WoW Classic at the same time for a stretch and shared some information and made some plans.  But it was otherwise more an afternoon of parallel play than a group effort.

The plan was small.  There was one more quest to run down before we headed on towards Zul’Farrak, one from Steamwheedle port called Screecher Spirits.  We were all going to go do that quest at some point, and Skronk and Ula were going to try and pick up a bit more experience along the way to get to level 47.  We would then be about as ready as we planned for the instance.

I started out at the flight point in Tanaris with Viniki.

Desert air base of sorts

From there the nearest flight point for me was at the far end of Thousand Needles, the little Alliance camp at Thalanaar.

Through Thousand Needles

That borders on Feralas, and from there I headed into the forest mess that is the zone.

Green dominates the palette of the zone, so much so that I almost didn’t see the two Horde NPC guards standing on the road as I rode on, stopping short when I finally saw them.

The rain made it harder to see…

I had forgotten there was a Horde camp astride the main road into the zone, Camp Mojache.  I had forgotten a lot of things about Feralas.  I am pretty sure at that point I had forgotten much, much more than I remembered about the zone.  But being there and riding through revived a lot of them, the ones that had sunken below conscious recall, as landmarks and names and terrain awakened them.

I couldn’t really remember where the vale screechers, the mobs for the quest, were, but the quest text said the south central of the zone.  I made my way around the Horde camp, first attempting to go south, only to find the terrain… difficult.  So I went back around to the north and managed to pass by, picking up a few areas on the map along the way.

In the western of the two valleys, between the ogres and the yeti and in amongst the bears and gorillas, I spotted my first screecher.

The bear invited himself to the party

The screechers were a bit rare on the ground, at least relative to the other mobs that I had to clear though in order to find them.  But I was able to find my quota in not too much time, though it was helpful that I only needed three.  I had wondered if this would be a good quest for the group, but I suspect that the four of us together at once would have needed to find a dozen of them, so maybe we were better off solo.

Skronk had mentioned that he flew into Feathermoon Stronghold, the Alliance flight point on an island off the coast.  I had forgotten that was there, but since he reminded me I decided to exit from there rather than ride back to Thousand Needles.  Being me, I also made a point of trying to get all the map updates along the way.  I think I managed it.

Feralas revealed

I made it to the coast, mentioning I had gotten my screechers.  Skronk said he had found them there on the coast, and sure enough they were about.  Our dozen might have been manageable there as opposed to deeper in the zone.  I waited at the dock for the boat to show up and take me to Feathermoon Stronghold.  I seemed to recall that this was a slow boat and that people often opted to just swim the gap, but I decided to wait.  I was sort of surprised when the boat arrived.

The boat arrives

My memory was of an elven boat model, though on seeing the standard vanilla boat pull up, I seemed to recall that the elven boats only showed up later, during The Burning Crusade perhaps.

I took the boat across the straights to the point where in ran between the two islands, then jump into the water.  You don’t get map updates on griffons and apparently you don’t get them on boats either, and I wanted to fill out the map.

Having done that, I made my way to Feathermoon Stronghold, where the boat was still waiting.  It is a bit of a slow boat I suppose.

The boat docked at Feathermoon

I ran around a bit and scoped out some of the quests.  I wasn’t keen on doing them with Viniki, he was already level 47 and I didn’t want to get too far ahead, but with alts in tow I tend to be on the lookout for quests they can run.

From Feathermoon it was back to Tanaris on the bird.

A straight shot back

From there it was off to Steamwheedle for the quest turn in.

Over at Steamwheedle

That gave me a lineup of seven quest for Zul’Farrak.

My ZF quest selection

Having that all set I got out my hunter, Tistann, and did it all again with him, gathering up some of the quests I bypassed with Viniki.

Zapping shore striders

He also stumbled across the leatherworking quests at Feathermoon Stronhold as well, so he has those to work on as well.

Blapril and Staying Motivated

We are now into week five of Blapril and week seven of staying home in my part of the country.

The Blapril commeth

This week’s topic is about motivation and keeping it going.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

And never was there a more on point topic to my mind.  Motivation is leaking out of me.  I feel tired all the time.  Were it not for some of the structure I have around my writing I might very well be blog fading.

And I feel a bit guilty about feeling like that.  Like a few other bloggers, I feel like I am one of the luckier ones in this season of pandemic.  I still have my job, I can do it from home fairly reliably, nobody in my family has caught the plague so far, and we have a sufficient supply of toilet paper and other essentials to carry on.

So what is the problem?

Even I, a pretty dedicated homebody, am starting to feel a bit of cabin fever.  This is not help by the fact that my wife’s job is essentially on hold, being on commission and all, and the school district is pretending to do “remote learning” which totals up to about 3 hours out of my daughter’s week, so the two of them… the outgoing pair in this house… are really feeling confined by this “stay at home” situation.  My daughter especially, being 18, a senior in high school, with a job, money, and a car at her disposal, she was really on her way to a fantastic senior year.

Now it is all shut down.  Stay at home, no prom, no grad night, no parties, no graduation, and it is feeling really unfair to her.  And that doesn’t even get to college starting.  She is dying to go away to school (and to get away from us, for which I cannot blame her) but, while the school is whistling a happy tune about everything being normal by the end of August, there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to how this will really play out.  So she is on edge and doesn’t have enough meaningful or fun things to occupy her, which also goes for my wife, so they end up clashing.  Even the cats are on edge.  They know something is wrong.

Meanwhile, I am very busy.  My company is very much in demand right now and there is a push to move features along faster to support our customers.  Working from home isn’t new to me, but I spend most of my work time at the office where I have a nice desktop machine with a big monitor.  I generally plan my weeks around getting stuff done at the office and doing follow ups and admin work at home.  But now I am always home, have more work, and everything at home takes me about 20% longer to do because my work laptop is dinky and I am prone to interruptions.

And in the midst of this I keep hearing about all the stuff I should be doing with copious amounts of free time I should have now.  Shakespeare invented calculus and Newton wrote Hamlet during plagues and all that.  Even at work HR has been filling my inbox with all sorts of suggestions about to use all these extra hours I am alleged to have.  So I am starting to feel like I must be missing something as I feel like I have less free time, not more.

So I am at my desk at home from when I get up until the afternoon begins to wane.  It isn’t a lot more time than I would spend normally, if you count the hour round trip that was my commute, but the commute was kind of down time, a step away into my car to listen to an audio book as I rolled home.  And after spending that much time at my desk, the urge to then stay there and play video games or write a blog post is pretty weak.  I want to get up and go somewhere else.

There is a pool of time in my day that goes towards video games and blogging, and that pool has grown more shallow, and mostly at the cost of gaming.  The joy of ManicTime tracking my time is that I see I’ve spent about half of the time playing as I did last month, the March of forever.

That eventually starts to impact my writing.  As I wrote about five years back, the two are intertwined, to the extent that one might speculate as to whether I game to blog or blog to game.  If I game less then there is less to feed my blogging and then I spend more time sifting for topics and putting something together which reinforces the cycle.

Meanwhile time seems to be speeding up.  March seemed to last forever, and we were only stuck at home for half of it, while April seems to have zipped on by.  Or at least the free time I can find seems to be moving at top speed, weekends slipping past in a blink.

This is about the point where I have dug myself deep enough into a hole that I should start telling you about how I got out.  A pity I don’t have a pithy line or easy strategy to share.  In fact, all I’ve got is that I find I have to buckle down and force myself to have some fun to relax.

I can still find a bit of peace, some relaxation, so escape, if I press through and actually play a game for a while.  There is this real reluctance to even both, a barrier of sorts that I have to get around or I’ll just sit there at my computer and look at the launch icons for WoW or EVE Online or Steam and then start reading the news or Twitter or, god forbid, Facebook.

If I can find a reason to log in, a mission, a goal, an op to go on, or something else I can immerse myself in, I can still find that bit of escape, the refreshment of not worrying about the present.  It can be like a splash of cold water on a warm afternoon. But, like everything else these days, it seems to require more effort than it should.

I am not sure that will help motivate anybody, but at least I am able to say that it is possible to find distraction, though you might have to try harder than usual.

Maybe reading another blog will be motivating, so I should link out to the Blapril participant list again.

The March MER and the Mineral Squeeze

The EVE Online Monthly Economic Report for March 2020 arrived last week, so it is probably time for another peek into how the mineral starvation plan is changing things.

EVE Online nerds harder

Last month I looked at mining because February was the first month where the first phase of the mineral starvation plan had any impact.

Now, with the full month of March under our belt, we can look to see how things have moved along.  The first thing is the price of minerals.  Scarcity should drive that up, and it looks like that has gone as expected.

March 2020 – Economic Indices

The slope of the mineral prices line maintained a steep upward angle from February to March.  Mineral pricing will hit a three year high if it maintains that slope.  The pricing is even significant on the long term picture.

March 2020 – Economic Indices – All Time

We’re still well shy of an all time high, but it is within the realm of possibility I suppose.

As for where the mining is happening, in February overall mining totaled 28.6 trillion ISK in value and the top regions were:

  1. Delve – 2.40 trillion
  2. Domain – 1.68 trillion
  3. Oasa – 1.44 trillion
  4. Esoteria – 1.13 trillion
  5. The Forge – 1.11 trillion
  6. Feythabolis – 861 billion
  7. Sinq Laison – 821 billion
  8. Lonetrek – 791 billion
  9. Malpais – 748 billion
  10. Fountain – 729 billion

With March the total amount mined added up to 35 trillion is in value, with the top ten regions as:

  1. Delve – 2.92 trillion
  2. Domain – 1.60 trillion
  3. The Forge – 1.55 trillion
  4. Oasa – 1.27 trillion
  5. Esoteria – 1.17 trillion
  6. Fountain – 1.17 trillion
  7. Sinq Laison – 1.14 trillion
  8. Lonetrek – 1.05 trillion
  9. Metropolis – 971 billion
  10. Feythabolis – 958 billion

That is almost the same ten region (Metropolis replacing Malpais) and up for totals on average.  But with prices up even it the value of the amount mined was up that might still mean that the actual cubic meters of ore mined was lower, since every bit is worth more.

Delve was up the most, along with Fountain, which are both null sec regions that are heavily mined, especially when it comes to moon mining, which did not get its nerf until the end of the month when most basic ores and minerals were removed from moons.

In the run up to that I know that the Imperium set all moon extractions to a seven day cycle to get the most chunks harvested as possible before the big nerf hit.

And now that it has, there is no reason to think that a further shortfall in minerals will make the prices go anywhere save up.  So we shall see what the numbers look like in April when the starvation plan will be in full effect.

Likewise, with the nerfs to titans and super carriers that hit in early April, next month might be a prime time to take a look at NPC bounty numbers again in order to do some before and after comparisons.

But that will be next month.  Until then all the charts and data for the report are available from CCP.

My Actual First Computer vs My First Real Computer

I write about old things here quite a bit.  Games, gear, memories, anything from the past.  And occasionally I will get as far back as the Apple ][+, which I think of as my first computer, trotting out this picture from 1983.  There is a story about getting it, because of course there is.

Apple II+ on Day One… nice digital watch on the left floppy drive!

Actually, I usually go with this picture from a couple months later because it has the joystick I ended up buying and a familiar game title on the screen.

Apple ][+ The Upgrades Begin

In addition to the joystick I have stacked the drives in the more conventional manner of the time and there is the ubiquitous power supply cooling fan hanging off the left side of the case now.

Otherwise it is the same room, same curtains, same folding card table with the same cigarette burn in it somewhere under the computer.

But what if I pulled out this picture instead?

Oh Jesus what is this mess?

Same room, same curtains, same card table, but what the hell is going on there?

Seriously, if I hadn’t of run across this picture I might have completely blanked out this bit of my story.

For a brief period of time I had a Timex Sinclair 1000 computer, a derivative of the Sinclair ZX81.  And when I say “brief,” I mean about a month.

How did I end up with one?  It was a Black Friday purchase.

I’m not sure if we called the Friday after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” back in 1982 1983, but it was clearly the first day of the of the Christmas shopping season still and the adds in the paper before then were full of deals, and one of them was for the Timex Sinclair 1000.  Payless Drugs had that listed in their ad for $99.  My grandmother, knowing I was pining for a computer, pointed this out to me.

Payless was a drug store, which meant it had a pharmacy and lot of general merchandise, but wasn’t quite a grocery store and wasn’t quite a hardware store.  The one by us had a large garden department and was the sort of place you could buy cheap patio furniture and beach umbrellas and a lot of stuff that didn’t quite fit into a some of the other “genres” of retail stores at the time.  They have since been bought by RiteAid, which with Walgreens (which now owns RiteAid), and CVS, make up the drug store triumvirate out in our area.

Anyway, computers and electronics were on the list of what they sold as well, which wasn’t all that odd.  I bought many of the games for my Atari 2600 at Longs Drugs, which had an electronics counter that also serviced watches and handled photo processing.  It was a different time.

My grandmother suggested I get out there and buy it, the whole thing being cheaper than the aforementioned Atari 2600 from five years before.

So I got out there early on Friday morning… not too early, the store opened at the normal hours and not at midnight or anything crazy because we were still civilized back then… and stood in line… because civilized or not we were still idiots and online shopping was decades away… until they opened the doors.

I walked over to the electronics counter, where they seemed to be in ample supply, and bought one… paid cash I’m pretty sure… and brought it back home.

What came in the box was the little black square with the membrane keyboard, a few of the cables, and a manual.  So I had to scrounge up an old B&W TV… kind of surprised there was one about, but there it is in the picture… in order to start doing anything.

There were a couple of test programs you could type in, but not much else, and you couldn’t save them.  When you turned off the unit everything went away.  You have to save everything to cassette tape, which explains why my old Sanyo dual deck boom box is on the table and wired up to the unit.  I am pretty sure that is the same unit I used to record this Dr. Demento tape.

Recorded off the air, circa 1980

It was a less than ideal situation and I would estimate that I could save to tape and then subsequently successfully restore a program to the unit maybe 1 in 4 times.  That may have been related to a few factors, but I was working with what I had to hand.

I went out and bought a couple of magazines dedicated to the ZX81 which had some programs you could type in.  However, I quickly came up hard against the 1Kb memory limit.  So you can see a black box hanging off the back of it which contained an additional 16Kb of RAM so I had some space to work with.

I toiled away on the little machine for a couple weeks.  I will admit that I did like that the keyboard had all the BASIC operators on it, available via a function key, and I probably learned some rudimentary programming in having to type in literally everything by hand at least once.

The ZX81 magazines were, of course, full of additional hardware and upgrades you could add on to the little computer.  More RAM.  Full keyboards.  Real floppy drives.  Computer magazines were like that back then.  It was very much a hobby with all sorts of little companies supporting the ecosystem.  If somebody could wire something up and make it work they could sell it to somebody else.

And while I enjoyed imaging what I might add to the unit, when I got that check for Christmas a month later, my first action wasn’t to start ordering a bunch of stuff for it out of the back of magazines.  My first action was pretty much to arm sweep what I had off the folding table to make room for the Apple ][+.

It was honestly the right choice.  I was very happy with the Apple and have a lot of fond memories of my time with it.

As for what happened to the little Timex Sinclair 1000, I have no memory of that either.  It was an era when used computers and equipment had value.  I bought a few items from a used computer store down the road called Interstate Computer Bank.  But even in that era the little unit was below the threshold of having any resale value as it was.  It probably ended up in a landfill.

To the Series Born

There is a bit of a topic trend going on for Blapril, started by Krikket, where people name their top four or five favorite video game series.

The Blapril commeth

This is week four, which has its own topic, but since I haven’t come up with anything else I took “series appreciation” as falling under the “developer/creator appreciation” umbrella and decided I should run with it.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

Looking at video game series seems pretty reasonable.  In the last decade or so especially the large video game publishers have gone all in on series and sequels for games, eschewing much new in favor of a reliable return on investment that churning out annual change ups on standard formula has proven to bring.

So I started thinking about which series I might put on a list… and I sort of ran into a bit of a wall.  This is different than, say, picking my 15 most influential games.

Part of that was I immediately put bounds around the possible answers.  It is just what I do out of habit.  First, to my mind, a “series” requires there to be three or more games.  So as much as I may have enjoyed  Defense Grid and Defense Grid 2, they are only a game and its sequel and not really a series.  And that along knocks off a lot of possible entries listed over on Wikipedia.

I also felt that unless I had played a substantial and representative number of titles in a series… arbitrarily I figured I needed at least half to cover… I couldn’t really count that series as a favorite.  Playing only Need for Speed: World or Dirt 3 does not really give me enough to make a claim on either series.  I can say I love Mario Kart, but I only ever played Mario Kart 64, Double Dash, and that version on the DS.  I never even bought the Wii version!  Can I really complain about the blue shell if that is all I have experienced?

Likewise, although I had played four of the nine games in the Ultima series, those were the first four games of a series that expanded quite a bit from humble origins.  I enjoyed Ultima III the best out of what I played, which probably means I am not down with the series as a whole.

I did wonder for a bit if MMORPG expansions ought to count.  Is EverQuest one game, or a series of 27 games churned out over 21 years?  But I decided that way lay madness and discarded the idea. (Also, how many expansions would I have had to have played to be legit in counting EverQuest?  More than I have I am sure.)

This would have been much easier if I had been a big console gamer.  Or a sports focused gamer.  There are so many series there.  But as an online and/or MMO gamer, series haven’t been a huge thing for me and, as I have noted here in the past, I have been playing online games since 1986.

So what series of games had I played enough of to meet my own criteria?

Cilivization This series of games came up on a some lists and I am good here.  I have owned I-VI and a couple of the side games in the series, like Alpha Centauri.  I played the hell out of the original, the first sequel, and the fifth entry, along with Alpha Centauri.

Pokemon Or at least the main line Pokemon RPG titles.  I think I am covered on that, having played every title on the DS/3DS handheld series as well as Pokemon Sword on the Switch.  I even played two of the GameBoy Advance titled back on my original DS Lite, because it had the GBA cartridge slot.  And I played the re-release of Pokemon Blue on the 3DS and have the blog post to prove it.  I’ve even played Pokemon Ranger and a couple of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles.

Age of Empires – The RTS winner here, though of the three core games I was only really a fan of Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings.  That was the pinnacle of the series to my mind, though I owned and played all three.  The original was a bit rough and unbalanced and the third seemed like Ensemble had lost its way.  But I have Age of Empires II in my Steam library.

Diablo –  There are three games there, so meets the bar for a series and I have owned and played all three games plus their expansions… multiple copies of a the first two even.  I owned a copy of Diablo II and the expansion for both home and work because we could play games on the work network after hours back around the turn of the century.  Those days are long gone, but if Blizzard made a credible Diablo II remaster I would throw money at my computer screen.

LEGO Star Wars – I thought I was done when I hit four series, and then this run of games finally popped up into my conscious thought.  There are six titles and we own four of them… more if you count the combo edition that reworked and repacked the first two games when Traveler’s Tales got the vibe right on the series.

And that’s it.

By my own criteria I cannot really come up any more, though at least I made it to five.  I can declare these as my five favorite series by virtue of being the only five.  I imagine if I rack my brain I can probably shake out one or two more… but it would be stuff from the 90s, things long forgotten.

Oddly, I have the games listed in the order to which the series came to mind, which corresponds roughly to a the descending order for both how much time I have spent playing them AND how I would probably rank them.  Seems natural enough.

Others who have posted their lists, some of whom felt less self-constrained than I:

SuperData Charts Gaming Revenue Highs as We All Stay Home

SuperData Research has their monthly chart out for March 2020.  The results and accompanying data are not all that surprising.  With people all over the world stuck at home digital purchases peaked according to the company.

  • Spending on digital games reached $10.0B in March, the highest monthly total ever. Individuals are turning to games as a reliable entertainment option during the COVID-19 crisis and are using online multiplayer to keep in touch with others. Total digital revenue was up 11% year-over-year from March 2019 ($9.0B).

The charts reflect what was most popular last month.

SuperData Research Top 10 – March 2020

On the PC end of the chart the usual top four held on to the summit for yet another month, though League of Legends fell back to second place behind Dungeon Fighter Online.

The first new entry on the list is Doom Eternal, which has gotten a lot of buzz on both PC and console.  CS:GO, which comes and goes from the bottom of the list saw a nice jump as did Borderlands 3, which made the list when it launched, subsequently falling off as many buy to play titles do.

Half-Life: Alyx came in at number eight, which might seem low for something in the Half-Life series, but as a VR title making the cut is impressive.  VR remains a niche element in the market.

And at the bottom of the list are World of Warcraft and World of Tanks.  Both titles have seen more players.  We’ll see if things like WoT‘s 10 year anniversary celebration and WoW‘s throwing a 100% xp bonus at players will boost their standings for April.

On the console column, surprising nobody, Animal Crossing: New Horizons stands at the top.  I would be hard pressed to find a general news outlet that hasn’t reported on it and my Twitter feed was probably 20% mentions of the game the week it launched.  Even SuperData gives it a special mention:

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold more digital units in a single month (5.0M) than any console game in history. The Nintendo-published title broke the console record for monthly digital game sales previously held by Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. Animal Crossing: New Horizons also roughly matched the first-month digital sales of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokémon Sword and Shield put together. The game’s combination of social features and a relaxing setting likely appealed to individuals stuck at home. Closures of brick and mortar stores also meant that a higher share of consumers purchased the game digitally compared to past Switch titles.

After Animal Crossing, FIFA 20 continued its run near the top of the list, followed by MLB: The Show 20, which is filling in the gap for baseball fans bereft of a season so far in 2020.  If you can’t have a real season you can run your own, something that people have been doing with a variety of baseball titles.  Out of the Park 21 on PC is popular with the hardcore fans doing that sort of thing.

And at the mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings continued on at the top. (It is one of the most popular games in China and is popular on the streaming front there as well.)  Most of the list carried over from last month, Roblox and Mafia City being the only two titles not on the February chart.  My benchmarks for the list, Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go were in third and fifth place respectively.

This is where I usually compare the SuperData charts to what NPD has listed for the month, as NPD includes physical retail sales.  However, NPD hasn’t posted their numbers for March to their site yet, so I will have to give that a pass for now.  I’ll put them in if they do get posted, but right now they still have February listed.  Retail might be causing them problems I suppose.

Instead I will jump to the usual close, which is the bullet points included with the SuperData chart, minus the one I injected in the post above:

  • Premium console and premium PC earnings jumped as lockdowns took effect. Premium console revenue rose 64% from February to March ($883M to $1.5B) and premium PC revenue rose 56% during the same period ($363M to $567M). These game types tend to be most popular in North America and Europe, where COVID-19 prevention measures expanded dramatically in March.
  • Gamers continued to play and spend on mobile titles even as they stayed home. Mobile games revenue was up 15% year-over-year and reached $5.7B during March. Earnings for a number of major mobile titles also grew during the month. For example, Pokémon GO revenue rose to $111M in March (up 18% month-over-month) after publisher Niantic made tweaks to the game to make it easier to play without physically moving.
  • The addition of Warzone to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare resulted in monthly active user numbers for the title jumping 159% month-over-month to reach an all-time high of 62.7M. While most modes in Modern Warfare require an upfront purchase of the game, Warzone, a battle royale mode in the style of games like Fortnite and Apex Legends, is free-to-play.
  • Doom Eternal from id Software sold 3.0M digital units in March, more than three times what Doom sold (957K) during its launch in May 2016. The latest entry in the seminal franchise benefited from strong reviews and the positive reception of its predecessor. However, as a primarily single-player game, Doom Eternal will likely have a shorter revenue tail than other multiplayer shooters that monetize through the regular sale of in-game content.
  • Half-Life: Alyx performed modestly by the standards of AAA games but was a blockbuster by the standards of virtual reality (VR) exclusive titles. A total of 860K gamers played the PC VR title in March. The game had a limited addressable audience, as there was an install base of fewer than 4M PC-compatible VR headsets at the end of 2019. Direct purchases of Half-Life: Alyx generated $40.7M in revenue, and hundreds of thousands of free copies of the game were also bundled with devices like the Valve Index headset to boost interest in VR.