Monthly Archives: December 2021

December in Review

The Site

Here we are, once again facing a new year.  2022 is just hours away and… well… not much is going to change.  We imbue the artificial construct of time with magic properties, like one more turn around the sun will change us, the world, or human nature.

Still, it is almost the last time I get to use this graphic.

2020 plus 1

This is my 397th and final post of the year.  And you know what I haven’t done yet?  I haven’t uninstalled Adobe Flash.  I still get this alert every few weeks.

The end of Flash is here

I don’t know why I haven’t removed it.  It isn’t like I am invested in Flash.  I’m just being stubborn I guess.

Also, the ad experiment carries on.  The goal of it was to cover the cost of the Premium hosting plan which I switched to due to WP.com threatening to inject sponsored posts into those not paying for hosting.  The goal is to get paid, which means making at least $100 before the next payment comes due.  Three months in and revenue is closing in on $60.  I am not quitting my day job, but at least the blog is revenue neutral.

One Year Ago

Pandemic binge watching was still under way, which led me to summarize how it felt.  Somewhere in all that binging I found time to read, so had five books to talk about.  I was also promoting the ability to read the blog via FlipBoard.

Then there were predictions to be reviewed, though 2020 was beyond predicting really.

The Steam Winter Sale kicked off yet again.

I played Among Us for an evening.  I have yet to to play it since.

We got the news that Daybreak was set to be purchased by a Swedish company called Enad Global 7.  As part of that we got a look into Daybreak’s financials.  We learned that DC Universe Online had the most players and highest gross revenue of all their titles, yet EverQuest still managed to eke out the highest net profit.  The deal closed before the month was done.

EverQuest also launched the Claws of Veeshan expansion, the 27th for the title, while its younger sibling, EverQuest II, released the Reign of Shadows expansion, its 17th since launch.

In Pokemon Go, the update had arrived that raised the level cap from 40 to 50, so I was sizing up what it was going to take to get to level 41.

In WoW Shadowlands I hit the level cap… which was back to level 60 after the big squish… after which I had to choose my covenant.  We got a look at how Shadowlands stacked up against past launches.  SuperData, in what would be one of its final reports, said WoW subscribers were up with the expansion.

In WoW Classic the instance group was wandering Blackrock Depths and Stormwind with Marshal Windsor, then went back in to go after a couple more of the bosses in that dungeon.  That done, we made it through the bar only get get stopped cold in the lyceum.   But I was working on my blacksmithing skills as well, though I couldn’t tell you why now.

While CCP was still fruitlessly trying to work out how to create an FPS based in New Eden, in EVE Online, their one and only successful ongoing title, World War Bee was raging, and would soon lead to yet another Guinness world record setting battle.  News from EVE Online summed up:

Finally, I tried to sum up 2020 by shooting only for the high points.  It wasn’t easy.

Five Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t notice it at the time, but a German gaming site called Plarium put me on their list of the 8 best MMO blogs.  Of course they also put Tobold, who doesn’t actually write about MMOs anymore and Tipa of West Karana, who hasn’t been updating for a while now (and who has since lost her domain!), and themselves, which seems like a bit of ego, but still it was cool to find.

Finally I was going on about companies making MMOs… and the people playing them… feeling that every single title had to be all things to all people, leading to dissolute efforts and titles that do a lot of things but don’t really stand out in any particular aspect.

Ten Years Ago

There was the usual looking back at the Highs and Lows of 2011.  And, hand-in-hand with that, there was the look forward at games I might play in 2012.

One of those games was Diablo III and another Torchlight II, while Path of Exile represented a dark horse third. They were all vying for the mantle of successor to Diablo II.  So I tried to define the essence of Diablo II.

I also had some demands for 2011 and had to look at how that worked out.

I was back in EVE Online and I began my journey into null sec appropriately, by killing myself.  Then I saw titans, lit cynos, and got blown up.

But hey, a ship blows up every six seconds in EVE Online.

There was a war on, and it was announced we were going to be driven from Deklein.  And there was something about ganking tourism and three flavors of ravens.  Also, pretty new nebulae.

Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over for EVE Online.

There was the end of Star Wars Galaxies, though people were saying it had been dead for years.

Star Wars: The Old Republic went live, completing the changing of the Star Wars MMO guard, for all the lack of actual change that brought about.

EverQuest II and its free to play twin, EverQuest II Extended, were merged into a single fighting force of extraordinary magnitude or something.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux went a little nuts talking about his Ultimate RPG, his great fondness for EA, and the failure of Tabula Rasa and Ultima 8.  He seemed to try to be getting EA to join with him by talking to the press… and not to EA.  And then it was the Mayans.

Closer to planet Earth, the instance group was in Rift running the Realm of the Fae.

Toril MUD was still alive and had just added nine more zones to the game.

Playboy Manager the MMO.  Never ended up being a thing.

And I proved my laser tag prowess against a bunch of little girls.

Fifteen Years Ago

The short-lived Massive Magazine, dedicated to our chosen niche video game genre, put out its first issue.  I bought a copy.

I told a Christmas story from 1977 about video games.

I followed up on my initial Stellar Emperor post with one about how I won the game.

My daughter and I were chasing Rudolph across the Frostfell zone in EverQuest II.

Digg starting listing podcasts and there was a call to help Digg some of the MMO related podcasts. These days I am surprised when I see that Digg is still a thing.

The Commonlands in EverQuest got a make over. The two zones also got combined into a single zone.

compared the Butcherblock chessboard in EQ and EQ2. I was also running around Runnyeye with Gaff.

correctly predicted the venue for that year’s EQ2 expansion, Kunark, which I will never let anybody forget.  I was also wondering about SOE’s trajectory given the changes that came in with Echoes of Faydwer and The Serpent’s Spine.

And in World of Warcraft the instance group did Gnomeregan and started in on Scarlet Monestary.  I also noted that gold spammers were using in-game mail in WoW.

I also had five features I wanted WoW to steal from EQ2.  I think we got one of them in the form of the WoW Armory.  But no, housing was not on the list.

Derek Smart came up as a topic for the first time on the site.

In a bit of EVE Online history I didn’t write about at the time, though I was vaguely aware that it had happened, the first titan built, an Avatar named “Steve,” owned by Ascendant Frontier, became the first titan destroyed when it was lost to Band of Brothers in C9N-CC on December 11, 2006. The pilot, CYVOK, logged out with aggression, was probed down, and the titan was destroyed.

The Wreck of Steve

There is a memorial wreck in the system to mark the event.

And, finally, just to make this section even longer, the top ten best selling games on the PC in 2006 were:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. The Sims 2: Open for Business
  3. The Sims 2
  4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  5. Star Wars: Empire at War
  6. Age of Empires III
  7. Civilization IV
  8. The Sims 2: Nightlife
  9. Guild Wars Factions
  10. Zoo Tycoon 2

That was back when Sims ruled the list.  I had forgotten that Guild Wars sold as well as it did too.

Twenty Years Ago

The Shadows of Luclin expansion for EverQuest, the third for the game, brought the Val Shir race, the beastlord class, alternate advancement mechanics, mounts, and a renewed game engine with updated player appearances, and the ability to customize the UI.  It was kind of a big deal.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. I Don’t Know What I Expected from the WoW Community Council
  3. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. The EVE Online New Dawn Quadrant to Start With Mining Changes
  6. WoW and the Endwalker Excuse
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. Life on the M2 Hellcamp
  9. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  10. The Winter Nexus Holiday Events Begin in EVE Online
  11. The State of New Eden at the End of 2021
  12. CCP Begins Inflicting the New Dawn Austerity Plan on EVE Online

Search Terms of the Month

fury at fwst-8 winners
[Everybody who had fun… and CCP]

when was the darkrai event in platonim held
[It was held in 2008]

when is viable run ragefire chasm
[For Alliance players, any time you’re ready to die]

сурамар таверны
[Somewhere in the town I think]

Game Time from ManicTime

The December games look quite different from my January games, except for EVE Online I guess, which has been the one title that I’ve played all year.  While Pokemon Brilliant Pearl seems like a distant third there, all of its play time has been since the day after Christmas.  So it has been top of the stack for the last week.

  1. Forza Horizon 4 – 37.30%
  2. New World – 36.62%
  3. Pokemon Shining Pearl – 12.26%
  4. EVE Online – 8.30%
  5. EverQuest II – 2.98%
  6. World of Tanks – 2.54%

EVE Online

In game it was a modest month of activity.  The Winter Nexus holiday event got people to undock, there login rewards and sales and such.  Out in space the usual low level conflicts persisted.  I went on a few small ops, tended my PI, and spent way too much ISK on a black ops battleship.

Out of game CCP publicly declared to continue the economic beatings until the PCU improved, saying that players will eventually do as they were told and play the game correctly if the company just keeps suppressing the economy.  The promise of “prosperity” earlier this year, like the promise with last year’s economic outlook that scarcity was to be temporary and not the new reality, turned out to be a lie.

If that were not enough, Hilmar has been running around talking to the press about blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and play to earn.  Since CCP has exactly ONE game they could implement those buzz word bingo ideas in, you can expect that to hit New Eden in 2022.

EverQuest II

I remain subscribed to the game and I even bought the new expansion and have been into it for a couple of levels.  The problem has been that there are a few games ahead of EQII in my interest queue, so it gets left out most evenings.  It isn’t bad, there are just things I would rather work on now.

Forza Horizon

Happy, fun, open world driving and racing.  Changing from FH5 to FH4 was a nice change up.  I like the car choices a bit better and England is a bit more varied in terrain and seasons than Mexico.  I even got a controller for Christmas to play it, so I will have to do a post about how that turned out.

New World

The group had a pretty good month in New World.  We managed to get ourselves through the Amrine Excavation after a few tries, which meant figuring out how to actually play as a group.  There is still lots to do and see in the game as we move along at our own pace.

Pokemon Go

Another month climbing the long, long road to level 50.

Level: 42 ( 11.7% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 677 (+4) caught, 697 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 14 of 18
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Sliggoo

Pokemon Shining Pearl

REAL Pokemon!  My daughter and I broke out the retro-Pokemon games on our Switch Lites the day after Christmas and have been having fun in Sinnoh.  I will probably repeat this every time I write about these titles, but there is such a nice mixture of simplicity (compared to Sword & Shield) and nostalgia going on that it is quite pleasant.  It isn’t perfect, but is has been good so far.  We’ve only been playing for a few days at this point, so the final four are still off on the horizon.

World of Tanks

I got in there and played a bit, but WoT suffered from the same problem that EQII did in that there was something else that was filling its niche further up the stack.  In this case, Forza Horizon 4 was my go-to game for light, short term play.  Still fun, still has its appeal, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Zwift

I managed to keep on peddling in our living room in December, adding another 96.5 miles to my total distance as measure by Zwift.  That gets me to… well… nowhere interesting really.  That distance by road puts me in the middle of Nevada or Oregon, in some empty place south of Ensenada, or in Quartzsite, Arizona.  I need to keep going to get somewhere I guess.

  • Level – 12 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 584.4 miles (+96.5 miles)
  • Time – 1d 6h 47m (+5h 59m)
  • Elevation climbed – 24,413 (+4,400 feet)
  • Calories burned – 19,426 (+3,285)

Coming Up

2022 which, as somebody pointed out, is pronounced like “2020 – 2,” which I hope just ends up being a humorous aside and not some horrible premonition of things to come.

Also, I need to come up with a “2022” graphic at some point today because tomorrow will be post one of the year, the inevitable predictions post where I prevent things from happening by publicly declaring that they will.

There are still a couple of 2021 posts I mean to get to including the summary of 2021 gaming and the books managed to read and that sort of thing.

Otherwise 2022 starts off with the group playing New World, my daughter and I playing Pokemon, and the pandemic still hanging around making any return to “normal” as unlikely in the new year as it was in the old.

Looking Back at 2021 Highs and Lows

I think the best we can say about 2021 was that at least it wasn’t 2020 all over again.

2020 plus 1

Well, maybe that isn’t being fair, but after the eternity of 2020 and the election and the pandemic and staying at home, hearing that we were going to have a vaccine and a boring old guy as president gave us hope for some normalcy.

And then shit happened and I am worried I have reached that point in life where everything is just going to be worse every year.  But we’ll get to that.  First the usual round up of past years, because this in an annual thing and has been since been for more than a decade.

This year we are back to highs and lows, divided up into categories based on some criteria that represents how my brain sorts things or relevance to the theme of this blog or something like that.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Burning Crusade Classic launched, keeping the nostalgia party going
  • Diablo II Resurrected landed on PC and consoles to popular acclaim
  • Some actual serious talk about doing more with Diablo II Resurrected
  • We got another run at nostalgia with WoW Classic Season of Mastery
  • BlizzConline was a nice, solid online event that was FREE to all fans
  • Hearthstone carried on and came out with a new solo mode
  • The WoW Community Council could help things if Blizzard deigns to listen

Lows

  • There was the collapse of the WoW Shadowlands expansion as people lost interest and exited the WoW for greener pastures
  • I am pretty sure the big level squish was a sign that Blizz just wants people to get to level cap raiding faster rather than any attempt to make that between content more viable or accessible
  • Diablo IV is still more than a year away
  • Diablo Immortal, which they were letting people play at BlizzCon 2018, still didn’t ship
  • Overwatch 2 seems to be some sort of unsubstantiated myth at this point
  • StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm are on a shelf in the back room
  • No new WoW expansion announced… or any real tangible public plan for the one franchise that pays the bill
  • Tainted the Burning Crusade Classic experience with the bonus pack, with the lizard mount and special hearthstone that mostly marked people out for scorn, though I am sure it made money in the short term
  • So far the WoW Community Council has been a game of Space Invaders, where suggestions are the descending aliens that Blizzard feels they have to destroy before they get too close
  • And then there was the State of California lawsuit about Blizzard being a hostile work place, which seemed supported by some accounts even as Blizzard tried to deny there were any problems at the company, which then exploded as more and more revelations about the company were exposed, often supported by the social media accounts of the people who were the problem, aided and abetted by senior management and HR who all seemed eager to cover up and excuse bad behavior, tarnishing everybody from Mike Morhaime forward
  • Lots of empty promises to clean things up while ignoring employee issues and making sure to jump on top of any hint of a union with the usual round of anti-union lies
  • Eventually there was some cleaning out of those most obviously complicit, but the company was at odds with itself and began to drift like a ship without a rudder as those in the executive suite made sure that they were not held accountable for anything; leading by example is the most basic form of leadership and Bobby Kotick can’t even manage that
  • As bad as Blizzard and Activision corporate behavior has been, I bet only a small sliver of their fans would even care if the studio actually shipped something new and fun

Enad Global 7

Highs

  • 2021 opened with such optimism about what EG7 was going to do now that it had acquired Daybreak
  • Then CEO Robin Floodin seemed eager to invest in the Daybreak portfolio, though he seemed oddly obsessed with H1Z1
  • Even replacement interim EG7 CEO and former Daybreak CEO Ji Ham admitted that the Daybreak portfolio of games had been neglected during his time as leader of Daybreak
  • We got to see Ji Ham speak and, while he wasn’t a font of insight, he did okay for his first public engagement as CEO of a public company
  • Ji Ham actually admitting on camera that Daybreak had not been investing enough in their game portfolio and saying that EG7 wanted to rectify that
  • New expansions for EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Lord of the Rings Online
  • Continuing new content for DC Universe Online and PlanetSide 2
  • MechWarrior 5 released on multiple platforms
  • Ongoing promise of a revamped LOTRO and a console version of the game
  • An unannounced Marvel IP MMO in development that got more headlines than anything Daybreak has done in the last five years
  • Daybreak taking over running Magic: The Gathering Online also put the company in the spotlight, adding another very visible franchise to their portfolio

Lows

  • Time and reality seemed to crush that initial wave of optimism that the acquisition instilled in us, as it tends to
  • Difficult to find anything real (as opposed to promised) where one can accurately declarre, “This is better today, right now, because of EG7” since the Daybreak acquisition
  • Worrisome feeling of deja vu when Ji Ham replaced the popular Robin Floodin as CEO
  • Some clearly impractical promises like LOTRO on consoles or bringing back H1Z1
  • Even the more practical promises are still out in the distant future
  • Really kind of business as usual for most of the games, which isn’t bad, but we were hyped for more

CCP

Highs

  • Opened the year with another Guinness Book World Record internet spaceship battle at M2-XFE
  • World War Bee proved once again that things happen in New Eden that no other game comes close to achieving
  • Lots of work on the whole new player experience thing and making things within the game more comprehensible
  • Came up with not bad solutions to the endless complaints about warp core stabilizers and interdiction nullification
  • Server upgrades to raise bar on performance in New Eden
  • Return of the Alliance Tournament

Lows

  • Economic starvation policy directly contributed to the stalemate that marked the last six months of World War Bee
  • The economy, the dull end of the war, and the COVID vaccine combined to slam the weekly peak concurrent user count
  • The promise of “prosperity” by CCP turned out to define “prosperity” as “more scarcity”
  • The CCP plan to make capital ships rare by making them expensive after years of them being way too cheap was both way too late to fix the proliferation issue and made capital pilots much less likely to risk their now very expensive hulls
  • The new player experience work has been focused pretty strongly on the initial tutorial, after which new players are still sent into the mediocre and now comically out of date career agents
  • Introduction of NFTs into the Alliance Tournament with the promise that this is just the start of those shenanigans
  • For some reason CCP can’t even ship what seems like a slam dunk improvement, like the new skill management interface, without screwing it up on the first pass and having to go back and fix blatant issues that were reported on the test server… and which should have been obvious to anybody with eyes honestly
  • UI design team philosophy seems to always default to “what if we added an additional UI pane to the game?”
  • I guess EVE Echoes is still a thing… oh, look, it has become a horrible, cash shop focused vision of what might be the future of the main game
  • Weren’t they working on a first person shooter or something?

Amazon

Highs

  • New World was an undisputed success at launch
  • Server queues are bad for players, but they are a good problem to have to solve when compared to server merges
  • Huge player numbers in the first month, with almost a million concurrent at its peak
  • Even when things died down, low six digit concurrent numbers are something many live games would kill for
  • Actually an MMORPG that felt different from the WoW-centric experiences we’ve been having the last fifteen plus years
  • Being skill and not class based means your character can do it all… theoretically
  • Planned for the future with a very obvious server merge path

Lows

  • When you’re getting 5 digit server queues with a game that has a low four digit player limit per server, you have not launched enough servers
  • So many bugs, so many problems that won’t go away, so much time spent waiting for the damn game to load
  • A lot of “nice to have” features left on the cutting room floor
  • You know “Azoth” makes half of us think of “Azeroth” every time we see that word
  • Some very odd UI design choices… beyond the clearly “designed for consoles” aspect even
  • An attempt to forestall players leaving made crafting and high end content so grindy it accelerated players leaving
  • In reality, I desperately want an alt so my main doesn’t literally have to do it all and respec with every change
  • Also, alts aside, two freaking character slots per region?  I remember the EQII launch and being dismayed that they only gave us four character slots, and New World somehow topped that
  • Server merges already as it is a game that has a minimum population in order to be viable
  • Getting to the “so what are you going to do next?” phase in New World
  • Didn’t Amazon have some other games in development?

Pokemon

Highs

  • We finally got a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
  • A great Pokemon Go Fest back in July
  • Pokemon Go keeps adapting and getting better

Lows

  • We will see how well a faithful remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl plays in 2022 I guess
  • Pokemon Go Fest was largely a success because they cut the price down to something reasonable
  • Sitting at level 42 in Pokemon Go it looks like a long, long ways to level 50

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

Highs

  • Valheim came out of nowhere and was amazing
  • Forza Horizon 5 turned out to be the open world driving game I was looking for
  • Hey, Forza Horizon 4 was that also, but cheaper and with all the DLC shipped, so I went there instead
  • World of Tanks, still fun a decade later
  • Raph Koster was telling us about his visions of the metaverse and, while being quite coy with details, seemed at least grounded in the reality of the situation
  • Steam Deck looks like a very promising platform
  • XBox Game Pass for PC is a pretty darn good deal for gamers
  • TorilMUD is still around 28 years down the line and even has an active Discord server
  • Minecraft got some nice updates this past year
  • Final Fantasy XIV was well positioned to grab refugees from World of Warcraft
  • FFXIV also kicked off their highly anticipated Endwalker expansion

Lows

  • Pretty much impossible to buy a new mid-range video card for under $1K
  • Steam Deck delayed until February, so none under the tree for Christmas
  • The biggest problem with Forza Horizon is the integration into Microsoft, which makes tasks like finding your friends surprisingly difficult
  • I am still very bad at World of Tanks a decade later
  • A three person studio was basically incapable of both keeping Valheim going and getting out some updates, so it has stayed pretty close to the launch state for most of the year and new zones are off in the distance
  • As with Minecraft, updates to biomes in Valheim will only apply to areas you haven’t been to, so you if you explored a lot like I did, you’re left having to start over to get to see new stuff when we get it
  • Speaking of Minecraft, it still gives me motion sickness, a rare effect on me, on the big 34″ curved ultrawide monitor
  • If you thought the New World queues were bad, let me tell you about FFXIV and Endwalker
  • Mark Zuckerberg was threatening us with his dystopian metaverse vision, complete with VR mask strapped to our collective faces and forcing his legless, uncanny valley horror show into our optic receptors
  • Too much meaningless NFT and blockchain hype, and it has only just gotten started
  • UbiSoft trying to one-up Blizzard with toxic workplace issues AND getting on board with NFTs
  • Et tu Bungie on the toxicity?

Television, Books, and the Media

Highs

  • The binge watching continued into 2021 and there was a lot to watch
  • Some solid IPs hitting the airwaves with series based on The Wheel of Time and Azimov’s Foundation series
  • A new attempt at a Dune movie, as well as a new Bond and Matrix movies
  • Ghostbusters Afterlife was the sequel the original deserved
  • Actually went out to the movies a few times; the popcorn was excellent
  • Lots of new seasons for things we like previously
  • Managed to get through 28 books this year
  • I did a lot of podcast listening as well
  • Twitter remains a fairly hospitable place for me

Lows

  • The problem with binging TV is that you become very aware of the tropes of the genre and the clues indicating where the plot is going
  • A lot of what I call “next season” fatigue, where I find that shows I liked in past seasons don’t really live up
  • We watched such a breadth of shows that when a new season drops I cannot remember what the hell went on before
  • Some extremely crap “previously on X” 30 second recaps in front of a new season that don’t help at all
  • Not a lot of new movies interesting enough to risk going to the theater, and a couple I might have gone out to see were released simultaneously on streaming, and our couch at home wins by default even if the popcorn isn’t as good
  • The whole Dune “we’re hiding the fact it is only part one until you see the opening credits” thing bugged me
  • Bond should have stayed retired
  • A lot of my reading this year was re-reading books for comfort, so not a lot new managed to get on my list
  • A lot of what I call “podcasts” today, such as This American Life, I would have just called “shows on the radio” 15 years back, while I rarely if ever find time for the amateur affairs that represented podcasts back then

Blogging and Such

Highs

  • The blog, it lives still, fifteen years into the game
  • I once again posted more than once a day in 2021
  • For no good reason I have been on a post-a-day streak since April 2020, which puts me into the mid-600s for days in a row of posting
  • Blaugust was a thing again this year
  • The local blogging community still carries on

Lows

  • Finding something to write about that I also care to put the effort into… ideas are cheap and plentiful, time and enthusiasm are much more rare… is becoming more difficult
  • The backbone of the blog was MMORPGs, which lend themselves to blogging as they are very much progression based and tell the story of your character, and since I am barely playing any MMORPGs at this point, those tales of progression have largely gone missing
  • There is no feature that WP.com cannot screw up on the first three tries
  • WP.com tech support will tell you you’re wrong when you say they’ve broken something, then fix it two weeks later

Just Life

Highs

  • As I stated at the top, at least it isn’t 2020 anymore
  • Still hanging on; my wife and I combined made more money in 2021 than any year previous, so we’re not too worried about the immediate future and doing okay compared to many in these trying times
  • Managed to refinance our house, lower our monthly payment, and pull out enough cash to pay for the last two years of college for our daughter
  • Back to having a boring president is good for the blood pressure
  • Covid vaccines available for most everybody at this point; I got my booster just ten days back
  • Even Donald Trump says you should get vaccinated
  • Managed not to contract Covid myself yet
  • Going to the store was mostly back to normal, save for masks, and there was toilet paper and antiseptic wipes available
  • The news wasn’t one outrage or horror show after the another; we let things slide in 2020 that would have been headlines with two week life cycles in a normal year

Lows

  • 2021 would seem like a pretty bad year if it hadn’t followed 2020
  • The price of the final two years of college for our daughter is easily going to get into six figures
  • Oh, and everything else is more expensive, so we’re not actually gaining any ground, just holding on
  • Everything is still worse than before Covid; prices are up, quality is down, portions are smaller, supply is unreliable, and the chip shortage remains
  • I didn’t catch Covid, but I got an inner ear infection that made me deaf in my right ear for about a month, and I have still not fully recovered my hearing there months later
  • Delta and Omicron variants have made it clear than Covid isn’t going away any time soon
  • Covid boosters are likely to become like flu shots, something we’ll need to get every year it seems, and masks in enclosed public spaces are going to be a thing for the rest of my life it seems
  • Apparently the ONE thing Donald Trump’s fans cannot abide is him endorsing Covid vaccines
  • We have reached a point where billionaires have their own space programs like Bond villains
  • I’ve really had trouble recalibrating to a news cycle that isn’t one insane thing after another, so when the top story of the day is about Biden’s dog or Kamala Harris buying cookware my gut reaction is “who gives a flying fuck?”
  • Remember when we were worried about Democracy in Hong Kong?  Yeah, China stomped that idea out of existence
  • China is starting to seem impatient about bringing Taiwan under its control
  • Russia is still working on reconquering the old Soviet/Imperial Russian empire, with an invasion of the remaining unoccupied parts of Ukraine as a distinct possibility, and we know how well wars in Europe work out for everybody
  • Boring presidents don’t actually do much it seems, so the new James Buchanan we have now is just forestalling conflicts to come
  • The November 2022 elections could very well decide whether or not democracy is a thing in the USA
  • We’ll be close to 8 billion people on earth soon, well up from the 3.3 billion who were around when I was born; Thomas Malthus would be telling us, “told you so” if he were still around today

Anyway, I had better stop there before I get myself too down.  Bad news does tend to push out anything good, so I should be happy that the bad news hasn’t been as frequent or as close to home.

Tomorrow is the last day of the year.  Enjoy it.  2022 is coming, and I am sure it is keen to leave its own mark on our collective hides.

New World and the Winter Convergence

With the holiday season on us every MMORPG worth its salt has some sort of event running that picks up some of the Christmas holiday traditions while steering away from being overtly religious.  Everybody loves presents and decorations, nobody wants to go to midnight mass or be the human sacrifice at the winter solstice ritual.

New World is no different, so they had their own event, the Winter Convergence Festival.

The totally not Christmas holiday event

I can be indifferent at times to in-game holiday events.  Mood, rewards, and effort required all play into the mix, and I wasn’t sure I was going to bother when I first noticed snow on the ground and special banners at the gate of every town.

Snow in an otherwise tropical setting

But there was a tree in town with presents under it, from which you could take one daily.  And since it handed me 100 coins as part of the deal, I was down with that part of it.  Some day I want to own a house, if only for the town storage upgrades you can get, and I have been mostly treading water with around 7,000 coins in my pocket.

Probably the oddest part of the event was the “lost presents” aspect.  As you ran around the world, lost presents were scattered along the roads, to be collected.

Who loses this many presents

As you collect them, the presents begin to add up in your inventory, and they have weight, so eventually you want to do something with them.  For that you have to head off to one of the Winter Villages, which are marked on the map.

Winter Village spotted

At the Winter Village you can convert presents into Winter Tokens, the currency of the event.  It is also there you meet the Winter Wanderer, the abominable snowman role model and faction leader of the event.

He’s a big boy, though no word on whether he bounces or not

I say faction leader because, like your normal faction leader, he has a quest or three for you and is also the vendor at which you can spend you Winter Tokens.  Oh, and you have to gain status with him just like you normal faction as well, which you can do by running down his quests, collecting your present at the big pile in every town, and picking up lost presents.

Just like your faction there are a series of ranks to earn

The first rank gets you some food options, while the other ranks, which you must earn, get you gear for levels 15, 30, 45, and 60

There is gear you can buy with your Winter Tokens, and some furniture as well, though the gear was what was most attractive to me.  Though, even on the gear front there were only a few pieces worth claiming.

For my one and only character… I still want an alt on my server… the kite shield seemed like a decent upgrade, and the musket was good too, though that was mostly because I don’t use the musket very often.

All of the other gear was not very well oriented towards being a tank, which calls for maximum constitution.

So I wasn’t really excited about the whole thing, but I figured I would earn my way into the level 30 gear and maybe the level 45 gear if I was feeling ambitious.  And then somehow I managed to get myself all the way to Holiday Regent and the level 60 gear and the pile of recipes that are also at that level.

Made it all the way

I guess if I made it to the maximum faction rank I can’t really claim I was indifferent to the whole thing, though I will once again say that handing me 100 coins for grabbing a present from various town trees daily was a strong motivator.

Probably the most annoying aspect of the whole thing, aside from picking up presents by the side of the road, was the need to go all the way to the Winter Village to figure out where you stood on the climb through the ranks.  But that seems pretty typical of the New World UI.

And, even at Holiday Regent rank, I still keep going to the tree in town… because 100 coins.

There is money under the tree for me

That was my MMO holiday event for the season really.  I have socked away the high level gear I bought in Monarch’s Bluff to retrieve once I level up… if I even remember where I have left them.

What Hurt Blizzard Most in 2021?

In our little corner of the internet it is broadly assumed that 2021 has been a very bad year for Blizzard, perhaps their worst year ever.  How can it not be?  Look at the scandals!  Look at the headlines!  Look at the stock price!  Look at the employees leaving… pushed or otherwise!  Look at all those influencers jumping ship for FFXIV or whatever!

Blizzard execs in 2021

But, as I have to remind myself from time to time, our little corner of the internet is kind of a weirdo fringe of video game consumers overall.  We are the connoisseurs in our little internet box when it comes to MMORPGs and the companies that make them.  So, for many of us, the scandal at Blizzard, the tales of abuse and institutionally condoned harassment, must be what is hurting the company.  We want to believe that when people do bad things that they eventually pay a price.

[Eliot at Massively OP linked another XKCD cartoon pertinent to our situation, which again boils down to the assumption that people outsize the fringe know or care about the things we fret over.]

Alas, even a headline in the Wall Street Journal doesn’t seem to have done much to Blizzard.

In fact, so far there isn’t much direct evidence that the scandal has hurt the company at all.  Sure, Blizzard hasn’t seen a quarter as big as Q4 2020 in all of 2021, but that was a WoW expansion launch quarter, which traditionally stands out as a high point.  Shadowlands, whatever you think about it now, sold well a year ago, recognizing revenue on 3.7 million copies on launch day.

So Q1 2021 carried over from that launch, logging $483 million in revenue.  Then there is Q2 2021, which saw a dip in revenue, down to $433 million.  But the scandal only broke in June, so it is hard to believe that it was a bigger hit that dissatisfaction with Shadowlands at that point.

And then there was Q3 2021, when revenue went up to $493 million.  The numbers were buoyed by the launch of Diablo II Resurrected, but the scandal was headline news with weekly revelations in Q3.   The argument that D2R sold well in South Korea and they don’t care about the scandal doesn’t hold a lot of water.  South Korea didn’t buy that many copies of the game, not enough to offset the rest of the world walking away because bad people run Blizzard.

Even the stock price, which jumped up past 100 early in the, could have fallen down to the mid-50s based on the game pipeline as much as anything else.  And the stock has started to creep up from its low at the start of the month.

ATVI stock price graph for 2021 so far

So while the righteous outrage at the behavior of the company and the people is totally justified, I have the impression that it is just us weirdos in the box that are doing anything about it, unsubscribing or whatever.  The reason Blizzard is off its game is because it cannot ship anything new, and the one new thing they shipped in the last year, the Shadowlands expansion, has fallen flat.  People unaware of the company’s troubles will leave if they are not having fun.

The Blizzard 2021 catalog has mostly been retreads… Burning Crusade Classic, WoW Classic Season of Mastery, and Diablo II Resurrected… along with the usual new Hearthstone variations and expansions.  And unless things change this quarter, Blizzard is still going to be a billion dollar division in the greater Activision corporate structure.

Now, the reasons they cannot seem to ship a new title may very well be tied up in the problems with how the company is being run, and we have a ways to go to see how Q4 2021 will fare.  Q4 is traditionally a strong quarter for video games… if you ship something new.  If Q4 tanks for Blizzard’s share of the revenue pie, maybe it will be a sign that something else is in play.

So far as 2022 goes, there isn’t much on the agenda aside from Diablo Immortal finally seeing the light of day.  There ought to be a new WoW expansion on the horizon.  We’ll see if their internal struggles allow that to move forward in time.

What Came Before PLEX?

CCP introduced PLEX, the 30 Day Pilots License Extension, to EVE Online back in 2009.

Look, old UI, old prices!

At the time it seemed quite the daring innovation.  PLEX was an in-game item worth 30 days of subscription time… this being back when EVE Online was all subscriptions all the time… that could be put on the market and sold for ISK… or traded for something else or whatever.

CCP was kind of cautious with PLEX at first, and it was a while before they removed restrictions on it, at which point the inevitable situation occurred and somebody lost 74 PLEX when their ship got ganked.  The game was on then.

But it was innovated on two fronts.  First, it let players finance their subscription through in-game play.  “PLEXing” ones account soon became part of the New Eden vernacular.  Second, it allowed a safe, legal way for new players to buy ISK, working around the ISK sellers.  It didn’t drive ISK sellers out of business, and they remain a plague on the game to this day, but it gave people who were going to buy ISK a legitimate path to do so.

And, reflecting on something I have been on about this year, it also effectively raised the price of a 30 day subscription.  Two PLEX cost $35, so that made 30 days a $17.50 ride compared to paying the usual $15 up front.  Nice work.

PLEX has been through some changes, most notably the 500 for 1 conversion back in 2017 when the decided to make it the RMT in-game currency, removing Aurum from the game.

That also successfully raised the price of a subscription, as 500 PLEX, the amount now needed for a 30 day subscription, was $20 in the store.  Some nice work there CCP.

And the game itself has been through many changes aside from PLEX, including a free to play options and the slippery slope of skill injectors/extractor.

But PLEX has most been successful, and no doubt profitable, for CCP, and other companies have copied the idea, from Darkfall’s DUEL to WildStar’s CREDD, to Krono in EverQuest and EverQuest II, to GRACE in Anarchy Online, and, most notable of all, the WoW Token in World of Warcraft.

There are probably other online games that have adopted the idea as well, those are just the ones I have taken note of in the past.

But this led me around to wondering if there was something like PLEX before PLEX.

This isn’t to cast doubt on CCP’s ability to come up with something different or unique… much of EVE Online stands as a testament to not doing things the way people might expect, and for years there has been a team dedicated to fixing a lot of that.

So this is an audience participation question.  I cannot think of anything that was like PLEX before PLEX, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some previous precedent, some game that tried out a scheme that at least mirrors PLEX in some way.

The minimum parameters are an item, purchased for real world money, that can be sold in-game for the main in-game currency that bestows some benefit on the buyer.  A subscription increment would be idea, but even something minor.  Blizzard’s pre-WoW Token experiment with the Guardian Cub, which you could buy in the web store and sell at the auction house for gold qualifies… or would qualify if it hadn’t come out almost three years after PLEX.

So that is my question for the day.  Did anything PLEX-like pre-date PLEX in the market?

And, if you’re stumped on that but just feel like doing some digging, what other PLEX-like items have come around since PLEX that I have forgotten to mention.  I think ArchAge had something and maybe Rift did as well?

Return to Sinnoh with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

As foretold by prophecy… and a month in review coming up segment… my daughter and I each found a Pokemon title for our Switch under the Christmas tree yesterday.  She got Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and I got Pokemon Shining Pearl, the remakes of the 2006 Pokemon titles that moved the series off of the single screen GameBoy hardware and onto the new Nintendo DS devices.

Diamond and Pearl remade

That is where we started our Pokemon journey when, in anticipation of another long airline flight to Hawaii, my wife sent me out to buy a DS and a few games to keep our daughter occupied on the trip.  I spent a lot of time with my then young daughter reading the things she could not yet manage and became enamoured with the title myself and ended up with a Nintendo DS Lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond for myself.  That cobalt blue unit, which I still have on the bookshelf behind me, and which still runs just fine, might be the best piece of hardware I have ever gotten from Nintendo; compact, with a sharp screen and a long battery life, it was a nice design.

Of course the question is whether of not, after nearly 14 years, my daughter and I can find joy in a Pokemon title that is an echo from the past.

Pokemon Diamond and the DS Lite

The Switch Lite isn’t the DS Lite, or even my handy 2DS XL.  It is larger, a bit awkward to hold, only has a single (if much larger) screen, and has noticeably less battery life than any of the DS series units we have owned.  (And still own.  In addition to the DS Lite and 2DS XL I mentioned there are also a couple of 3DS XLs, a DSi, and DSi XL somewhere around here.  I just need an original model DS to have the foundations of a DS museum.)

Honest Game Trailers goes after the game pretty hard for being a remake without much in the way of change.

And there is the odd art style which tried to capture the charm of the original pixel-focused art style in a high resolution format.  Here is what it looked like back then.

Pokemon Diamond back in the day

And here is a glimpse of it in the remake.

Into a Switch rendered Sinnoh… also, you can do screen shots on the Switch

But you know what?  It is all working for me so far.  The charm, the light story where an ten year old child is allowed to wander the world with just a kiss on the cheek and a “stay safe!” from his mom about two minutes into the game… as compared to the ponderous, goes on forever intro to Pokemon Sword & Shield…  and the rather simple game play, that is all a bonus for me.  I am happy with it.

There are, of course, a few changes.  The mechanics of the switch demanded some, so your Poketech smart watch now grabs the corner of the screen as opposed to owning the second screen on its own.  Experience share is now party wide by default from the start, as in Sword & Shield, rather than depending on the experience share item being held by a single Pokemon.

We will see if that spirit lasts.  The pandemic times have also been the years of the remakes for me, with things like WoW Classic, Burning Crusade Classic and, Diablo II Resurrected, all of which I have enjoyed to some extent.  Why not some old school Pokemon?

I am already in possession of the first gym badge, so I will have to see how far my daughter and I get.

Friday Bullet Points about Acquisitions on Christmas Eve

At this point it is probably too late to worry about whether you’ve been naughty or nice in 2021, but there is still some time left before the fat man flies to touch on a few items I wanted to bring up but which didn’t seem worth a full post.

  • Daybreak and Magic the Gathering Online

The news hit yesterday that Daybreak, now always highlighted as a fully owned subsidiary of Enad Global 7, though with the Daybreak boss in as CEO you might ask who really owns who at this point, made a deal with Wizards of the Coast (owned by Hasbro now) to take over publishing and operational duties for Magic: The Gathering Online, the virtual version of the classic collectible card game.  The deal also includes the right to “develop” the title.

Magic the Gathering Online

Daybreak has had experience in the past with collectible card games, though those have all since been shut down.  According to the coverage at Massively OP, the deal means that the development team responsible for the title will become a studio under the Daybreak banner, as opposed to being folded into one of the current studios.

  • Crowfall Finds a New Home

In a classic “hide the message” move, it came out last Friday after the US markets had closed (the press release hit my inbox at 4:20pm Pacific time, so dude!) that Crowfall, a crowdfunded MMO that actually went live earlier this year, making it an exception to the rule for MMOs choosing that financing route, was to be acquired by Monumental, the studio which runs Mythgard.

Is this even still their logo?

Despite the after hours on a Friday press release, the news seemed promising for the title. While the Crowfall team ran a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, bringing in more than $1.7 million, and managed to launch earlier this year, the game appeared to be struggling to find an audience.

According to coverage over at Massively OP, Monumental will be providing resources to improve the game and keep it going, as the title seemed to be foundering after its launch.

  • Perfect World Entertainment embraced by Embracer Group

Also in for an end of the year acquisition… companies are out doing their holiday shopping before the end of the fiscal year I guess… was Perfect World Entertainment, which had itself acquired Cryptic Studios (which created Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Champions Online, but which is probably best known for the late City of Heroes) and Runic Games (which did the Torchlight series, Hob, and Mythos) over the years.

Just down the street from EA HQ, though Cryptic is less than 2 miles from my house

The buyer is the Embracer Group, which also acquired Gearbox earlier this year.  PWE will be slotted in as part of Gearbox in the organization.

Since Embracer is publicly held, they had to do a report on the acquisition, which included fresh new details about some of the titles.  Not as in depth as what we got about Daybreak when EG7 acquired them last December, but still some data points including lifetime revenue and total player counts.

I suspect that format was chosen to give the titles the best possible look financially.  Star Trek Online, for example, was reported as having made $240 million over its life so far, with 4 million players trying the title.  That means the nearly 12 year old title has made about $20 million a year, but I imagine a good chunk of that was early on and includes box sales.  No word on what it, or any of the other PWE titles have been pulling in recently.  That the price was $125 million in cash and equity, less than half of what Daybreak sold for a year ago, one might infer that PWE titles would rank closer to the lower end of the Daybreak titles in gross revenue, and maybe even less in net profit due to some of them being licensed properties.

The State of New Eden at the End of 2021

It’s the economy, stupid!

James Carville, 1992 US Presidential Campaign

I have said over the years more times than I can probably remember that the miracle that is the game EVE Online… miracle because it is a non-consensual PvP MMORGP that has lasted for almost 19 years at this point in a world where every other attempt at that PvP paradigm has either gone out of business, had to make a non-PvP variant, or has become so niche as to not matter in the market… is based on the bedrock of its economy.

The flip side of the PvP core of the game is that it is also one of the rare MMORPGs where you can focus on crafting without having to run out and play through all the adventure levels just to have access to the right skill and recipes and materials to do that.

The economy is there.  The economy provides.  The economy enables everything in the game.  PvP is viable because you don’t go out in space with a pile of bind on equip purple gear that you raided for six months to get and then lose when you die.  You go out in a ship with modules and ammunition that are all immediately replaceable in Jita or another major trade hub.

Crafting is viable because ships and modules and ammunition are completely replaceable (except for those alliance tournament ships) and are consumed by PvP at a steady rate.

And for two years now CCP has basically been at war with the economy.  There is a video clip up on Reddit of Merkelchen, the CEO of KarmaFleet, from a year back on the MetaShow where he is asking CCP to please let up on the economy and let us get back to our care free ways of blowing up ships.  We were in the middle of a major war and were soon to engage in the largest, most expensive battle in the game’s history, something that would renew a couple of Guinness Book world records for CCP, and the request was just to let us carry on with unprecedented levels of destruction.  It is on YouTube so I will embed it here as well:

Merkelchen is on the CSM and has been for a few terms now, so I have no doubt that he and some other CSM members have been giving that message directly to CCP for a while now.  We’re tired of nerfs, we would like something fun please.

CCPs reaction was to ignore feedback and carry on with their economic starvation plan, nerfing mining further, nerfing industry, and making capital ships so expensive that the war, which had been seeing trillion ISK battles on a fairly regular basis for a stretch even in the early economic pinch, essentially died off.

We went from capital ship clashes to cheaper hulls, with battlecruisers, heavy assault cruisers, and T1 logi becoming the backbone of the war.  As the screws tightened, the war died down, to the point that the attackers gave up and went home (or went to new homes in the case of most of Legacy, who lost both their old and new homes, becoming the real losers in the war) and that was that.

CCP offered us a glimmer of hope that the era of scarcity would be over come the Q4 quadrant.   And then when they announced New Dawn: The Age of Prosperity it quickly became clear that CCP’s intent was to make scarcity a permanent feature of the game.  They said they would be doubling resources… doubled from the lowest ebb of scarcity which was 90% off of the per-scarcity levels… but then included enough additional nerfs and oppressive mechanics to make the whole thing a net loss for the player who were being promised prosperity.

It is hard not to just say CCP was straight up lying to our faces unless you allow that they perhaps simply don’t know what they are doing.  Not a happy dichotomy that.

Nor have they been keen to take feedback in anything but minor details of the economic plan.  And some of the changes, like replacing the word “waste” with the word “residue,” smack of just re-arranging the deck chairs in an attempt to fool us into thinking they changed something.

As a follow on to the first round of the new economic plan being imposed on New Eden CCP promised a follow up blog, which came in the form of the detail free, everything is great, Winter Status Update, a document they were so happy with that they didn’t even bother to link to it when announcing it on Twitter.

A follow on Twitch presentation, billed as a Q&A event, but which only included questions from a forum thread you probably didn’t see, which wasn’t mentioned in the announcement, ended up being featuring very few questions indeed while the live chat was flooded with them.

Instead it was mostly CCP Rattati telling us all that the plan was excellent and that they have lots of data not available to the players… demonstrating that by showing us several charts that not only didn’t really support his assertions but which seemed to refute some of what he was saying [addendum: Dunk Dinkle has examples] … and that the dials on the “black box” of the economy… and the fact that they used the term “black box” should not instill confidence that they know what they are doing… would be adjusted as they kept an eye on things.

Basically it was a mostly a propaganda exercise where CCP Rattati told us all everything was working and excellent and going exactly to plan for the betterment of the game.

CCP staying the course in 2021

As with the Winter Status Update, it was built on a lot of wishful thinking and the idea that players will step into line and behave as they have predicted if they economic beatings continue.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the player numbers to see how that plays out.  Jester, while he no longer blogs, keeps up a site with data about players in the game.  He has a handy chart that shows players online using 30 day rolling averages, which smooths out the lines into trends.

EVE Players 2018 to 2021 comparison

2018 is the last “normal” year for purposes of comparison I suppose.  From mid-2019 forward CCP is messing with the economy.  2020 is the pandemic surge, a rising tide that lifted many video games, but come 2021 and and an ever worsening New Eden economy, things begin to taper off into what look like it will be the lowest holiday season on the chart.

Adding to that low holiday line for 2021 is the fact that we really have very little to look forward to between now and the spring.  The pre-fanfest agenda is to work out how to make compression difficult but not completely oppressive, making Rorquals suck ever so slightly less, trying to figure out a way to make people undock more capital ships without making them economically viable to build, some changes to citadels, and more tinkering with null sec to see if CCP can do something to force wars to occur after they killed off one of the biggest wars in the history of the game.

Whee, fun.

At least they had the sense not to bring up NFTs, though I suspect we’ll still hear more about that come 2022. (But Hilmar is still out there talking up NFTs, and CCP is clearly laying the groundwork for more NFT stuff, so we’re not done there yet.)

The company will do whatever it is going to do and player feedback will be mostly ignored.  My drawing the comparison between Ion Hazzikostas and the WoW team’s complete resistance to feedback… the WoW Community Council forums are quickly turning into blue posts defending the current plan against all comers… and CCP Rattati seems more apt with every announcement from CCP.  Both seem to see feedback as something to be deflected or ignored.  It is impossible to know if either of them represent the thinking of their respective teams, but they are the leaders and the public faces of the games, and with that position comes the blame when things are not going well.

In the face of all of that I remain my fatalist self.  The core of the player base that sticks with the game will adapt.  We already have and will continue to do so.  We fly cheaper ships and clashes between fleets of titans… something that happened twice just a year ago… are not on anybody’s agenda.  CCP’s efforts to force players to play the game the “the right way” and to bend to the company’s economic theories will be futile in the end if there is no incentive for players to do so.  Players will play the game in the way that serves their own best interest.

Same as it ever was.

I mostly just hope CCP won’t break the economy out of a sheer bloody minded need to prove a point because, unlike many of their changes and nerfs, the economy is the beating heart of the game.  Making core items more expensive and less available… including to those new players that the company covets over their installed base… is not going to make for a better New Eden in the long run.

We’ll see what happens in the new year.

The Steam Winter Sale 2021 Has Begun

The annual holiday tradition of video game discounts has arrive at Steam as they unleash the 2021 version of their Winter Sale.

The Tradition Continues

It seems to be off to as smooth of a start as one could expect.  Often the first hour of the sale is a time to find mid-priced items and other oddities in the mix… not to mention some performance issues as people rush in to find that price typo that will get you a game for a fraction of its intended price.

If you were interested in Forza Horizon 4, which I have been writing about, it is available for $20 again as part of the sale, down from its $60 base price.  Also on the list are New World for $30, Valheim for $15, and a host of other titles marked off at least a bit, even some new-ish titles like Age of Empires IV.

It is a chance to spend some of those Winter Sales tokens you may have saved up or earned on cosmetic items.

It is also your opportunity to vote in the Steam Awards.  The Autumn Sale around Thanksgiving is when you get to nominate games and the Winter Sale is when you get to see who made the cut for inclusion.  It will be a tough choice for Game of the Year for me as Valheim, New World, and Forza Horizon 5 are all on the list, and they all have their merits in my book.

The sale runs from today through January 5th, though you only have until January 2nd to vote as the sale will culminate with the announcement of the winners and all sorts of statistics about which video games did the best on the Steam platform in 2021.

And then it will be 2022 and we will have a whole new year to fret about.