Daily Archives: December 30, 2021

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.