Monthly Archives: April 2022

April in Review

The Site

It has been a busy month.  I was away for 8 days and have been dealing with elderly parent issues even when I have been home.  Then I started a new job mid-month, which is always a huge change and brings its own fresh dose anxiety.

And yet, somehow I found time to write 33 blog posts this April.  Is my hobby really video games, or is it blogging?  Also I managed to keep up the daily post streak, which I said I was going to probably let go of at the 500, 600, 700, and two full years marks.  And yet here we are at day 761.  Go me.

As for the blog itself, it continues to chug along under the weight of my words.  Traffic has been down since the big Google Page Experience change back in February, when the altered their algorithm to favor sites that met their “good experience” criteria.  That led to a noticeable drop in traffic from Google.  Before that Google was sending me 300+ referrals a day, since then their referrals have broken the 200 mark only once.

You get used to the new normal pretty quickly though, and it can be interesting to see what still grabs Google’s attention and what does not.  For example, I apparently jumped on the Antiwordle bandwagon just in time.

Google Search Console Says

Also, if you get the blog updates via email you may have noticed a change.  WP.com started sending them out formatted for mobile devices.  But not for everybody  I get the daily update sent to two different email addresses just to keep an eye on it.  The more recent of the two gets the new format, while the older one… does not.

The older one dates back to the start of the blog and seems problematic overall.  For years it used to get an update of posts from the previous day at about 5am local time very reliably.  Now the update comes at all hours, or not at all some days.  It will go a week with nothing and then an email will arrive a 2pm with a week’s worth of posts in a single email.

The new one isn’t free from issues.  It seems sporadic on the delivery time and it misses a day now and then, and there is never a make up email.  So something isn’t perfect in the email delivery.

One Year Ago

April Fools was a quiet affair at Blizzard.

I put up a poll asking what part of the month in review posts people liked the most, and this section topped the results.  So I guess I’ll keep it up.

We got the word that Nielsen was shutting down SuperData Research, which it had acquired a couple of years earlier.  There would be no more monthly revenue charts to argue about.

Raph Koster was talking some more about his latest project, giving us an unreadable chart to illustrate a point about player economies.  He was also talking about cloud computing, which got me to write about the pros and cons of the thin client idea.  Raph came even came by and left a comment on that post.

The instance group was still hot on Valheim.  I was out scouting for base locations out in the plains biome.  Once we slew Moder, we started working on an island base on the coast of a plains area.  We were becoming good at dealing with deathsquitoes.

The plains has its own residents to take on. Meanwhile, we kept expanding our base, setting up a farm in it.  I was also out exploring even more.  I also got to battle Yagluth, the final plains boss, on another server.

Runes of Magic had their “biggest server ever” setup for the 12th anniversary of the game.

I was wondering if Lord of the Rings Online was in maintenance mode.  But EG7 has renewed their commitment to it since.  Over on the EverQuest front, the Mischief random loot server was coming online.

I also logged in and played a bit of WoW Classic.

In EVE Online World War Bee was still carrying on after 10 months.  However, CCP chose to introduce industry changes that made capital ships so expensive to produce that nobody was willing to go “all in” on another M2-XFE type battle.  PAPI would not commit its supers and titans to anything  besides structure grinds under a cyno jammer until the retreat from Delve a few months down the line.  The EVE Online posts from April 2021:

On the media front I wrote about Godzilla vs Kong and watching The Walking Dead.  I also wrote about out PS3, which turned 10 and had been used mostly for playing BluRay disks and streaming.

I was on about how throwing money at bogus MMO Kickstarter campaigns was no way to fight “big dev.”

And, finally, in a Friday bullet point post I mentioned the Diablo II Resurrected Alpha, EG7 completing its purchase of MMO publish Innova (which, a year later, they found themselves divesting themselves from), more about Runes of Magic, and CCP talking about the FPS shooter they said they weren’t talking about.

Five Years Ago

There was, of course, April Fools, but Blizzard didn’t seem up to its usual level of effort.

Blizzard did make the original StarCraft free to play, no April Fools there.

I was wondering if the plan to make mobs scale with your ilevel was going to make going back to World of Warcraft a chore.  It seemed like a bad idea, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter much.

I was going on about the 3K Blissey problem in Pokemon Go.

Meanwhile I was finishing up Pokemon Sun and still felt like playing Pokemon, so went back to Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.

There was the Lord of the Rings Online ten year launch anniversary.   We would finally get to Mordor later that year.

Daybreak announced the Agnarr server for EverQuest, a retro server designed to stay retro as it would not progress beyond the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion.

In EVE Online Reavers were out camping Circle of Two in Impass, shooting their ratters and such.  Asher later told us that this was to have us in place as they had a CO2 director ready defect.  This was before The Judge did his thing.  However that did not come to pass.

I was going on about corpses in New Eden, which have their own special place in the game.  I was also on about force auxiliaries and titan losses.

In Iceland EVE Fanfest was under way.  They had a presentation that gave some interesting data about what happened in New Eden over the last year.  CCP also announced the winners of the CSM12 election and when/where EVE Vegas would take place.  And there was a talk on the plan to convert Null Sec stations into citadels.  We’re still waiting on that last bit.

I also started looking at the New Eden Monthly Economic Report as a regular monthly item, something set off by how much ratting and mining was being done in null sec.

I sharpened up my scanning skills, all the better to hunt MTUs.  Also, according to CCP I lost 5 billion ISK in space wealth since the month before.

In Minecraft I finished up the long road to the northern forest mansion; it took an hour to ride it on a fast horse.

And then there was the crazy story of the Nintendo NES Classic, which they stopped producing even though it remained sold out everywhere.

Ten Years Ago

April 2012 set a daily page view record.  What is it about April?  I know you are going to say “April Fools,” but the record was actually set because of the Burn Jita event.

Yeah, the Burn Jita event.  It made for my most popular YouTube video ever.  And it lead right into Hulkageddon V and its OTEC connection.

Elsewhere in EVE Online, the LEGO Rifter got 10K votes, the War in the North seemed to be winding down with RAZOR back in Tenal and six fleets stalking Venal. Raiden managed to lose a bunch of sovereignty, by accident, which finished that up.  All that was left was to say we didn’t want that region anyways.  We also made conga lines, experience time dilation, and followed DBRB through high sec to kill some super caps.  And Seleene became the chairman of the Galactic Student Council.

I was also syndicated occasionally on EVE News 24.  I don’t think I got paid for all of that.

I made a list of small features I wanted other MMOs to copy.

Lord of the Rings Online hit the five year mark.

Potshot and I were wandering around EverQuest again, looking for lost dungeons.  We were not buying any $25 bags though.

In Rift, the instance group was driven out of King’s Breach.  But Trion added in fishing, so we could do that instead.

And it was April Fools at Blizzard.

Fifteen Years Ago

Back in April 2007 we were wondering what was going to happen with Sigil Games Online after their less than stellar Vanguard launch. (*snort*) I threw out a few paths that the game might follow going forward, one of which proved to be correct.  Soon we would be free from the rambling posts of Aradune.  There was a failure of vision to be corrected.  But I bought a copy all the same.  It was marked down.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Windows Vista, which launched the same day as Vanguard, was facing failures of its own, with Dell having to reintroduce Windows XP as an option for customers.  I know my own company was buying XP systems until Windows 7 came out… and became the new Windows XP.

In EverQuest II Gaff and I visited Emperor Fyst, I ran around in Nektropos Castle with the Everling clan, and complained about experience in Splitpaw.

While our WoW group was winding down for the summer, with Earl off to Broadway, the remaining four of us went off to Middle-earth with the launch of Lord of the Rings Online.  We had been playing in the beta, but eventually it came time to buy the game and sort out the founder’s options.  I had my first impressionsTitles were a thing!

I answered the musical meme question, “Five Reasons Why I Blog.”  Remember when those were “memes?”  Also, that seems awfully early in my career to be answering that sort of question.

I was also on about the pros and cons of player wipes, the requirement that one be able to solo in MMORPGs, and the problem of translating mechanics between games.

Van Hemlock was leet.

Nintendo launched Pokemon Diamond & Pearl in North America at last.  The EU would have to wait until July to get their copies.

Our Wii finally came out of the box.

And, finally, I had a problem with a video card that eventually had to be RMA’d, which sounds a lot like this April. I hope this won’t turn into a yearly thing.

Sixty Years Ago

One of the earliest computer video games, Spacewar! came into being, being initially playable on a DEC PDP-1 minicomputer at MIT.  This would evolve and move onto other platforms over the years, including an arcade version that I used to play in middle school in the late 70s.

As I wrote back in 2014, you can play the original Spacewar! in emulation over at the Internet Archive.  You can also play the Valve reproduction of the arcade game on Steam, if you know how to install it.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. CCP Raising the EVE Online Subscription Price to $20 a Month Starting May 17th
  4. The Trainwreck of 21st Century Lord British
  5. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  6. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. April Fools at Blizzard 2022 in the Shadow of Many Things
  9. The One with the Lawyer from BASF
  10. Wordle and Things Like Wordle
  11. What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?
  12. The Coming of Wrath of the Lich King Classic

Search Terms of the Month

Another all Russian edition.  I guess the war hasn’t stopped search terms.

дайсон сфер программ
[I think they have those in Stellaris ]

моды на бамбук
[Things pandas like]

ферма призмарина
[Aaron made one of those in Minecraft for us]

космические корабли ив онлайн моделька
[Not really sure on that one]

фон майнкрафт особняк
[I have a few screenshots here that might serve]

Game Time from ManicTime

Well, you can see where I spent most of my game play time this month.  Granted, as I said above, I was away and busy for quite a bit of the month, so the sum total of hours is the lowest of any month so far this year… half of what it was in January… but it is still a non-trivial amount of time spent messing around.

  • Valheim – 91.76%
  • EVE Online – 6.41%
  • LOTRO – 1.15%
  • Lost Ark – 0.69%

I was actually a bit surprised to see that I had logged into Lost Ark in April.  It feels like a long time since I last touched it.

EVE Online

It has been a bit of a month for CCP.  I have more posts talking about the game than about actually playing the game.  But, then, I haven’t been playing too much of the game, so maybe it isn’t all on CCP.

The deployment to the southeast of null sec carried on.  There are fights now and then, but I wouldn’t call it a war.  I managed to go on a few ops, got on my kill mail for the month, and basically did the minimum participation thing due to being busy.

The campaign does not sit still because I am busy though, and the staging stations keep moving forward, so I am behind one staging system and have ships strewn across three old ones.  My hope is that I’ll be able to get two expensive ships back home some day and then YOLO or asset safety the rest.

Lord of the Rings Online

Hey, it turned 15 this month.  Imagine that.  I did log in for a bit, though I probably spent more time patching up, and collected my anniversary gifts on what was probably the wrong server in hindsight.  Whatever, my bags were nearly too full to collect the gifts in any case, laden with gifts from previous years as they were.  There were some nice and generous items for 15 year veterans.  Maybe some day I will use them.

Lost Ark

Well, that ended quickly.  The sure fire sign that I wasn’t really all that into a game is that I simply stop even thinking about logging in.  And it isn’t like Lost Ark is out of sight.  It is there on my favorites list in Steam and I am in there every day to play Valheim.  I just don’t click on Lost Ark anymore.

Valheim

Back to ValheimAs Potshot noted, its worldliness is a draw for our group.  So we’re back with a fresh start, and doing a slow roll forward, not in any hurry to get to the next boss or whatever.  Ideally we’ll get the update for the Mistlands before we’ve tapped out again.  We got another tease about that biome, but it is still in the distant future.

Pokemon Go

Some Pokemon was played, though not so much as past months.  The mega evolutions might be a bigger deal going forward as Niantic has finally figured out that an expensive, temporary evolve isn’t all that viable for any but the most dedicated players.  That sure isn’t me.

Level: 42 ( 43.5% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 706 (+9) caught, 730 (+9) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 21
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Lycanroc

Zwift

I fell off the bike this month, though at least it wasn’t literally.  I was away and then the new job meant trying to craft a new daily routine where I still need to find a spot for exercise.  I did manage to peddle a little bit on the weekends, but I am definitely off my stride for the moment.

  • Level – 14 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 937.9 miles (+37.7 miles)
  • Time – 2d 1h 37m  (+2h 12m)
  • Elevation climbed – 39,216 (+5,316 feet)
  • Calories burned – 31,059 (+983)

Coming Up

As I understand it, on Tuesday Blizzard is supposed to officially announce its long hinted at Warcraft mobile game.   Will it get a PC version as well to stop people from playing it in phone emulation mode on their PCs the way Diablo: Immortal did?  I guess we’ll find out.

Then, by this time next Saturday we’ll know all the things that CCP has planned to announce at EVE Fanfest.

Otherwise a lot of things will just carry on as before.  I suspect that Valheim will continue to dominate what play time I have when it comes to May.

EVE Online Fanfest Announcement Speculation

We are announcing big content updates for fanfest. it’s the largest one we’ve ever done probably.

-CCP Paragon, Discord Q&A about the announced subscription price increase

Fanfest is just a week away.  Read all about it.

Last week we got the announcement from CCP that they will be bumping up the price of a subscription for EVE Online from $15 to $20 per month. (Yes, I will keep rounding up to full dollar amounts, though that actually makes CCP looks ever so slightly better because the price went from $14.95 to $19.99, so I am cutting them some slack on the extra four cents.)

At least they had the guts to put the price hike on the launcher, even if they call it an “update”

They chose to make the announcement at the end of their business day on Friday, which is the traditional weaseling hour for public relations and marketing.  You want to announce late enough in the day that it misses the main news drops and hope that nobody notices or that something else shows up over the weekend to push your bad news down the list of topics on Monday.

Anyway, CCP dragged out CCP Paragon to stand up in front of the angry virtual crowd and speak about the price increase.  I don’t know what sin he was accused of, but this surely had to be penance for something.

Several things were mentioned by him… only one of which was in the official announcement… as reasons for why CCP needs to raise the price of a subscription, along with a statement of mitigation, which is the quote at the top of the page.

To lay that out, CCP is going to announce some big things at EVE Fanfest next week that they think will soften player outrage about the 33% price jump.

That, leaving aside all the general ugliness around the price bump, gives us something to speculate about.

I usually don’t speculate about CCP announcements because they tend to be a surprise and often unfathomable before they become public.  But now we have a blank slate and a promise that something huge will be coming.  It is time to throw some bad guesses at the wall and see what ends up sticking.

If I am correct with any of this I will be shocked or dismayed… or possibly both.  I certainly have no special insight into this.  As I understand it, even the CSM is completely in the dark.  But CCP Paragon’s words about the scale of the update makes me wonder what it could be.  What would be bigger than, say, adding wormhole space or super capitals or magic sovereignty entosis wands or Upwell structures?  Those were all kind of big updates to contend with.

So here are a few things that come to my mind, with what I think are the likely player reactions at EVE Fanfest, where the much of the very vocal core of the player base will be.

I will also put my impression of what non-EVE players will say, if anything, largely because CCP has been working on attracting new players for the last couple of years to little obvious success.

  • A Vision Quest

My initial, go-to, most likely scenario when I started thinking about this was that we’re not going to get anything at all at Fanfest aside from a vision of something they hope they will be able to implement in the coming years.  “EVE Forever” once more.

And then I realized that this was going to be true no matter what they announced.  So this is really a stand alone guess.  We’ll get nothing, no features ready to go, just a plan for a plan

It will sound neat and impressive, or it had better, but will be vague enough both in scope and timeline that we’ll all be left projecting our own biases upon it.  This has worked on us before.  Dedicated EVE Online players have a history of buying into these sorts of visions.  We want to believe.

However, the current reality with the mishandling of the New Eden economy, the flirting with crypto, the recent price increases, and the disdain for users that the current production team has shown, there is a significant hazard here.  We might not fall in line and cheer for the vision.

Expected EVE player reaction: The more optimistic will buy in, but disdain and resentment will be a much more common reaction.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: At best, somebody might ask when it will be a thing.  There won’t be an answer for that.

So, given that general prediction, what do I think the actual content will be?

  • Upwell FPS Game – Don’t Call it DUST

The title formerly known as Project Nova will loom back into our range of vision.  The last time we really heard about it was back at EVE Vegas 2018 and they were talking about it being an FPS title within EVE Online, possibly with fighting on structures, being able to disable services with your squad, and having influence on New Eden.  It wouldn’t be “in” EVE, but connected to EVE.  There was much enthusiasm by CCP on this and it sounded like a done deal, something coming soon.

And then shortly after EVE Vegas the whole Project Nova thing got postponed, renamed, and CCP vowed not to speak of it again until it was closer to being ready for prime time.  It has been almost 3.5 years since that happened.  Is it ready yet?

Expected EVE player reaction:  Poor.  There is probably a way they could make this magic work, but the ghost of DUST 514 sits there and reminds us where this madness may lead.  Also, this is a game for somebody else, not a content update for EVE Online.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Is it a good shooter?  No?   Fuck off.

  • Walking in Stations 2.0 – This Time for Sure!

This is my number one persistent bad idea for the game.  It has failed once already, yet I fear CCP has not learned.  Hilmar said something about this a while back on Twitter, but he has said a lot of regrettable things over the years.  Still, it could happen.  Maybe they have turned all of that Project Nova work into a space station barbies project.

There is a theoretical magical mix of features that could make this work.  Even a bitter old vet of the game like me thinks it could be made to work somehow.  The problem is that the history and reputation of CCP.  It is a small company that struggles to keep the ships in space part EVE Online going and viable, so can it handle a feature as huge as this would have to be in order to be viable?  I say no.  Somebody could make this feature work, just not CCP.

And unless this is suffused with magical unicorn farts from top to bottom, it will neither attract new players nor retain old one.

Expected EVE player reaction: Something between a minor riot and the full bore sacking of Reykjavík.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: I love housing in games. This is what the game really needs. But I won’t be playing it because $20 a month is too much and I hate PvP games.

  • Triglavians 2.0

This is the easy guess, one of the most likely big announcement options in my opinion.  Another empire… Jovians, Whovians, whatever… shows up.  New space dynamics, new ships, new weapon types, cool new logos to make, another story line they can drag out for 12 to 24 months, some special new materials for ship manufacturing, fresh PvE challenges, the options here are pretty generous.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Mixed.  The problem is that EVE Online is an amalgam of so many different play styles that it is hard to please everybody.  Pissing off almost everybody to some degree is easy, as we saw last week.  But pleasing them all?  Impossible.  Still, it will please some people, and could please a lot of people if the ships are interesting enough.

Expected non-EVE player reaction: Meh.

  • Play to Earn without NFTs

Yes, CCP said that “NFT” stands for “Not For Tranquility” for the foreseeable future, and I trust that when they said that they could see at least as far ahead as EVE Fanfest.

But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do a play to earn scheme without NFTs or crypto.  In fact, one of the primary objections to crypto being injected into schemes is that it adds nothing and is just rent seeking by outsiders pushing buzzwords.  It can all be done cheaper, faster, and better without crypto.

And we still have that statement from CCP from the post-Prospector Pack blowback that they want to source any future packs from industry players rather than just summoning hulls out of thin air.  So, as I noted at the time, that could be the basis for a new Play to Earn scheme.

Or maybe there will be something that will let players offset the subscription hike.

These seems less likely than it did before, but it could happen still, within certain parameters.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Dangerous, depending on the details.  If could range from “meh” to another few weeks of rage.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Can I earn money at anywhere close to minimum wage in my location?  No?  Buh-bye.

  • Major Change to Game Mechanics

Maybe there will be something game changing in the announcement, but I hesitate to speculate as to what they might do after a couple of years of wrecking the economy only to start undoing that.

It isn’t so much that I can’t pick something that isn’t broken enough to think it might be due for an overhaul as I have a problem figuring out what CCP isn’t so invested in that they’ll actually consider changing.

Completely new faction warfare?  Redoing skill training and attributes?  A fresh new way to create and administer corporations and alliances?  Security and standings revamp?  There are a lot of things in the game that could be improved by some focus.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Would really have to push the right button for a good response

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Yawn

  • A Batch of Minor Things Dressed Up as a Big Effing Deal

I started with two ideas for this post, the first one about vision, and this one, which I would categorize as “things they should have done already.”

Add your favorite small feature here like Alliance SKINs, Upwell structure SKINs, cat ears, attribute remaps for PLEX, name changes for PLEX, or whatever else you can come up with and bundle them together and pretend it is the biggest content update ever or something… though having written that, I do have to say if it is all monetzation features after the price hike, it will not go down well.

Expected EVE player reaction: Very poor.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Non-existent.

  • Something Actually as Good as Promised

It could happen.  Maybe it will.  Maybe CCP will hit it out of the park this time, painting both a vision and delivering on at least some of it right away.

Expected EVE player reaction:  Rejoicing and throwing money at CCP.

Expected non-EVE player reaction:  Maybe I should try this game after all.

Anyway, those are my guesses a week ahead of EVE Fanfest.  I give myself an extremely low likelihood of being right on any of them, but we’ll know the answer soon enough.

This is the part of the post where I might consider adding a poll just to see what people think but, as I mentioned some time back, WP.com completely broke polls in the classic editor and the block editor is cancer.

Still, if you have another idea about what they might announce, drop a comment.

Something About Twitter

Elon Musk is buying Twitter because… reasons.  He likes free speech, or he doesn’t like content moderation, or he likes to show off for his fans, or he wants to stroke his ego in front of us all, or he wants to prove that the ultra rich can do whatever they damn well please, pick your poison.

Tweet, tweet motherfuckers

And this has caused a bit of a panic in some.  If you simply don’t like Elon that is certainly a good enough reason to dump the platform.  And if you’re worried that he’s going to turn it into a toxic stew of harassment by entitled assholes… more so… then you might at least be eyeing the exits, looking for alternatives.

The whole state of affairs hasn’t exactly put a spring in my step.

But I am not running for the exits myself.  Not yet at least.

To start with I am not sure where I would even go, except for “away.”

What am I going to do, move to Facebook?  That would be a leap from the frying pan into a toxic waste fueled fire.  Instagram… Facebook lite… is garbage except for cat and old car pictures (Fiat 124 Coupes for the win), Tumblr is garbage in general whether it is mostly porn this week or not, Google+ is long gone (and was garbage), LinkedIn is business Facebook and, unless you’re looking for a job, is a lot of self-promoting garbage.

Frankly, part of what appeals to me about Twitter is that people are limited to 280 characters.  That keeps the amount of noise in one post down to a manageable level.

Of course, there are a bunch of “We’re going to make a better Twitter” alternatives out there, some of which planned to go full free speech relative to Twitter’s rather modest content moderation scheme… who really either planned to moderate even more harshly Twitter or found out the hard way that content moderation isn’t optional and free speech is a dubious proposition on social media for all sorts of legal, moral, and financial reasons.

Also we’re all a bunch of jerks really, and seem to remain so no matter where we go.

I do not subscribe to the “anonymity + audience = raging idiocy” school of thought, if only because I’ve been to Facebook and know full well that anonymity does even enter into it.  People will say the most ignorant, offensive things you can imagine and post it with not only their name but their real life picture on it.  And if there are even the most minor of consequences… which there so rarely are… they’ll be flabbergasted and complain about being censored and bring up the first amendment and what not.  Sometimes I think we deserve all of this.

Anyway, I digress.  I am not going to leave Twitter mostly because I am comfortable there and have, over the last dozen years, honed a list of people to follow who keep me informed on the things that interest me.

I am loathe to give up on that list.  I wouldn’t even know where to find most of those people elsewhere on the internet.  How would I ever get by not knowing how Alikchi’s epic year and a half long so far game of War in the Pacific turns out?  Priorities man.

I am also not in the panic some are in.

Elon Musk can be a chaotic, immature, mercurial, self-absorbed, egotistical twat, but he isn’t a complete idiot.  He was born rich, sure, but he has made himself obscenely rich since then, so he has something going for him.  He hasn’t, like certain ex-presidents of the United States, blown his father’s fortune on bad investments and only pretends to be a billionaire.

As such I don’t think he’ll burn Twitter to the ground by removing all moderation or whatever people think will happen.  Rich people don’t stay rich that way.  They stay rich by getting their good investments, like Tesla, to buy out their bad investments, like Solar City, to stick the bad decisions on the stock holders.

Also, he is financing $25 billion of the deal… again, rich people don’t need to spend their money because banks are sure they’re worth it… so there will be lenders who will be able to pressure him to not make a mess of the whole thing.  The worry should probably be that they’ll insist that he monetize the crap out of Twitter to pay them off sooner, because the deal will leave the company heavily leveraged and one of Twitter’s larger problems has been generating revenue relative to its perceived influence.

And the deal might not even come to pass.  Things could happen.  He might not get the financing lined up.  Tesla or Twitter… or both… might fall in value enough to make the deal non-viable.  Or some new shiny object might grab his attention.

Anyway, I am following my usual course of laziness and sticking around for now.  This post was mostly to remind myself in a year that this was a thing so I can see what happened.

Lord of the Rings Online Fifteen Years Down the Road

It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.

-Gimli, Return of the King

It has been fifteen years since the journey to Mordor began in Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online, and it has been a journey of both highs and lows.

The fifteen year celebration

I want to say, up front, that the game is a charming and very special look into the world of Tolkien’s works and unlike any adaptation we have ever been able to experience or will likely see again in my lifetime.  Turbine brought Middle-earth to life in an open world environment that you could spend a lot of time simply exploring.  It is a wonder and has given me much joy.

I will add that as somebody who opted for the lifetime subscription launch back in April of 2007, I have gotten way more than my money’s worth out of that investment, even including the fact that I own every expansion as well.  It was the gaming deal of the century for me and nothing else comes close in value received for that price.

And the game also occupies a special place on the blog, being one of the first games to ship after I started writing here back in September of 2006.  I was writing about it along with Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and pre-Cryptic version of Star Trek Online back in the day, and at least one of those panned out for me I guess.  I had a post about the potential, and potential problems, of the game back in that first month of the blog.

I was posting about beta and the launch and the instance group, which took a couple of runs at Middle-earth when WoW wasn’t popping for us.  I have been back a number of times, the last time being for the LOTRO Legendary server experience, a fresh start/special rules server meant to let people work through the content again in a mass.

All fine stuff… but I didn’t choose that quote at the top because everything has been rainbows and lollipops with LOTRO.  The history of the game has been marred by hubris, bad decisions, poor design, half measures, and a game engine that was awkward, unresponsive, and looked like it was a few years behind the curve on launch day.

I guess the hubris I can understand.  Given the popularity of the source material, the proximity to the theatrical releases of the first three Peter Jackson movies,which finished up just a few years before the game launched and introduced many new people to Middle-earth, and the MMORPG market being at about its peak, LOTRO should have been ten times more successful than it was.

Where else were you going to be able to literally walk around in Middle-earth?

Yahoo Headline 2007

I realize you can’t have everything you want when you launch a new product, and especially a product as complex as an MMORPG.  You got to Middle-earth with the engine you have, not the engine you want.  And you could see how Turbine’s engine had improved from Asheron’s Call to Asheron’s Call 2 to Dungeons & Dragons Online to LOTRO.  But being better than its predecessors didn’t make it feel current and, while the character models have been updated, they still look awkward and wooden and all the more so since launch as most of us have upgraded our monitors.

Google tells me that 1024×768 was half the monitor market in 2007.  Now, unless you but a laptop, a 1080p monitor… which is 1920×1080 resolution… is the minimum standard, and many of us have much larger screens.  I currently have a 3440×1440 monitor, on which the game is barely playable because, while bits of the UI do scale up, most of the text doesn’t.  And even the UI that does scale up looks like garbage at useful sizes on my monitor.

So when Enad Global 7 talks about how their going to put LOTRO on consoles and I am briefly able to set aside the sheer complexity of moving the mess that it the game engine onto a PlayStation 5 or an XBox X, I still stumble over the fact that you really have to support 4K video… 3840×2160 resolution… to be seen as a modern, competitive game.  It makes me think of the speedometer on my Camry, which suggests I could go 140 MPH.  The expense of making that a reality would quickly exceed reason just as the expense of refactoring LOTRO into something that would even look good on a console… let’s leave aside the playability issues… would probably require a greater investment than the company could hope to recoup.

And then there is the UI, the iconography, the responsiveness on controls, and a host of other little things that wear on you as you play if you’ve, for example, played WoW where Rob Pardo once spoke about how much effort went into making sure button presses had not lag.  A problem since launch and one that has sometimes gotten worse rather than better.

The world though, that remains a bright spot in the game.  I can forgive a myriad of sins because the world is a critical feature of the game to me and, while avatars look rough and the UI is less than ideal, locations are often beautiful.

If, of course, you can get to them.

When it comes down to it, I have not been many places in LOTRO.  I may own all of the expansions, but I have dead ended in Mirkwood largely due to it being a barrier of dullness comparable with its reputation in the books.  I have been through the base game half a dozen times at least… and many more times up to 40 or so… and through Moria a couple of times, but Mirkwood is just so uninteresting that even the promise of what lies beyond it cannot sustain me.

I did boost a character into Rohan, only to find that the character boost leaves you nonviable against the mobs you’re sent to face immediately unless you visit the cash shop and invest in your legendary weapon.

The legendary weapon system is another roadblock in the game, a non-optional requirement to care for a needy baby of an item that you constantly have to take back to camp and deal with.

My hope was that the studio would create a special rules server that would let you just do the main book story line quests to advance through the game, letting players tour the world.  That seems to be the only way I’ll get past Mirkwood.

But the game is still there, fifteen years down the road and is owned by a company that says they have plans to improve it.  One of the side effects of the console plan, if that is even viable, should be to make the game better on PC as well.  Or so one would hope.

It has been a bumpy ride this last 15 years, but as I said at the top, I have enjoyed most of the time I have spent in the game.  I’ve logged in to collect my anniversary goodies, though my bags and bank are so full of stuff from anniversaries and expansions at this point I am not sure I should keep redeeming stuff. (I still have unopened gift boxes from the 12th and 13th anniversaries… I must have skipped logging in for the 14th.)

I’d go play the 1-50 game again if were practical on my current monitor.  We will see what the future brings and live in hope of a better tomorrow for Middle-earth.

Addendum: In an effort to prove some points above SSG has given me a corgi, jumping on the MMORPG corgi bandwagon, which is also perhaps the most awkward looking corgi model I have seen in a game.

Chestnut Corgi chonk

He isn’t horrible, but he isn’t good either, and it feels like another attempt to copy more successful titles.

Going After The Elder in Valheim Again

On Sunday we decided it was high time that we advanced the game to the next stage… as I wrote on Monday, we already had a swamp base… which would require us to slay the second boss in the game, The Elder.

But we had been planning for that.  One of our first ventures from our new coastal base was to set sail in order to scout out the altar of The Elder and prepare for our eventual fight.

Setting sail for The Elder

You get the location from runes you can find in the Black Forest, and the closest spot for us was on another island.

The Elder in the unknown

The thing is that out in the unexplored you don’t really know how far inland your destination is or where you should come ashore in order to start making your way overland.  In the end we came ashore directly south of the location and moved across what turned out to be most of the length of the island to get to the spot.

Still, we got there without too much fuss, and we had been smart about the whole venture.  We had built a portal back at our portal hub and then had brought the materials to create a linking portal with us.

We picked a spot close by the altar of The Elder and built a small base, just a house with some beds, a workbench, a fire, and the portal really, surrounded by a wall just to keep the locals away.

A little base with a view of The Elder

We spent some time after that exploring the island, mining out some copper, and generally getting ourselves geared up to the eventual fight.  We were a little nervous because the last time we fought him it was a bit of a fiasco, with greydwarves, skeletons, and a couple of trolls getting into the pitched battle.  I think we all died at least twice.

So we did our prep work this time, got ourselves armed with plenty of fire arrows, and then deployed around his altar in order to get ready for the fight.  When we were in position, I made the sacrifice and summoned The Elder.

Summoning The Elder

You can see, in the last couple of screen shots, that there are some platforms up in the trees.  Lugnut thought that might be of some help, though he might have been recalling the next boss fight, the one in the swamp where being up high helped.  Anyway, he built some platforms and Ula, Lugnut, and Brynjar took positions up in them while I opted to stay on the ground both to summon The Elder and to kite him around if possible, giving everybody else a chance to shoot him.

The working theory was that maybe those tendrils he shoots out at you might not angle up, so being on the platforms might help.

And then the fight started and that theory fell through… as Ula did when knocked off of her platform.

Ula’s platform assailed by The Elder

You can see that the tendrils reach up to the trees just fine.  I didn’t get a screen shot of Ula being thrown bodily through the tree tops, but it happened.  She survived the fall and joined me down around the altar where the old strategy of hiding behind the four huge pillars seemed to be working out for me.

Brynjar and Lugnut on their platform attracted the attention of The Elder as the fight went on, allowing Ula and I to pepper the boss in the back with a fusillade of fire arrows.  Lugnut was the next one to be deplatformed, as they say in social media, while Brynjar hung back trying to avoid the wrath of the tendrils.

Not really hiding all that well, but it worked

Meanwhile we just kept lighting The Edler up, sending fire arrows his way… and then he was down and the battle was ours.

The Elder dead

That got us his trophy and four crypt keys.  What it did not cost us was any deaths.  Somehow we all managed to survive, even those who were flung from the tree tops.  I guess fall damage isn’t all that bad.

We took our victory shot and passed out the crypt keys and… having dispatch the boss much more quickly than we thought it might take… we decided we should go find a crypt in the swamp and start mining some scrap iron.

Victory over The Elder

So it was back up to the base where we had fought an Abomination the day before and into the swamp to one of the nearby crypts.  The key opened up the front door and we were quickly inside looking to loot the place.

We’re all miners in this crowd

There were, of course, issues.  We had to remember how to fight the Dragur and blobs and spawners that are down in the crypts.  It didn’t always go quite to plan.

There I am, dead in the crypt

We made a note to bring along some of those poison resistance meads that we had been crafting back at base next time. (Which, next time, actually worked very well.)

We managed to loot out two crypts, which got us a Karve load of scrap iron to bring back to our main base.

And then, some time later, Brynjar remembered we needed to hang up The Elder’s head on the trophy stones back at the spawn point.  We don’t live very close to it anymore, so it slipped our minds.  Brynjar made us a portal so we can get there more easily.

Eickthyr and The Edler trophies hung

Now that we have done that it is time to work on swamps and crypts to get more iron for all the upgrades we’ll need.  And for the stone cutter as well.  One big win about getting to iron is that we can now build stone bases.

The Xenuria Monograph

How do I describe Xenuria?  There is a lot there to unpack.  Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

Let’s say Xenuria is space famous in EVE Online for being himself, or some version of himself, rather than for a specific action or event or for leading a famous (or infamous) group.  If you use the search box at the top of the blog and search on his name, you will find that I have mentioned him quite a bit over the life of the blog.  He was once an object of scorn in Goonswarm, somebody specifically banned from joining KarmaFleet when it was formed, then later, after meeting The Mittani, he became a long time member of Goonswarm and a veteran of both the Casino War and World War Bee.

Some old GSF vets have never gotten used him being in Goons, or at least pretend so, but he is often viewed as a very special weapon to be deployed to local chat in order to annoy and dismay our foes.  Even those who dislike him sometimes admit they’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.

He was also a perennial CSM candidate and actually made it on to CSM11.

The 11th Council of Stellar Management

 

And the NDA that covered his time on the CSM just expired, having run out its five years since being signed, and he has gone to /r/eve on Reddit to share his experiences and answer questions about his time on the council.

This is not the first former CSM member to go to Reddit on the expiration of their NDA.  Jester, or Ripard Teg, who served on CSM8, did his own AMA on r/eve back in 2019.

Xenuria’s thread has some confirmations of things we already knew, heard about, or at least strongly suspected.  I especially enjoyed Xenuria’s comment about Hilmar and his obsession with The Three Body problem:

hilmar was obsessed with The 3 body problem by Liu Cixin and had this elaborate plan to introduce 2 major systems to eve online and build a years long narrative around them. System 1 was called “dark forrest” and it was experimental tech pitched to the CSM. It was a no local, delayed D-scan type of pocket world where the deeper you went the better rocks u could mine, but spooky Trisolari… sorry “Triglavians” would add to the risk of it. The second system was a blackout for nullsec that would act as a 1 2 punch in the events leading up to chapter 3. He basically wanted to copy past the story of the book series into eve. Dark forest would eventually become pochven and as you all know it would become a buggy unfinished mess.

This was brought up by Hilmar in public and seemed to be the inspiration for the Chaos Era in New Eden, which saw the null sec Blackout, which at the time created what seemed like a huge dip in players logging in.


PCU for 2016 through 2019 – The Blackout is in red

 

Of course, that was before CCP started strangling the economy.  It seemed bad back then, but everything is relative.

That it was even deeper than I suspected… I never made the connection between Triglavians and Trisolarians… was interesting.

So there is a lot there to dig through in the thread, including some third party comments.

Some other former CSM members have chimed in, with Jester doing a detailed comment about what aligns with his experiences on the CSM.

And then there is the CCP response from CCP Swift, which I think was a huge mistake.  Better to let the whole thing just fade away after some initial interest than stir the pot.

The response wasn’t just a bad idea, but the fact that it goes after a few very specific things… thus confirming in everybody’s minds that whatever was not denied must have been correct… in somewhat vague and weaselly ways tends to undermine it.  The assertion that if it wasn’t in the CSM meeting minutes then something didn’t happen is absurd beyond belief.  The CSM minutes are what CCP wants them to be as we have seen in the past.

Anyway, it is a bunch of drama with some interesting points mixed into the maelstrom.  Worth going through if you’re into the history of the CSM, official and otherwise.

Related:

Blizzard Declines Hard in Q1 2022 While Diablo Immortal Finally Gets a Launch Date

Activision Blizzard pushed out their Q1 2022 financials at 7:30am Eastern Time yesterday which, while it isn’t the Friday at 4pm routine, still strikes me as an hour suited to attracting less attention or getting bad news out of the way quickly.  And Elon Musk promptly buried that news by buying Twitter.  So there you go.

The date was a bit earlier than I expected as well, the pattern generally being that one gets the announcement in the first week of the second month of the quarter.  But I guess if you aren’t going to do anything fancy you can get things out more quickly.

And Activision Blizzard isn’t doing anything fancy because of the Microsoft acquisition.  They don’t have to impress analysts with a cool slide deck or an engaging conference call or throw out a buzzword salad because Microsoft has said they are going to pay $95 a share when the deal closes, which puts a pretty hard ceiling on the share price.

Of course, Activision Blizzard also has to not screw things up between now and when the deal closes because I am sure the contract for the acquisition is miles long and contains many provisions where by Microsoft can pay less or walk away if Bobby Kotick and company degrade the value of the company in any substantial way… or more so than they have already in any case.

This is the part where I tell you that they aren’t doing very well on that front at the moment.

The overall company reported revenue of $1.77 billion, down from $2.28 billion a year ago in Q1 2021 as both the Activision and Blizzard portions of the company slipped hard so far in 2022.

King, however, was up.  Candy Crush Saga abides while Call of Duty and World of Warcraft fall.

I am only really interested in the Blizzard corner of the business, so how badly did they tank in Irvine?

Blizzard revenue in Q1 2022 was $274 million.

For comparison, Blizz brought in $419 million in Q4 2021, which itself was down noticeably from the $493 million posted in Q3.  That was also off from the $433 posted in Q2 and the $483 million posted in Q1.

The holiday season was off for Blizz because they had nothing new to sell, but the new year was brutal, as even the low point of 2021 looks pretty sweet when compared to how 2022 is breaking for the division.

To go along with that, the Blizzard Monthly Active User count went down another 2 million users in Q1 2022.  Over at Massively OP they have been tracking the user count decline, which went from 38 million users in Q1 2018 to just 22 million users in Q1 2022.  Even during the peak COVID lockdown Blizzard’s user numbers were flat.  Now we’re closing in on losing half of their user count in four years.

So not happy times down in Irvine.

What did they have to say about it?  It was the usual hand waving about the product cycle of World of Warcraft and promises of better things to come.

Blizzard’s first quarter financial results were lower year-over-year, primarily reflecting product cycle timing for the Warcraft® franchise. Blizzard’s teams reached important milestones across its key franchises in recent months, and the second quarter represents the start of a period of planned substantial releases across Blizzard’s portfolio.

Blizzard continues to work on numerous new experiences to delight and expand the Warcraft community. The newest Hearthstone® expansion, Voyage to the Sunken City™, launched on April 12. Blizzard’s teams are working on major new content for World of Warcraft® including World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the innovative upcoming expansion for the modern game, and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King® Classic. Blizzard is also planning to unveil more details about its first Warcraft mobile experience in the coming weeks.

Diablo® Immortal™ will launch on June 2, 2022 in most regions around the world, with the remaining regions in Asia-Pacific gaining access a few weeks later. Over 30 million people have already pre-registered for the game. In addition to offering a deep, authentic, and free-to-play Diablo experience on the mobile platform, Diablo Immortal will also be available free-to-play on Windows® PC, initially as an open beta starting on June 2, 2022, and will support cross-play and cross-progression.

Development on Diablo 4 and Overwatch® 2 is also progressing well. Company-wide internal testing of Diablo 4 is underway, and external testing of the player-versus-player mode of Overwatch 2 begins tomorrow, April 26, 2022.

This is a reminder, once again, as to how important World of Warcraft is to the company and its bottom line.  Nothing delivers as much revenue as reliably as WoW, so the company is chained to it.  They can never walk away from WoW as it keeps the lights on and the paychecks flowing while the company farts around trying to create a new cash spigot from one of its other franchises.

So the forward looking good news was about WoW Dragonflight and Wrath of the Lich King Classic and the recent Hearthstone expansion and some empty milestones related to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises that won’t be anywhere close to launch in 2022.  I think they would have pre-orders open if they had any confidence in a 2022 release.  Remember how far in advance Shadowlands pre-orders started?

The one release with a hard date, the one new thing that Blizzard has lined up to sell in 2022, is Diablo Immortal.

I have been more than a bit dismissive of Diablo Immortal since it was announced at BlizzCon 2018, referring to it as Candy Crush Diablo at the time.  But it was primarily the tone deaf aspect of the announcement… gather all your PC and console fans in a big room and tell them you’re launching a mobile game… that struck me.  How do you get that so wrong?  The phrase “Don’t you guys have phones?” will live on for a decade or more due to that event.

And, the other thing I have harped on about Diablo Immortal was its long development time.  They had a playable demo version at BlizzCon 2018.  Here we are in 2022 and we’re just now getting a release date.  Diablo Immortal will finally launch on June 2, 2022.  How does this take so long?

As it turns out, Blizzard seemed to get it that their core player base was not on mobile, so they ported Diablo Immortal so we could play it on PC as well.

That is actually a pretty impressive demonstration of the company actually trying to listen and respond to user feedback.

I am not sure I would have delayed the mobile release for too long, and technically PC users are only getting access to the open beta of Diablo Immortal on PC on June 2nd, but getting it at all on PC was completely unexpected for me.  (System requirements for phone and PC are up now.)

Pretty exciting stuff in that.  But is it enough?

I am going to guess that the Diablo Immortal release date, with PC only in open beta, is primarily in place to shore up expected ongoing declining numbers for Blizzard.  They need people to get in and spend on that cash shop.

After that, though, 2022 is looking light.  Wrath of the Lich King Classic could easily be a Q3 2022 launch, which would carry the company another quarter, but I am not really feeling like WoW Dragonflight is going to make Q4 2022, which would make for another light holiday season.  And, as I noted above, WoW is what makes or breaks Blizzard.  They need players subscribed.

There we go.

I will say that at least Activision Blizzard knows how to mitigate bad news.  They hit us with the bad news in the earnings announcement, then turned around and gave us the Diablo Immortal announcement with the good news about it being available on PC.  Going through the gaming news headlines, there are bland entries about financials and excited ones about the ship date, PC compatibility, cross platform play, and all of that.  Diablo Immortal on PC will dominate the news cycle compared to the financials.

They did not, pulling a random example out of the air, give us a bunch of bad news on a Friday afternoon and then opt to let it fester for two weeks with a vague promise of good news to come.

You may not like Activision Blizzard, but they know what they are doing in many regards… though that is sometimes the problem as well.

Related:

An Abomination in the Swamps of Valheim

With out base on the ocean setup in Valheim, those of us with a bent for exploration have set out to discover what our world holds for us.

While we haven’t slain the second boss, The Elder, as of my writing this, we are about ready.  We have delved deep into the Black Forest and have geared ourselves up such that greydwarves are no worry, even in packs, and troll hunting is more sport than terror.

With an eye towards what comes after The Elder, we have been setting out to find some decent Swamp areas to work on once we have the crypt keys from The Elder fight.  The resources required for the next round of upgrades we will need access to a lot of crypts.  That means setting up bases near swamps where we can either collect and haul scrap iron back to our main base or, if the yield is big enough, collect and craft.

Brynjar had found a likely spot, a sizable stretch of swamp with some Meadows and Black Forest close to hand along the shore as a potential beach head for a base.  Brynjar and I set out in the Karve with some building supplies, including the pieces for a portal with a connecting portal already setup at our “portal henge,” in order to build a base.

Rough seas are fine if the wind is right

We landed in some Meadows on the coast and found a likely patch and set about building.

Well, Brynjar set about building, I went to gather resources and to deal with the local mobs who were drawn by the noise and activity.  This included a fair number of Dragur, one of the main swamp creatures, undead Vikings who live in the swamp, and who wandered our way in ones and twos throughout the building process.

Fortunately we were geared up such that a single Dragur isn’t much of a threat, and a couple need just a bit of consideration.  A two star Dragur Elite is still a worry, but we have health meads available now.  Lugnut joined us and helped with the operation.

Brynjar’s building talents are something

Lugnut and I kept gathering and taking care of the locals.  I was pretty thorough in clearing out a wide strip between us and the swamp, wanting both a clear field of fire and less cover for encroaching mobs.

We did well, didn’t die, and collected quite a few Dragur entrails, which are required for the sausage recipe, one of the next big food items.  Lugnut called in a night and, while Brynjar was finishing up the base I went exploring in the swap to see if I could mark a couple of crypts for future reference.

I got into a bit of trouble and came trotting back to base, when behind me, as I ran, a new and disturbing noise started coming out of the swamp.  From the defense platform on the base Brynjar and I could see something thrashing about in the swamp, doing something, but it was hard to tell what was going on.

Eventually I went out and, wearing the full troll leather outfit which includes a stealth bonus, I went into sneak mode to get closer to see what was going on.  I managed to get into range to get a name plate.

An Abomination!

This was something new.  The swamp previously held quite a few perils, though most because more annoyance than danger as we geared up last time around.  Now we had something that looked like it occupied the troll position in the swamp ecosystem.

It wasn’t bothering us, but it was also close enough to the new base that we could see it moving about and, given that an unchecked Dragur had recently knocked down a section of our wall, it seemed like we had better do something about it.  He was going to have to go.

I tracked him around the swamp a bit while we considered this.  I went and looked up abomination on the wiki, which told be that fire damage was the best bet while it would resist piercing and blunt attacks.  Since I had a mace, a dagger, and a bow, it looked like fire was going to be the answer.

Fortunately, in anticipation of taking on The Elder, I had been stockpiling fire arrows back at our main base.  I popped back and collected a stack for each of us and then we went out to take him on.

The abomination has a lot of hit points, I will say that.  We had to expend quite a few arrows in order to whittle him down.

Plinking away at him

On the other hand, he didn’t seem especially fast, not like a troll, where you need to be sprinting to keep ahead.  We were able to keep our distance from him.  The main complication came from other mobs joining the fight, with Dragur, blobs, and skeletons weighing in now and again, diverting our attention.

Brynjar has attracted some blobs

He also seemed to be somewhat short sighted.  We were able to run out of his range it seemed and he would start to wander off like he had forgotten about us.

It still took quite a while for the two of us to knock him down, though the fire arrows seemed to be doing a decent job and, as you can see, he would burst into flames with a good hit and would take damage over time from the fire.

Burning Abomination

Once we finally got him down… he started walking back into the swamp at low health and we had to chase him down to finish him off… he dropped some guck, which I know we’ll need for crafting, and some roots, which are apparently used for a root armor set, which is new since we last played.

Something new to look out for in the swamps.

Discord as a News Source

One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow.  I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.

You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.

That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing.  There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.

Social media has made things a bit better.  At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers.  Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.

The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines.  Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.

And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.

And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.

That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.

Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged.  That is literally the base function of their positions.  If you can only do one thing, do that.  But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.

Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be.  And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.”  (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)

Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.

Unity through Discord

I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.

And it has worked pretty well.

It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it.  But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.

For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games.  I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.

Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever.  They seem committed to the platform for now.

Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion.  The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.

Amazon Games is a little iffy.  They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game.  They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for.  Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?

And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.

So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me.  The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.

I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them.  LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago.  Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)

Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.

CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.

And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us.  I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove.  I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.

Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news.  It is out there, though your mileage may vary.

Friday Bullet Points on a Chilly Spring Saturday

[This was supposed to be yesterday’s post, but then I woke up to a big news event, so it is a day late.]

It is cold out, considering it is spring here in California.  It has even rained here in the last 24 hours.  I am wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, which isn’t exactly the gear of arctic explorers, but by this late in April I have generally been well into the “I will wear shorts every day until I have finished off the Halloween candy” state of affairs that working from home forever has brought me to.

Not that the weather has anything to do with the rest of this post, but I needed a headline and the weather will serve when nothing else comes to mind.  So on with another bullet points post or items I thought worth noting but which weren’t worth a whole post on their own.

Enad Global 7

  • EG7 Dropping Russia

On the trend with western companies bailing from Russia after its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Enad Global 7 has announced that they will selling off their Innova subsidiary to the management of the team for a total of 32 million Euros, quite a haircut for the company considering they shelled out 109 million Euros for the company when they closed the deal for it a little over a year ago.  Innova was primarily acquired because they held the license to run a number of MMOs in the EU and Russia.  The current state of the Ukraine conflict puts Innova in a tough spot.

Meanwhile EG7 also announced that they would Toadman Interactive, another acquired studio, would be relocated from its current location in Russia to somewhere in the EU.

Database evolution

  • EVE Online Database History

CCP has posted another of the dev blogs that makes them a standout on the communications front in the industry.  Every time I think that they could do better, I have to remind myself how poorly the industry handles this sort of thing.

New database server upgrades have arrived and that has prompted the team to write a history of the databases of EVE Online, spanning from the early days when they had to solve lag problems with people just warping across systems, to being able to cope with 100 vs 100 fights, to the monster servers that they have today which make the original 2003 game look as powerful as a digital watch by comparison. (Though I still think digital watches wee a pretty neat idea.)

Anyway, if this is your sort of thing… and I am all over these sorts of posts… you can find the whole thing on CCPs news site here.

A new drama generator

  • RimWorld is Legal in Australia Again

It was noted previously that, after the Ideology expansion for RimWorld landed, it seemed like maybe the thought of feminist nudist cannibals was too much for the faint hearts in Canberra.

And that could have been it, though the whole thing came up due to the fact that there was a console version of the game on the horizon, which was what got the Classification Review Board taking a look at RimWorld again.  And they didn’t like what they saw, so flagged it as “Refused Classification” which made it unsalable down under.

That was undone earlier this week… on 4/20 if you think there is any significance in that… allowing the people of Australian to once again purchase RimWorld or redeem Steam keys for the game.

And, speaking of console support, RimWorld also announced that the game now has full support for Steam Deck, so perhaps that was what triggered the whole thing.

The return of the classic

  • Diablo II Resurrected Gets Ladders and more

Diablo II Resurrected has gotten its 2.4 patch, which is the biggest update the game has received in a long long time.

The lead story for the update is the unlock of the ladder seasons for those who want a competitive Diablo II experience, but there is so much more in the update such as class updates, mercenary fixes, new rune words, new Horadric Cube recipes, quality of life updates, and even some new levels of legacy graphics emulation for those who play with the old school look.

The great thing is that Blizzard has gone all in on this 22 year old game to make it better and fix things that has been problems for decades.  The sad thing is that this might be the peak of Diablo news this year unless Diablo Immortal is a lot better than I suspect it will be.

Playable Worlds

  • Playable Worlds gets $25 Million in Funding

Finally, news got out this week that Playable Worlds, Raph Koster’s sandbox cloud MMO venture, managed to pick up $25 million in financing for the project from a group that includes Korean video game publisher Kakao Games Corp.

That got Raph Koster to speak a bit more about the vision for the title:

“It’s about having environments that are more alive,” Koster said. “Players can affect things that evolve and change rather than being static. Most games build their maps out of static meshes. Ours are dynamic and come down on the fly from the server. It’s about enabling worlds to feel more alive. That’s really what it comes down to.”

“Offering truly and fully persistent shared environments and massive scale is something else that is really important to us,” Koster said. “These aren’t just theme parks that you ride through, right? Where the developers are the ones who are in control. Giving full persistence also unlocks the ability for players to have far more impact. If you chop down a tree, it is permanently gone from the world for everybody.”

Specifics about the project were not forthcoming.

And we have heard a vision like this before, with the EverQuest Next project, which was eventually shelved by Daybreak, in part because of the processing requirements such a dynamic and player changeable world entailed.