Category Archives: Blizzard

Friday Bullet Points with World of Warcraft and the Lunar New Year

The lunar new year is upon us, or will be officially this Sunday.  And with that in mind there are a few things that have come up with WoW related, and not, to the celebrations.

  • Year of the Six Month Rabbit

It is the year of the rabbit… unless you’re Vietnamese, in which case we’re talking year of the cat… and Blizzard has a special mount to celebrate the year.  For just $25 you can get the Bright Foreseer mount… or, if you subscribe in six month billing cycles you get it as part of that package.

Year of the Rabbit in Azeroth

In addition, if you are playing Wrath of the Lich King Classic, you get the Hoplet bunny pet for being on the six month plan as well.

  • Lunar Festival 2023

Today is also the start of the Lunar Festival in Azeroth, a chance to seek out the elders scattered throughout Azeroth, earn some achievements, and even get an easy ride to that Moonglade flight point if you do not already have it.  It is in both retail and classic, so choose you’re lunar new year destination.

  • Wrath Classic Phase 2 is Live

Blizzard has launched Phase 2 of Wrath Classic, which for raiders means that Ulduar is live, and it even has a trailer.

For non-raiders like me, it means that the Argent Tournament is now live.  I’ve flown past the empty space where it lives a few times already, but now construction is under way and the tournament is open.

Approaching the Argent Tournament

This is where I spent a lot of time back during original Wrath, where I went exalted with all of the alliance factions, and where I picked up my favorite flying mount, the Argent Hippogryph.  It is my flying mount of choice in retail WoW to this day.

The Sun Was Cooperating For Once…

We shall see if we have the wherewithal to do any of that again.

The downside of Phase 2 is that is broke pretty much all of my addons.  Now I am waiting around to see which ones will get updated and which authors have wandered off to other games.  Always the hazard of addons and mods.

  • WoW Closed in China

Meanwhile, things are not so hot for WoW players in China at the dawn of the lunar new year.  We heard back in November that a deal between Blizzard and NetEase might not be forthcoming, a situation that has come to pass.  As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, NetEase has been very aggressive and confrontational when it comes to the Blizzard deal, blaming Blizzard for any fallout, heaping scorn on their attempts to get an extension, and distancing itself from any attempt for current WoW players ability to save their current player data declaring that Blizzard’s download toolset, used to archive player characters, may contain security risks and could lead to loss of virtual items.

None of this is good for WoW players in China, who are suffering due to friction.  I remain a bit surprised at NetEase’s behavior.  They clearly are not interested in any goodwill from their former customers.  But this performance may be as much a warning to its other Western partners that if they don’t get what they want they are prepared to go for a scorched earth policy as it is a strike against Activision Blizzard.

Questions as we Plunge into 2023

Welcome to the new year.  As 2023 dawns it is likely cold and wet out if it is Winter where you live and you either have the remains of a New Year’s Eve party to contend with or you’re old like me and went to bed before midnight, so probably still have holiday decorations to deal with.  I’ll be out taking the lights off of the house tomorrow.

My 2023 banner courtesy of our daughter

As long suffering readers will know, on the first of the year I do some sort of forward looking post about the coming 12 months.  Predictions.  Questions.  Demands.  Something like that.  There is a whole history you’re welcome to peruse if you have that much free time.

This year I am going to go with questions.  But, I am going to mix it up and put in my answer as to how I think the questions will turn out.  That means I need to commit and I can score myself when December rolls around again.  As such, my answers will be worth 10 points each, with partial credit possible.

So with that in mind, on to the questions.

1 – Will Microsoft be able to close its deal to acquire Activision Blizzard?

The FTC is suing, which Microsoft says is unconstitutional, though I am pretty sure a courtroom is where one ought to work that out.  Anyway, will the deal go through.  Yes, I believe it will.

2 – Will Diablo IV hit its mark?

June 6th is the day.  I am going to say it will be delayed.

3 – Will Dragonflight hold on to player or will is fall off like Shadowlands?

The initial outpouring of enthusiasm was quite plain when Dragonflight launched.  Some people seem especially effusive about there being no “borrowed power” while flying around on their dragons that aren’t usable in any other expansion.  But there are always people willing to go all in on supporting any new expansion. (Just as there are people who will find a way to crap all over one.

But there are some warning signs.  The fact that you can hit level cap pretty quickly and are then locked into the end-game treadmill seems like a huge red flag to me.  Add in that Blizz is trying to sweeten the deal by throwing in game time if you buy a copy for a friend, letting people who are subscribed but didn’t buy the expansion some limited access, and that there regular as clockwork for past expansions press release announcing how Dragonflight has outperformed all past expansions by some metric, and you might be going, “hrmmmm?”

So my first of the year answer is fall off.  I feel as though Blizzard has learned nothing, that the “answers” this expansion is trying to provide is to give people pretty dragons and flying from day one while holding onto the conviction that what everybody really wants is to sit at level cap for the next 23 months grinding rep and raiding to get that one drop they really want.

And there is an audience for that.  There always has been.  But WoW Classic seems to prove that there was also an audience for other things, a message that WoW retail team seems to be responding to by putting its fingers in its ears and saying loudly, “LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

4 – Will Cataclysm Classic be a thing?

I have opinions about the idea of Cataclysm Classic, how Blizz should frame it, and who might be interested.  But I think Blizz has bought in on the nostalgia train and it has paid dividends, so I think that team is locked in on continuing to work the theme.  Cataclysm Classic will be announce in 2023.

5 – Will we get anything concrete about Blizzard’s survival game?

Are you kidding?  Nothing but vague references in 2023.

6 – Will Daybreak announce something… anything… new?

Expansions don’t count.  I mean a new title.  They screwed the pooch last year on the best opportunity, a Marvel version of DC Universe Online.  So no, they won’t.

7 – Will Daybreak give up on its LOTRO on consoles fantasy?

I think they will.  But I also think they won’t come out and say it, that they’ll do their usual routine and just pretend it was never announced and was never a thing and Columbus Nova was never part of the deal with SOE.

8 – What About Ji Ham’s Acting Career?

Ji Ham will continue to be acting CEO even though EG7 won’t put in any effort into finding somebody to fill the spot.

9 – Will CCP be able to hold onto its current EVE Online player momentum?

It was a tough summer and fall for CCP, but once they got the Uprising expansion out, player counts jumped up.  But even though they have addressed some long neglected areas of the game, I feel the usual player attitude of, “what have you done for us lately?” will kick in.  Also, the 33% subscription price increase will continue to bite.  We’re in for some decline and another weak summer if they don’t have anything in the tank between now and Fanfest in the fall.

10 – How will CCP celebrate 20 years of EVE Online?

The ten year anniversary saw a special physical deluxe edition shipped, with a Rifter model (which I still have) and the mystery code (the neglect of which still annoys some people.

For twenty years I doubt we’ll get another physical box.  I suspect, instead, there will be a set of special virtual packs with special anniversary SKINs and, if you want to collect the full set it will cost you more than the $99 the ten year box did.  CCP will be whaling for the anniversary.

11 – Will CCP reveal either of their other projects?

There is the perennial FPS that they have been working on in London since they had to close DUST 514 and then the mobile strategy game a crew in Shanghai is making.  But for 2023 CCP will remain EVE Online only.

12 – More Biomes for Valheim?

There is still the Deep North and the Ashlands to finish up before we can finish Odin’s work.  But I bet we don’t get either in 2023.

13 – Are we done with crypto garbage in online games?

In the sense that no studio that isn’t looking to be highlighted as a fly-by-night scam will engage with crypto, blockchain, or whatever, yes, we are done.   That doesn’t mean that VentureBeat won’t still be out there shilling for the latest crypto scam or that Lord British will gain an ounce of self-respect or common sense.

14 – What will be the next Pokemon Games?

Remakes of Pokemon Black & White.

15 – Will Meta Horizon Worlds be a thing at the end of 2023?

Yes, but you, I, and the dev team working on it will still not find it worth playing.

16 – Will we see anything like a real metaverse title in 2023?

Lots of visionary talk, but nothing will be online to play.  I mean, it depends on how you define “metaverse” these days.  You might already consider we have it.  But all the current claimants pretending to be building such a thing… and milking investors with the vision… will carry on with empty promises.  Alas, even Playable Worlds, which is the most earnest and likely to deliver something in the long term, will just be some more “Riffs by Raph” this year and little else.

17 – Will any of the usual crowd funded MMO suspects go live with anything?

Camelot Unchained, Pantheon, Squadron 42… I’m probably missing a few…  they’ll all be no-shows again in 2023.

18 – Will Elon Musk still own Twitter at the end of 2023?

Yes.  For all of his mismanagement, the attention he gets feeds his ego in ways no electric car or rocket ship ever can.

Scoring

And that is where I am going to leave it.  That is 180 possible points if I answered my own questions correctly.  I’ll be back in December to run down what really happened.

Looking Back at 2022 – Highs and Lows

Looking back at 2022 makes me feel tired.  Tired for a lot of reasons, including getting laid off and having to start a new job, the failing health of my parent’s generation and having to manage that, another election season, the Russians, the general state of the world, and Elon Musk… I am very tired of Elon Musk.

I am also tired of hearing the word “charcuterie,” which I think I have heard more in 2022 that in all my past years combined.  I believe my wife unironically said “charcuterie” 14 times last week alone.

2022 is what we get

But here we are at the end of the year and another staple annual post here, something else that makes me feel a bit tired.  Some years I start writing this post in May or June, so it is easy to wrap up.  And then there are years like 2022 where I am throwing something together at the last minute.

For looks back at past years, there is a list.

Anyway, let’s step right into this steaming pile so I can get it over with.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Shipped the Dragonflight expansion in 2022!
  • Characters don’t use “borrowed power” directly in Dragonflight!
  • An actual plan announced for how Dragonflight is going to play out!
  • Shipped Overwatch 2!
  • Shipped Diablo Immortal!
  • Launched Wrath of the Lich King Classic!
  • Gave us a ship date for Diablo IV!
  • Actually announced a NEW GAME, something in the co-op survival genre!!!
  • Microsoft acquisition promises a cleaning of house when it comes to their loathsome corporate overlords

Lows

  • Dragonflight didn’t get that “what a great launch” compared to past expansions press release, a staple of expansions since WotLK, which is probably a bad sign
  • Dragonflight repeats the Shadowlands theme of a quick run to level cap and then the next two years in end game grind
  • Dragon riding on special dragon mounts… is still borrowed power
  • That two year Dragonflight roadmap is pretty light on dates and details
  • This new survival title is way out in the future
  • Overwatch 2?  That didn’t seem to make much of a splash
  • Heroes of the Storm??
  • StarCraft universe???
  • Diablo Immortal just lacked a cryto connection to fufill all of our worst monetization expectations
  • Diablo IV seems unlikely to hit its mark when it comes to a ship date and that was probably thrown out there for the benefit of Microsoft
  • No matter what happens with the Microsoft acquisition, the people who made Activision Blizzard a horrible place, who led by example in making it a hostile work environment, will be rewarded handsomely for all of their bad deeds
  • Oh, did I forget about Blizz and NetEase falling out, leaving Chinese gamers in the lurch?

Enad Global 7

Highs

  • EverQuest and EverQuest II get expansions, updates, and 64-bit upgrades
  • Mini-expansion and new starter areas for LOTRO
  • PlanetSide 2 hits 10 and tops its past world record
  • A lot of press coverage about their unannounced Marvel super hero title
  • They shipped some other titles… I’m sure…

Lows

  • EverQuest and EverQuest II got absolutely no other attention from the company
  • The idea of LOTRO on consoles seems less likely now than it did two years ago
  • Marvel super hero title cancelled… again… after getting all that attention
  • Daybreak titles make up most of the software revenue and almost all of the recurring subscription revenue
  • The company is now pretty much run by the Daybreak team, which has a track record of shipping nothing new and simply milking old titles
  • It probably says something that I have this little to say about the company

CCP

Highs

  • FanFest was back!
  • Big expansions were back!
  • The Uprising expansion saw players coming back and the daily population count rise!
  • The MER is now better than ever!
  • Faction Warfare finally got some love
  • The Photon UI is starting to come together
  • Finally listened to players on about the economy
  • Finally listened to players about resource harvesting, and specifically about locking resources into low sec
  • Finally gave us corp/alliance logos on ships
  • Came out against putting crypto in EVE Online
  • After many complaints CCP pulled the Prospector Pack, which sold a fitted ship, from the web store and promised not to sell ships in exactly that way again
  • We actually had a few big brawls in null sec, including that recent one at H-PA29

Lows

  • Whatever EVE Vegas was, or whatever was going to replace it in the US, that seems to be dead
  • Kind of a long wait between announcing Uprising and actually getting to it
  • Spent a whole YEAR not listening to players about the economy or resources while every obvious prediction came to pass
  • EverMarks for logos are annoying, gated busy work to get logos that we would happily spend money or PLEX on
  • Faction Warfare remains an all-in commitment for your character, so if your corp or alliance isn’t all-in you need an alt
  • The Photon UI is still slower and less responsive that the old UI, especially under TiDi
  • We’re quite a ways from the next big war in null sec
  • 33% price increase for subscriptions… in US dollars and Euros, which means it was a lot more for some people in other countries
  • Did you see the player count between the subscription price increase and the Uprising expansion?
  • The player count is on its way back down now that the expansion has been around for a bit
  • CCP prefers Monthly Active Users over any direct player count, and they have been obviously goosing that number with generous login rewards and give aways, but MAU does not reflect people in space
  • The infrastructure of sites that support EVE Online saw a notable decline in 2022 with sites going dormant or altogether dark
  • CCP only backed away from crypto “for now” after putting them in the Alliance Tournament and highlighting their CEO meeting with crypto evangelists
  • CCP thought the Prospector Pack was a good idea and, while they claimed to be listening to feedback, did not remove it from the store until their pre-planned promotion was over
  • Also, while CCP removed the Prospector Pack from the web store, they continued to sell it directly in-game as a pop-up offer to new players who ran the career agent missions for mining, thus making their statements about not wanting sell fitted ships generated out of thin air yet another bald faced lie
  • CCP is clearly going to sell fit ships again
  • EVE Valkyrie and CCP’s other VR games have now been shut down.
  • CCP is still devoting resources to making a first person shooter despite that market being both crowded and dominated by a few titles as well as CCP having shown no special insight nor innovation on that front

Other Gaming Industry Notes

Highs

  • Valheim gave us the Mistlands at last
  • Pokemon Scarlet and Violet!
  • Another big Minecraft update
  • RimWorld got the Biotech expansion
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalks Saga finally made it out the door
  • Guild Wars 2 got End of Dragons
  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet
  • New World seemed to be trying to get its act together
  • Lost Ark has hung on to its opening success and remained pretty stable
  • Solesta was a pretty solid, if a bit low budget, table top RPG simulation

Lows

  • That Game Awards were boring; stop trying to make them the Oscars and just do your own thing
  • Amazon took its sweet time trying to fix New World, and it is still something of a mess
  • Meta can’t make the metaverse happen even with an annual burn rate in the billions
  • VR actively set back by Meta after they kicked legendary John Carmack to the curb along with his idea of lighter, more affordable headsets, instead opting to follow the Juicero guy and his plan for a more expensive, more awkward path forward for VR hardware
  • Much of the year was spent again with crytpo bros trying to conflate their horrible idea with things like the metaverse and online gaming
  • Just when it seems to be clear to most that cryto in video games is a bad idea, THAT is when Richard Garriott decides to prove once again he is the 21st century harbinger of death for video game trends by announcing his own shamelessly transparent cryto NFT video game scam
  • Crowd funded MMOs continued to prove, with very rare exceptions, that their promises are empty and that you should never give Wimpy a hamburger today on the promise of being paid on Tuesday

Television, Books, and the Media

Highs

  • Still a lot of stuff to watch
  • Amazon gave us a Middle-earth show and William Gibson’s The Peripheral
  • HBO gave us House of Dragons and more Westworld
  • AMC gave us the final seasons of Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead
  • Netflix continues to surprise with new content like Wednesday and The Glass Onion
  • Even Disney+ managed to give us Andor, a welcome entry in the Star Wars canon
  • I liked most of the movies I saw this year, including Top Gun: Maverick, Bullet Train, The Batman, and…. um….
  • Books… I am sure there were some new books released… lots of them probably

Lows

  • A fair chunk of what I mentioned above ended up being something of a disappointment
  • Netflix is chaotic and is as likely to green light garbage or cancel something you really enjoy
  • I feel the fragmentation of so many streaming channels more and more with each passing year
  • It was a bit of a struggle to find things that were both new and good in any media
  • HBO Max is just pulling a bunch of their original content to avoid paying royalties, proving once again if you want to have access to something reliably you should own the physical media
  • I think I saw one movie in the actual theater this year, Top Gun: Maverick
  • Thor: Love and Thunder really tried hard to recapture the magic of Thor: Ragnarok… and kind of failed
  • Top Gun: Maverick was the US box office leader in 2022… not that it was bad, but there apparently wasn’t anything better (Avatar: Way of Water fans will bring up the overseas box office, but that is like losing the objective and claiming you won the ISK war… it doesn’t count… also, TG:M is still winning on that front)

Blogging and Social Media

Highs

  • The blog is still here and running, now sixteen years into is existence
  • I posted for 1,000 days in a row
  • Blaugust was a thing again this year
  • Some people still visit this site regularly
  • I did have some good interactions on Twitter, which remains my social media of choice
  • I spent quite a bit of time on Twitch
  • If social media gets bad enough, blogging might see a revival!

Lows

  • Fewer people visited this site this year than in any year since 2007
  • Any resurgence of long form writing like blogging will probably bypass established blogs to jump onto whatever the trendy platform of the day ends up being
  • Posting for that many days in a row sounds a lot more interesting than it is… and it doesn’t sound all that interesting
  • Email subscriptions on the blog pretty much broke this year, and WP.com doesn’t care in the least
  • Bing decided it doesn’t like WP.com sites, so the bit of traffic they sent me petered out
  • The local neighborhood of blogs shrank some
  • My time on Twitch was mostly it being in the background so I could collect channel points or game drops honestly
  • Facebook remains a horrible dumpster fire
  • I cannot train Instagram’s algorithm to show me what I want
  • Elon Musk is trying to turn Twitter into the biggest and loudest dumpster fire in social media
  • There is no direct replacement for Twitter and what it was
  • Mastodon has moved from a small collection of individually managed fiefdoms with their own rules and norms and tribes and echo chambers into a somewhat larger version of all of that
  • Post News is that condo you just bought and are trying to furnish with a limited budget and no free time
  • Hive doesn’t run in a browser
  • I used to joke that Linked In was business Facebook, but it has really become that, and I don’t mean in a good way

The World

I’m not sure I have any highs.  There is a war in Europe, COVID is still a thing no matter how hard we try to pretend it isn’t, attacks on voting rights, democracy, and free speech have become just part of the normal way of things, and, as always, nobody wealth or famous ever faces any real accountability unless they hard somebody else wealth or famous.  And don’t get me started on people who are billionaires.  If we could harness self-absorbed narcissism, our dependence on fossil fuels would be solved.

2023

And we’re on to a new year this weekend.  Let’s hope for something better.

Reviewing My 2022 Predictions

We are back once again for another review of some really bad predictions I made at the start of the year.  I have engaged in an almost annual experiment in proving how wrong I can be about the future for a good fourteen years now.

2022 is what we get

While we are still a good two weeks shy of the new year in my book, if it hasn’t come to pass by December 15th, it probably isn’t going to happen.  So it is time to see how off base I was.

As usual, I will score by giving myself 10 points for each correct prediction, with partial credit available… because I often write rambling predictions with multiple points of contact.

Looking back at the questions from the start of the year… well, I seemed to be in something of a mood, especially about EVE Online.  Though not without reason on that front.  After declaring an “age of prosperity” they went and announced a plan to keep the economy strangled going forward.  “Prosperity” was nowhere in the cards they were dealing out.  But I was also moody about a few other companies.

Anyway, let’s get to the scoring.

1 – Activision-Blizzard will drop “Blizzard” from the Corporate Name

I backed myself into this one, having made a declaration about this in August of 2021, when it seemed as though the company could sink no lower in its scandal ridden tales.  It seemed like they had run the name through enough mud that it might be time to go back to Silicone & Synapse.

But it did not come to pass.

Now, I could make excuses about how the Microsoft acquisition, which showed up less than three weeks after my predictions, locked everything in place, so no major name change was likely to occur… but, in hindsight, no name change was likely to happen either way.  When you have Bobby Kotick at the helm, Blizzard would have to work a lot harder to eclipse the stink on him.

Zero points.

2 – No WoW Expansion in 2022

Man, I was not on a hot streak for 2022 was I?

Okay, this one did not look that outrageous a year ago.  Blizzard seemed to be in disorder, Shadowlands was flailing about without content updates, and there was some word about retooling their approach.  It seemed likely that they wouldn’t get out an expansion this year.

But they managed it.  The jury is still out on Dragonflight… I mean, I loved Shadowlands for about a month, before I found the quick trip to level cap meant and endless endgame treadmill… but it launched at the end of November and is still running along.  I haven’t seen the traditional glowing “current expansion exceeds all past expansions” press release about any sales metric yet.

In the end though, even if it dies in a month, they still shipped an expansion.  Zero points.

3 – The Arthas Hail Mary

I’m going to have to quote this one, just to avoid having to recount it point by point.

Wrath of the Lich King Classic will be announced to great fanfare.  This will be the big 2022 announcement for the WoW franchise, and it will be as stale as you expect.  While I love the whole retro server scene, and WotLK as well, there is a reason that Daybreak doesn’t put out a press release every time an EverQuest progression server unlocks a new expansion.  And it will be tainted by the same things that hurt Burning Crusade Classic, like a special deluxe package with a horrendous mount to single you out for ridicule.  It will be more popular than whatever is going on with Shadowlands, an admittedly low hurdle, but it won’t launch until Q4 so we won’t see any financial impact during the 2022 calendar year.

I mean, sure, Wrath Classic, big fanfare… but Dragonflight was probably the bigger announcement, if only because it was new and unexpected.  We all had no doubt Wrath Classic was going to show.  It also made it into Q3, just barely.  But it counts.

It did, however, get the ugly mount that singles you out and it was sure as hell more popular than Shadowlands this year.

I am going to give myself 4 points for this one.

4 – Immortality is Overrated

Okay, I am getting a little better as we go along here.

Diablo: Immortal will finally ship in time for summer… after all, NetEase is the one doing the work here.  It will get a lot of hype from the company because WoW Classic and Hearthstone updates can only carry so much water for them.  It will be briefly popular, because we do in fact all have phones, combining as it will everything Blizzard promised (something like Diablo) and everything fans feared (cash shop from hell), but the Q3 2022 financials will only mention it in passing.

I mean, isn’t that pretty much what happened, right down to shipping in time for summer?

You can split hairs on that one, but I am giving myself the full 10 points.  I rarely get this close to the mark.

5 – Activision Will Settle with the State of California

Okay, after that riding high on that last one I am brought low again.  I, not for the last time I am sure, invoke the Microsoft acquisition to explain this away.  Zero points.

6 – Bobby Kotick Will Remain in Charge at Activision

And, just to switch things around, the Microsoft acquisition pretty much made this a lock.  Not that I thought Bobby was going anywhere otherwise.  He has set himself up to suckle at the company’s teat, sucking down a huge amount of cash while he runs an entertainment sweat shop.  Why would he step away from that?  10 points.

7 – Enad Global 7 will Announce Marvel Universe Online

Oh EG7, you had such a potential winner here.  Even the hint of this project got the company more press than it had seen in a decade.

Massively OP declared Blizzard’s problems with its NetEase contract the biggest MMO company blunder, but when we measure the potential upside lost relative to the size of the company, this one dwarfs the NetEase deal.

Yeah, in case you hadn’t heard, all they announced was that the project was cancelled.

Zero points.

8 – H1Z1 Will Remain in Limbo

Sometimes I need a gimme.  H1Z1 is Schrodinger’s battle royale, neither dead nor alive.

10 Points.

9 – LOTRO Old and New

I was predicting a split in the product, with a new branch to support the console plans that EG7 kept talking about.  But we didn’t get anything really about the whole console thing.  I suspect the tepid response to Amazon’s Rings of Power, which was supposed to ignite more Tolkien interest, might be on the list of reasons.

Zero Points.

10 – Nothing New in Norrath

EverQuest and EverQuest II rolled on as before, and no new Norrath titles were launched, announced, or even hinted at.  Kind of a gimme.  But I need all the help I can get.

10 points.

11 – Ji Ham Confirmed as CEO of Enad Global 7

This is a complicated one.  Technically I think Ji Ham is still “acting” CEO of EG7.  His linked in profile still has “interim” on display.

On the other hand, the Daybreak team completed their reverse acquisition and now pretty much run EG7, so the idea that he is going to be asked to step down from the position seems pretty silly.

I am going to give myself 4 points because he is the CEO and they aren’t going to replace him.

12 – CCP will Circle the Wagons to Defend Against Player Feedback

Yes and no.  CCP management certainly came into the new year saying they knew better and would do whatever they wanted.  But push back from players got them to declare against crypto in EVE Online (for now), and they eventually began to relent on some of the things dragging down the New Eden economy, like capitals and battleships being too expensive to bother producing and the stranglehold on minerals… things that were pointed out as problems the day they were announced.

The economy is still not perfect, but things are at least better now… a year later than they could have been… should have been… but better.  I’m giving myself 2 points for the beginning of the year.

13 – New Eden Economic Times

This is basically part 2 of the previous item, only more about the in-game economy.  CCP eventually relented on many things that players had been complaining about since they were introduced, so I feel like I would be double dipping if I gave myself more that zero points.

14 – New World on Consoles Announcement

Sorry, no.  They spent most of 2022 trying to fix the game so people would play it again.  Their expansion saw a brief spike, but fresh start servers are really what brought people back because they could at least play on worlds that had not been screwed up economically by the company’s bumbling management of the game for the first few months.  Zero points.

15 – New World Store Update

None of these things came to pass.  Zero points.

16 – Crypto Mania will Continue and yet Yield Nothing of Value

I mean, unless you can assign value to schadenfreude I guess.  10 points.

17 – Metaversary Rhymes

Part two, the whole crypto metaverse idea of being able to bring your car from Mario Kart into Forza or whatever.  It didn’t go anywhere either.  10 points.

18 – Non-Fungible Fiascos

My ongoing bets against crypto seemed solid, but my guesses as to which company’s we beshit their games with it… well, this was the list:

  • EVE Online
  • Star Citizen
  • Black Desert Online
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Wild Card: Some Gamigo Title

None did however… which, given the talk a year ago, means crypto must have really taken a dump in 2022.  I was never happier to get zero points.

19 – Chapter and Metaverse

I was predicting that Zuckerberg’s own personal metaverse, Horizon Worlds, would gain no traction.  They were making managers force their employees to log in.  Hell, it was all they could do to announce legs… and even then they didn’t show the actual in-game legs, but specially rendered ones on the virtual Zucks.  10 points.

20 – A Better Metaplace

Raph and Playable Worlds did not deliver anything in 2022.  Zero points.

21 – Non Starters

My usual gimme list of games that won’t ship.  Basically 10 points for free.

Extra Credit

These are bonus, usually outrageous guesses for some additional points.

The first guess was that CCP would get fed up with players electing the CSM and just appoint their own council, the way Blizzard did.  Like I said, I was in a bad mood.  That did not come to pass, so zero points of extra credit there.

Meanwhile, I also guessed that Blizzard would get bored of their own WoW Player Council, thank everybody for their service after a year, and forget about the whole thing.  While the WPC has been a giant nothing burger so far as I can tell, I just went to check its special forum and it still exists.  So zero points of extra credit there as well.

The Final Score

I had a total of 210 possible points for my main predictions.  From my scoring above, I managed to get a total of 90 points.  That gives me a nearly 43% success rate, which is far better than I have done in some past years.  I guess the lesson here is always bet against crypto.

That is all I have.  Another year down.  Now I have to decide what I will do for 2023.  Predictions?  Questions?  Demands?  Something else?  I have two weeks to figure it out.

D- Day for Diablo IV – Blizzard Announces a June 6th Launch Date

Remember Diablo IV?  That game we were expecting to be announced at BlizzCon 2018, when we got Diablo Immortal instead?  I’m sure you must.  Well, Blizzard has finally nailed down a launch date of June 6, 2023 for it.

Diablo IV is coming, maybe in June

Also, didn’t all hell break loose for the Diablo III launch… in unexpected ways?

Oh, I remember that

That is a little less than six months away, but Blizzard has a pre-order ready and available for you if you just can’t wait to be a part of whatever is available right now.

Pay early, test for us

As part of the early order options you can get a head start in the game… maybe.  That implies the launch in my mind, but elsewhere it says early access to open beta… because you can’t wait to get in there are start testing for Bobby Kotick!   And even if that were appealing, I’m not sure I trust something framed as “up to 4 days early access” from Blizz these days.  But maybe it is both open beta and game launch.  They’re a little ambiguous in their messaging.

Also, that early access only applies to the two more expensive version of the game, not the standard edition, so it directly costs $20.  And, of course there are different versions of the game.

If you go over to the Blizzard store you’ll see you will be paying between $70 and $100 for the game depending on which package you choose.

The most expensive one is pre-selected, in case you were wondering which option Blizz favors

That, honestly, isn’t a huge gap between the low and high prices, though I have been conditioned by the pricing gaps in MMO expansion packages, where Daybreak can run from $35 to $250.

Aside from the early start options and being allowed into the open beta, the extras include items for other Blizzard games, Diablo III, Diablo Immortal, and World of Warcraft retail being on the list.  That is probably smart because you know there is a tier of obsessive WoW fans who will buy Diablo IV just to get the mount in WoW.

And if I sound a bit jaded or cynical about all of this, it is because I am.  But it is more than just BlizzCon 2018, and how Diablo Immortal turned out, and the fact that they are going full on into battle passes and add on expenses to make this potentially the most expensive version of Diablo to play at a competitive level, though that will be a tough crown to wrest from Diablo Immortal.   It is a reflection of the company’s behavior overall, from Bobby Kotick on down.  Things like union busting and more crunch hours for devs… especially those working on Diablo IV, so that June 6th date seems less than concrete… along with the general tone from the company over the last few years, something not enhanced by the Microsoft buyout that made them seem even less interested in the end users at times.

Which is not to say I am completely sour on the prospect of Diablo IV.  I like the sound of some of the things planned for it like the more open world, the darker aspect of the game, and some of the character and skill things I have read.  But we’re six months out from launch and I have no interest in handing over $70 in the middle of an already expensive holiday season for something I won’t touch until June at the earliest.

So we shall see.  I might be ready to roll when the launch comes.  Right now though, I’ll let the news and the offers roll on by.  I don’t need that mount in retail WoW, because I am not even playing retail WoW.

Related:

The Federal Trade Commission Sues to Block Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

It has been nearly 11 months since Microsoft’s bombshell announcement about signing a deal to acquire Activision Blizzard for almost $69 billion dollars.

XBox plus Activision Blizzard equals something

Since then there has been rumblings that somebody in the US or EU might challenge the merger and… the rumblings turned out to be true as the US Federal Trade Commission announced their intent to sue to block the merger.

Among the FTC’s mandates is to oversee such mergers to assure that they do not lead to monopolistic anti-competitive situations or unduly harm consumers, something that they have been spectacularly bad/naive about my entire life.  See the T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint where literally every promise made by T-Mobile to keep the deal from being blocked by the FTC was broken.

It seems unlikely that Microsoft and Activision aren’t lying hard enough.  They have been out promising that the swath of games they will soon control will be allowed on platforms like PlayStation or Steam.  But the FTC isn’t buying Microsoft’s reassurances… like maybe there is a history of anti-competitive practices there… and stated in their press release:

With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers.

If we have learned anything over the years, it is that a corporation’s promises are worthless without contractual weight behind them… and Microsoft was clearly already aware of the FTC’s interest, announcing a deal to keep Call of Duty on the Switch just this week in an attempt to build a case for itself.

And yes, I am swinging hard against Microsoft so far in this post, but I am conflicted on the whole deal.

Microsoft is, by all reports, a much better place to work that Activision Blizzard and it might be good to have a major studio like ActiBlizz, which has been facing so many problems with the state of California, cleaned up, something that will never happen with the current ActiBlizz management in place.  Literally every c-level exec needs to be cast out before there to be any change, and there are probably a good number of VPs and directors that should be on the list as well.

Of course, part of my conflict is that the one person who drives the culture at ActiBlizz, Bobby Kotick, is also the person who will benefit the most from this merger.  If the merger goes through all his sins will be rewarded with dump trucks full of cash… but if the merger does not go through, then he’ll just remain obscenely over-compensated while beating down unions that are only being proposed because of poor working conditions and compensation.

As such, Kotick is keen to reassure people that the deal is going through.

I wanted to provide a brief update on our pending merger with Microsoft. This week the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its decision to challenge the deal. This means they will file a lawsuit to block the merger, and arguments will be heard by a judge.

This sounds alarming, so I want to reinforce my confidence that this deal will close. The allegation that this deal is anti-competitive doesn’t align with the facts, and we believe we’ll win this challenge.

As I may have suggested, facts are few and far between.  It is the potential for how the company could use the weight of its combined influence of XBox Live for PC and Console plus the titles like Call of Duty that they will control if this deal goes through.

So will the deal go through?

As much as I hate to agree with anything Bobby says, I strongly suspect the acquisition will be allowed.  In fact, I doubt the FTC has in mind any plan to actually stop the deal cold.  Instead, they will probably want some of the promises Microsoft is making to be legally mandated by an enforceable agreement, like not screwing over competing platforms by making all their titles exclusive to Microsoft channels, in order to acquiesce on the deal.

So that is my guess.  But we shall see.  A bit of a shake up in the status quo at least.  Something to distract us from whatever Elon Musk has been up to today.

Related:

WoW Dragonflight Arrives Today

Today is the day for retail WoW, that rare bi-annual event when Blizzard ships an expansion to the cornerstone game of their portfolio.  Today sees the launch of WoW Dragonflight.

WoW Dragonflight

Today at 3pm Pacific Time or Midnight Central European Time, the world-wide launch of the expansion kicks off.

Dragonflight World Wide Launch Times

Dragonflight is the 9th expansion in the eighteen year life of the game… again, bi-annual is the pattern here, though there is some variation in the times between expansions.

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 779 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 656 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 714 days
  • Battle for Azeroth to Shadowlands – 832 days
  • Shadowlands to Dragonflight – 734 days

But saying “about every two years” is close enough to the mark to cover it.

And there is quite a bit riding on this expansion.  I don’t think it is exactly controversial to suggest that the previous expansion, Shadowlands, was less popular than previous entries in the series.  There are a few reasons for that.

Every expansion shakes up the meta of the game to some extent, though it at least appears at first glance that those that change the least seem to do better than those that go all out to be different.  And, in that spectrum, Shadowlands was one of the more extreme examples.

To start with, it was built on top of the great level squish, which made the rest of the game a level 1-50 experience… or a series of parallel 1-50 experiences… that still has me wondering if the whole thing was worth the effort.

Then, of course, there was the usual borrowed power mechanics, this time involving pledging yourself to a faction, which generally negatively effect all past content and builds you up into something that is going to be taken away from you the moment the next expansion drops.

Finally, Blizz decided to toss the normal leveling experience in the air and try something new.  The traditional multiple zone effort to work through that might take a couple of months of casual play to make it to the ten levels to cap was discarded.  Instead they made the journey to level cap a short run for even very casual players and bet the farm that everybody would just love doing faction dailies and running the same instances over and over again for the next 18 months.

It was the ultimate “we’ll make raiders out of all of you” by making even you solo play a raiding-like daily grind.  As with the Battle for Azeroth “we’ll make all servers PvP servers” debacle, this did not work out as planned.  (And at least BfA didn’t mess with the normal 10 level casual curve.)

So, as I said, there is a lot riding on Dragonflight.  Did Blizzard learn the right lessons?  The historical trajectory of the game tends to favor the answer “no,” and the whole “let’s go all-in on everything dragons” doesn’t fill me with a ton of confidence.

But I also haven’t been interested enough to read up on the expansion or join the beta, even though I was extended an invite without even opt-ing in.

That is largely because I am playing Wrath of the Lich King Classic, the last expansion to hold its numbers rather than having a second summer… or first summer… population crash.  I am enjoying that and Blizz is getting my subscription money, but I have no interesting in buying Dragonflight on day one.

I am sure that a lot of people will buy it however.  I am equally sure that we will get a post-launch press release that will frame the launch in a way to show it was the best launch ever.  We will see if they have to come up with a new metric to do that… my skepticism abounds since Blizz stopped talking subscription numbers and adopted MAUs across all products as their metric. (Though even that went down regularly since they adopted it, so good work on that front.)

People will enjoy it.  Despite my not sticking around, I enjoyed Shadowlands quite a bit for the month it took me to get to level cap.  Then the prospect of 23 more months of faction grinds and instance dailies left me cold.  And while I won’t be playing, at least initially, I will be watching to see how the new round of Blizzard ideas, from UI changes to another round of class revamps to flying for everybody from the moment of launch, plays out for them.

Friday Bullet Points while Twitter Burns

It has been a good couple of weeks to drop bad news while Elon Musk’s gross mishandling of Twitter has been grabbing all the attention on the tech front.  You might not have noticed Facebook or Amazon or some other tech firms laying off thousands.

Going around the Twitterverse

And this week’s Twitter fiasco was Elon’s great loyalty oath campaign.  The remaining employees had to sign the oath or, if the refused, be laid off.  Some huge percentage of the survivors are said to have not signed, leaving critical systems unattended.  This caused Elon to panic about sabotage or something and he had the offices closed and the employees locked out like the unhinged oligarch he aspires to be.

Twitter isn’t down, and there is no plan to shut it down, but if some technical hiccup brings it offline, getting it back up and running might not be easy.

Last night on Twitter was like the end of high school, with everybody signing each other’s yearbooks and promising to keep in touch.    It is still up today, but the threat looms.

But there are other things going on in the world, and not even all of it is bad.  Most of these items I learned about on Twitter, but I am reluctant to link there now.  I don’t need any more dead links on the site.

  • Blizzard and NetEase Part Ways

This was telegraphed in the Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financials, but it feels like there should have been more emphasis on it if the collapse of the relationship was going to be announced a week later.  But the other shoe dropped this week with a press release.

NetEase is Blizzard’s partner in China, which means more than you might think.  Doing business in China means working with a company there as a joint venture (a term which always reminds me of late Soviet perestroika) where the local partner holds a controlling interest.

NetEase controls the business that runs games like World of Warcraft and OverWatch in China.  If you fall out with your partner you have to find a new one, which can be a convoluted mess in any circumstances, but much more so if it needs the approval of a totalitarian government.

Blizzard has been through this before, so if they want to keep doing business in China they need to find somebody new to work with.  Meanwhile, the deal with NetEase expires on January 23, 2023, after which point most Blizzard games will be turned off in China.  Diablo Immortal, which was made under a different agreement is the exception in this.  The horrible cash grab Diablo mobile game will remain active.

As for why this has come about, NetEase, following the example of its governments diplomatic policy, is aggressively blaming Blizzard and one individual in particular for the parting.  I don’t doubt Bobby Kotick is a jerk, but I don’t see any evidence that NetEase is somehow the victim in all of this.

  • EVE Online FanFest 2023 Announced

CCP has staked out the dates for EVE FanFest 2023, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of EVE Online.  And it is going to be… in September?

Yes, the dates are September 21-23 in Iceland, which will put Fanfest a good four months past the games 20th birthday, but when you’re booking an event big enough to show a blip on the countries MER I suppose you have to work with multiple factors in order to find a viable time slot.

Early bird tickets are already on sale and should be much easier to obtain that Taylor Swift tickets.

  • CCP Embraces a Bullshit Metric

When is a bullshit metric even more bullshit?  When you use only at its peak without giving any context.  I have criticized Blizzard for moving from subscriber numbers to MAUs as a transparent attempt to hide the actual state of WoW from investors, but at least they give us a number every quarter so you have some context.

So when CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson came out and said that EVE Online had hits its second highest DAU count since 2016, there were layers of BS to unpack.  To start with, CCP never tells us MAU or DAU numbers, so how do we know?  Was the day a lot better, a little better, not really better at all?

The game is clearly seeing more players.  The daily concurrent user graph over at EVE Offline shows that.  The expansion has sparked fresh interest.  But those graphs also show the peak concurrent for 2022 landed in January during the Doctor Who event.  So what is going on?

Well, as I noted, CCP had a login event with the expansion and gave away 7 days of Omega time to all players, which is a double incentive to login, because you need to do so in order to claim your prizes.  So last Sunday may have been a good day, but was it really a “best in the last six years” sort of day?  I suspect not.

Anyway, glad the game is doing good, but talking about numbers you won’t share in front of a crowd armed with spreadsheets is always a risky move.

  • Enad Global 7 Q3 2022 Financials

Things continue to look good for EG7.  Daybreak continues to dominate revenues on the video game side of the house.  Daybreak executives continue to run the show.  Things are going well.

However, the presentation itself was somewhat terse compared to previous ones.  Few insights and no future statements or handy graphs about upcoming titles.  Just the bare minimum to get by this time around.  Which is fine.  But that doesn’t give me much to build a post around.

  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet Launch

Hey, it is also a Pokemon launch day, as Pokemon Violet and Pokemon Scarlet go on sale today!

New Pokemon to catch, a new land to explore, and a new adventure to complete!

Nintendo very much has a cycle nailed down for these launches, landing just before Thanksgiving in the US which heralds the start of the holiday shopping season here.  Plenty of time for parents and grandparents to buy copies for the kids that haven’t gone out and bought it on day one already.  And, of course, lots of holiday free time during which to play.

This time around I am not joining in.  My daughter and I played the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes last year, and they were a lot of fun.  But I am not feeling it for another new title.

  • Valheim Mistlands Preview

Finally, the dev team working on Valheim have a game play preview video for the Mistlands biome that we have all been so (im)patiently waiting for.  But we’re going to have to wait for it too, because the video doesn’t unlock until November 22nd.  Dammit!

I hope there is a launch date in there, but I guess we won’t know until next week.

Anyway, that is what I had piled up for Friday.  Bring on the weekend.

Blizzard Resurgent in Q3 2022

The Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financial were delivered at the start of the week, but I had some much other stuff queued up that I am only getting to them now.  Also, the whole financials routine remains very low key because the company believes that the Microsoft acquisition means they don’t have to put in the effort for the public, just their new overlords.

Activision Blizzard

The overall company reported revenue of $1.78 billion, up from the $1.64 billion earned in Q1 2022, but still well off from the $2 billion a year ago in Q3 2021. Blizzard, once again, was not the problem this time around, with blame landing on “reduced engagement” with Call of Duty on the Activision side of the house.

Blizzard itself was up, ringing in $543 million in revenue for Q3 2022, up from the $401 million in Q2 2022 when Diablo Immortal gave them a boost, and the largest quarterly numbers in well over a year.

The company has the Diablo Immortal launch in China as well as the run up to and launch of Wrath of the Lich King Classic to help buoy its numbers, as well as pending anticipation for the Dragonflight expansion.

Blizzard highlights from the financials:

October 4 saw the global launch of Overwatch 2, with a free-to-play model designed to allow more people than ever before to experience the acclaimed team-based action game. Over 35 million people played the game in its first month, including many who were new to Overwatch. The expanded community is engaging deeply, with average daily player numbers for the first month of Overwatch 2 more than double that of its acclaimed predecessor. Player investment is also off to a strong start, positioning the title to be a meaningful contributor to Blizzard’s business in the fourth quarter. Blizzard is looking forward to delivering an ambitious slate of regular seasonal updates for Overwatch 2 that introduce new characters, maps and modes, including the game’s much-anticipated PvE mode planned for 2023.

In the Warcraft franchise, the September 26 release of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King® Classic contributed to a strong increase in WoW reach and engagement at the end of the third quarter. On November 28, Blizzard will release World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the innovative next expansion for the modern game, as the team increases the cadence of WoW content for the community. Elsewhere in the Warcraft franchise, mobile title Warcraft: Arclight Rumble is progressing well through regional testing.

On mobile, Diablo Immortal expanded its global reach with a strong launch in China in July. The title reached the top of the download charts and has ranked in the top 10 grossing mobile games in China since launch. Around the world, Diablo Immortal is being supported with major new content, features, and events aimed at keeping the community engaged. Meanwhile, work on Diablo IV and its substantial ongoing post-launch content continues to progress very well ahead of its launch planned for 2023.

Blizzard’s third quarter segment revenue grew double-digits year-over-year against a year ago quarter that included the release of Diablo II: Resurrected. The third quarter benefited from the recent launch of Diablo Immortal, while Warcraft franchise net bookings were stable year-over-year. Segment operating margin was lower year-over-year, due to marketing investment to support the strong release slate and the shift in the mix of business in the quarter.

Currently, we have licensing agreements with a third party covering the publication of several Blizzard titles in China. These agreements, which contributed approximately 3% of Activision Blizzard’s consolidated net revenues in 2021, expire in January 2023. We are in discussions regarding the renewal of these agreements, but a mutually-satisfactory deal may not be reached. We continue to see substantial long-term growth opportunities for our business in the country. The co-development and publishing of Diablo Immortal is covered by a separate long-term agreement.

So they should have some good news coming in Q4, with Overwatch 2 and Dragonflight launching, which will help boost numbers even further.  Quarters with a WoW expansion launch tend to be peak financial moments.

Even MAUs have climbed up.  They keep an eye on that over at Massively OP but, as both I and they agree, MAUs are still a bullshit metric used to obstifcate what is really going on with titles in the company.  MAUs may have hit 31 million in Q3 2022, but a subscribed WoW player and a free Diablo Immortal player have considerably different effects on the company’s actual bottom line.

Then there is that last paragraph from the Blizzard notes about the licensing agreements in China, which highlights the problem with MAUs.  In Q3 2022 they were up, no doubt in large part due to the launch of Diablo Immortal in China, but the China market contributes just 3% to the company’s revenue.

Remember that.  Blizzard beshat itself over the Blitzchung incident to make sure they held onto that 3%.  Granted, we have learned since then that kow towing to China was only one of their sins.  But the upshot it that any MAU counts that include China are a doubly garbage numbers.

And all the while Activision Blizzard is whistling a happy tune about being purchased by Microsoft, something that is not a done deal yet.

Related:

Friday Bullet Points on Veterans Day

It is Veterans Day here in the US, though it was Armistice Day at one point because my grandparents used to call it that.  It is a day set aside to honor those who served in the armed force, which includes my brother, who managed to serve in both the army and the navy.  There is a story in that, but it his to tell.

For the first time I can remember I get the day off.  Most companies in the US give you the day off after Thanksgiving and if you ask them about Veterans Day HR will tell you that the former is a stand in for the latter.

Anyway, I will probably spend much of the day looking for a car to buy… another story in that I might get around to telling.  In the mean, there are a few small items I want to cover.

  • Crowfall Going Offline

Well, that didn’t go so well.

Is this even still their logo?

Crowfall, which raked in $1.7 million in their 2015 Kickstarter campaign, then shipped back in July of 2021, only to have to find a new home at Monumental last December, where additional funding was expected to improve the title, has decided go offline on November 22nd for a rework.

From the official announcement:

Over the past few months, we’ve been evaluating the current state of Crowfall. One of the biggest challenges has been the sheer amount of development effort required to build new campaigns and keep the game running daily. In order to refocus our efforts from live operations to development, we have decided to take the Crowfall live service offline for the time being.

On November 22, 2022, at 11 AM CST Crowfall will go dark, and the game servers will be unavailable. Until the service goes offline, take this time to try out all of the cool buildings, mounts, and emotes for free in the Crowfall store.

We’re going to use this time to map out the future of the game. We have yet to determine what that looks like, but we are investing in and rethinking every part of the game – from the core technology and tools to art, design, and gameplay. Nothing is off the table.

We’ll share the plan with the community as it shapes up.

It is not impossible it will comeback better and find success.  Some titles do come back.  Multiple times, if you count Hellgate: London.  But it is a rare thing.

  • New World Spike

New World has been enjoying a bit of a revival with the Brimstone Sands update that launched last month.

Brimstone Sands

But the real win seems to have been the fresh start servers they launched, letting players get that new New World world smell in their nostrils, boosting concurrent player counts on Steam beyond the 100K mark for the first time in almost a year.  That is still well shy of the 900K peaks of launch, but is much better than the doldrums that the game has been in for most of its run so far.

I have always said that half of the draw of retro servers of the sort we see with EverQuest or WoW Classic is the chance to start anew in a fresh world.

  • EverQuest II Anniversary Mount

I mentioned the EQII 18th anniversary already this week, but it was only after I had written and posted that I got the email about a special mount for players as part of the celebration.  The… uh… Stomposaurus Thunderstrider is available for all players for 1 silver from vendors in various cities.  I got mine out in the Frostfang Sea… or New Halas… or whatever that place it.

My own Stomposaurus

The mount will be available until November 22nd.  Details about where to buy the mount are in the 18th anniversary round up post on the EQII site.

  • Retroactive Recruitment in EVE Online

The recruit a friend option in EVE Online will get the friends who click on your link a quick 1 million skill points, a non-trivial amount when you’re just starting out.  But what if they made their account and forgot to click the link?  CCP has added retroactive recruitment.

When somebody clicks on your link and lands on the account creation page, there is now an “Already Have An Account?” option at the bottom of the form that lets you just log in and collect the reward… so long as you have not been recruited previously.

one meeelllion skill points

I have five accounts and, as it turns out, four of them were never recruited, so I just added 4 million skill points to the New Eden ecosystem.  I was even able to cross-recruit between two accounts.  What a country!

  • WoW Character Stories

Blizzard has been trying to build up hype for the upcoming World of Warcraft Dragonflight expansion and its own 18th anniversary in a number of ways.  One them is on Twitter.

Yes, Twitter is a spectacular dumpster fire as Elon Musk… very much the Tech Trump these days… careens from one bad move to the next.  However, the site is still up and running and honestly probably more popular at the moment due to the complete debacle unfolding as people discuss it on the site.  It is as if the passengers on the Titanic suddenly began discussing and debating maritime safety regulations, the effects of hypothermia on the human body, and the correct method of filling and deploying lifeboats, with great vigor.

But I digress.  If you tweet at the @Warcraft account with your WoW Character name, server, and region, along with the hashtag #WarcraftStory, a bot will reply to you with an image and a little tale about your character.  So I did it with Vikund, my main of mains, and got this.

Vikund, pet battler

The algorithm it uses will draw from the database the most rare or outstanding of your achievements… based on a list of possible options… and throw that back at you.  So, pet battles were my main thing on retail I guess.

And if you don’t like the result, you can try again and it will go down the list.  So I went again and got this instead.

Vikund and his dungeon achievements

I feel like 116 is both a big and a small number.  Dissatisfied with that, I rolled again and got this.

Vikund the raider? Yeah, right!

I am pretty sure my raiding prowess is made up by maybe half a dozen LFR runs over the years and then farming old raids solo for specific pet, mount, and transmog drops.  It that even a thing anymore with the level squish?

I tried doing the story thing with alts, but since pet battles are shared across accounts, the first thing I got back was the same as my first one with Vikund.  And subsequent stories were all pretty disappointing.  But, still, it is a neat little gimmick.

I almost didn’t notice it too.  I saw Blizz tweeting about it, but figured it was something Dragonflight exclusive.  But then I saw the post about it over at Blessing of Kings and gave it a try.  I think Shintar saw my responses on Twitter and has a post of her own about the stories of her characters.