Category Archives: Blizzard

2020 and Predictions for a New Year

I have to say that the brightest point about the new year is that we have now moved into a decade that should be easily referred to.  Gone are the “teens” or whatever we called the last ten years, so bring on “the twenties!”  Whether they are “roaring,” “soaring,” or simply “boring” remains to be seen.  (And yes, it is a new decade. It has been proven beyond doubt.)

And, as happens every year, it is now time for me to expose my ignorance and nonsensical notions by attempting some predictions about what may come to pass in this fresh new year.

The history of this ritual is documented.  You can go back and see just how often I am wrong, which ranges between “almost always” and “damn near always.”

As always, each prediction is worth ten points, with partial credit available.  And, just because it comes up now and then, I will remind people that predictions are not wishes.  What I think will happen and what I want to happen are generally pretty different.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

Scoring

That gives me 230 possible points from the core questions, plus the extra credit bonus questions.  Now I just have to sit tight and wait for eleven and a half months to see what comes to pass.

Reviewing my 2019 Predictions

The wheel keeps turning and we have arrived back in December again, which means getting back to stuff I said in January.  I predicted some crazy stuff then, much of which is just embarrassing in hindsight.  But hindsight is an exact science, while the future can be an impenetrable fog on a cold January morning.

While there are still a couple weeks left in the year my general rule is that if it hasn’t happened by December 15th it isn’t going to happen.  So barring a 4pm press release from Daybreak later on today I think I am safe calling it now.

This is a regular feature and, as such, you can go back and review how it has gone before… if you have that much free time.

But if you do not want to dwell on the past… then why are you here, that is my favorite thing… we can get right down to this year’s prediction scoring.  As usual, unless otherwise noted, predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit available.  So off we go!

1 – Early Classic Date

WoW Classic will launch on May 28, 2019.  As is the standard for this sort of guess at a date, I knock off 2 points for every week I am off.  That is about as concrete and clearly defined as a prediction can possibly be.  The early date will be to coincide with the end of the six month subscriptions that Blizz sold back in the fall as Battle for Azeroth isn’t holding people otherwise.

I was way off on this.  Blizz being Blizz shipped WoW Classic later than I expected.  And Blizz just went with another six month subscription offer to get people to stick around in BfA0 points.

2 – Classic Rush

The WoW Classic launch will be 2004 all over again.  There confluence of nostalgia and the end of the Battle for Azeroth expansion will conspire to cause WoW Classic to overflow quickly.  There won’t be enough servers leading to long queues to get on to the servers available.  This will lead to new servers being spun up and the classic server split routine from back in the day.  Blizzard will publicly compare the day one WoW Classic crowds to how things went at the WoW launch in 2004.

I hit some points on this one.  Maybe not exactly like WoW in 2004, but queues and not enough servers and all that were clearly present.  I’m taking 5 points for this one.

3 – Classic Plans

By the time BlizzCon roles around… we’ll get to BlizzCon itself in a bit… there will be a panel, or at least a mention in the keynote, about WoW Classic and moving on from vanilla into some of the early expansions.  How to do an expansion like The Burning Crusade without necessarily progressing the vanilla servers will be a key point of contention, with transfers and boosts straight to level 60 being discussed.

Eh, not so much.  WoW Classic got a mention in the keynote for sure… I mean, duh… but otherwise all WoW focus was on ShadowlandsWoW Classic plans will be next BlizzCon for sure, but this year it is 0 points.

4 – Classic Acceleration

By September 1, 2019 the WoW Classic rush will be over.  As we have seen time and again, the initial pile-on to play on a nostalgia server peaks pretty quickly as players, familiar with the old game and reliving their experience, move much more quickly through the game than back in the day.  This will lead to complaints about dead servers and calls for server merges or free transfers.  This will be even worse if Blizz goes full purist mode and doesn’t use the sharding tech that allows more people to use a single zone/server.

This one is tough.  Certainly progress for a lot of people has been much faster than back in 2004.  I think the percent of the population at the level cap is probably much higher than it was at a similar point in WoW history.  And populations have tapered off some, as one would expect.  My indicator is how many auctions are up in the AH on Saturday.  Early it was in the 500s, now it is below 400.  But a lot of people are still playing and I haven’t seen a dead server complaint yet.  I still run into people in low level zones doing the same quests.  It feels kind of like 2006 WoW… which I guess is what it is.  The Blizz sharding stuff worked I guess.  But 0 points for me.

5 – Next WoW Live Expansion

The early launch of WoW Classic to cover the Battle for Azeroth collapse will mess with the Blizzard’s timing the way that Warlords of Draenor did.  Look for Blizz to cover their sagging Q2 2019 earnings by announcing the next expansion in August, just after Activision releases their quarterly earnings report.

Nope, they waited until BlizzCon to announce.  0 points.

6 – The Long BlizzCon

There will be a BlizzCon 2019 on November 8 and 9.  The main stage will be taken over by new titles as Blizzard announces no fewer that five projects.  Three of them will be mobile titles and an actual PC Diablo franchise game will be another.  However, a Diablo II remaster will go missing yet again.

Well, it was November 1 and 2, so I was off by a week.  And, counting Shadowlands and Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, there were… uh… one, two… two and a half new projects?  There was nothing about mobile mentioned.  But the Diablo II remaster went missing again.  I’m going to give myself 3 points.

7 – Full Steam Ahead

Expect Steam to stay strong despite Epic, Discord, and Amazon trying to undermine it with better deals for developers.  Steam can and will play that game while carrying on as the one stop shop for all games PC.  Devs won’t get as big of a cut on Steam, but the installed base and success stories will keep any but the biggest studios from cutting ties.

Pretty much.  Epic made waves by luring away titles that were offered for pre-order on Steam to become Epic Store exclusives, but that didn’t go 100% in their favor either.  There was some backlash.  Microsoft gave up and starting putting titles on Steam.  Even EA made a half-hearted compromise with Steam.  They will sell their titles there again, but you still need Origin installed to launch them.  10 points.

8 – All Things PlanetSlide

PlanetSide Arena will launch… or go into early access or whatever… as planned at the end of January.  It will sell some boxes and make Daybreak some quick money.  But it isn’t going to steal back the Battle Royale market for the company.  Before spring turns to summer it will be showing peak numbers on Steam down near the H1Z1 end of the spectrum, lagging far behind PUBG and nowhere close to whatever Fortnite will report on its own.

Well, I got the ship date wrong.  It was September, not February.  I should never believe Daybreak.  But as for the rest?  It didn’t grab any market and became something of a divisive point in the PlanetSide community who didn’t want a re-hash of Battle Royale.  It isn’t dead yet, but rumor has it that Daybreak laid off most of the staff working on it.  7 points.

9 – Sayonara Norrath

I am going to go with the Prophecy of May and say that this will be a fateful anniversary year for EverQuest titles.  The 15th anniversary for EverQuest II and the 20th anniversary for EverQuest will see both titles celebrated, given special new content, and then put in what will be effectively maintenance mode.

Pessimism about Daybreak often ends up correct, but I think I am wrong on this.  We heard a lot around the EverQuest 20th anniversary about how the franchise has more players than it did back in 2015.  These two games will keep going, bascially because they have a core customer base and make money.  Expansions for the foreseeable future, but 0 points for me.

10 – NantGo Away, I’m No Good For You

The NantG Mobile joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks will deliver on none of its promises.  They’ll keep H1Z1 alive, but there won’t be any new Z1 Battle Royale (unless they just straight up rename H1Z1), there won’t be any new esports league, there won’t be an esports venue next to the LA Times, and there won’t be any mobile version of Z1 Battle Royale, and there won’t be any hint, word, or anything about any EverQuest game, mobile or otherwise.

All that and they gave all the code back to Daybreak.  A complete flop.  10 points.

11 – Something Has Gotta Daybreak

All of this is going to add up to hard times at Daybreak.  By December 1, 2019 it won’t be the company it was on January 1, if it exists at all.  It will either be acquired wholesale by another company or be parted out, with somebody like Gamigo taking the the three traditional MMORPGs (EverQuest, EverQuest II, and DC Universe Online) while the rest either tried to stand alone with the what I will call “the children of PlanetSide” or being folded into the NantWorks joint venture.  I’ll be writing a farewell history of the studio before the year is out.

Well, things didn’t get that bad.  There were more layoffs, but the company is still afloat.  But the fact that they were creating alternate company names and social media accounts indicate that this wasn’t exactly miles from the truth either.  0 points, but I still feel like it could have gone this way and may still next year.

12 – Standing Alone Games

Standing Stone Games will feel the impact of Daybreak’s misfortune as well as the sting of losing a key LOTRO developer.  They will carry through the first half of 2019 on momentum, but the latter half will leave people wondering what is up as they scramble to fill the void that Daybreak’s collapse will leave on their marketing/publishing front.  The company will soldier on, but you won’t be getting anything like a 64-bit client from them.

With no Daybreak misfortune there were no repercussions.  I’ll have to remind myself next time to stop making predictions that assume previous predictions come to pass.  And just to rub my nose in it, not only did SSG launch a new expansion for LOTRO, they also delivered a 64-bit client.  Imagine that!  0 points.

13 – Non-Shippers

The following titles won’t ship in 2019, defining “ship” as being available for sale with having to hide their unfinished state behind terms like “early access,” “beta,” “alpha,” or anything that falls into that realm.  2 Points per title on this one.

  • Squadron 42
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Atlas
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Crowfall

10 points.  Not a one of them on the list made the criteria.  We didn’t even get Camelot Unchained into beta.  It is starting to make Star Citizen look positively progressive in getting test content to users.

14 – CCP Anomalous

The ISK problem in New Eden will be one of CCPs targets for 2019, so expect null sec anomalies and the rats that infest them to change to try and slow down the titan and super gravy train while not stomping too hard on the line members in the VNIs.  Mining, however, will remain unchanged.  Ore doesn’t bring ISK into the economy and should be self regulating based on price.  It isn’t, but it should be.

Spot on here.  CCP went straight at super and titan ratting for a few months, changing fighter damage application, anom respawn times, HAW weapons on titans, and so on.  And then came the Blackout and the VNI nerf and it was the line members who paid the price.  Ah well, they started on the rich, but eventually slaughtered the poor.  5 points for things before the Chaos Era.

15 – High Sec Changes

The War Dec changes will lead CCP to change up how suicide ganking works as well.  Right now it is too by the numbers, a solved problem for most cases.  CCP doesn’t want high sec to be safe, but right now the gankers kill with impunity and need a shake up.

Maybe, a little bit.  They finally implemented that “warp in 3 minutes or your money back” scheme and made auto pilot warp to 10km rather than 15km.  That annoyed gankers a bit.  2 points.

16 – Low Sec Attention Span

CCP has to do something radical for low sec in general and faction warfare specifically.  My guess is that low sec will continued to be screwed in general, but that CCP will decide they need to greatly restrict, if not outright ban, the deployment of Upwell structures in FW space.

I figured this one was going to be a complete miss, but the last game update in December changed a bit of how Upwell structure tethering will work in FW.  Give me 2 points for that at least.

17 – CSM XIV

CCP will change up the election process yet again, trying to get the candidate list out further before the actual elections, but it will be for naught.  Eight of ten seats will still go to null sec alliances.

Nah.  Same old election scheme.  But if you count Olmeca Gold as a null sec candidate… it is where he lives and hunts, so I do… 8 out of 10 seats went to null sec.  5 points.

18 – POS Bash

Player Owned Starbases, already left with little relevance in the game, will see their end come June, when CCP finally pulls them from the game, symbolically burning the source code on the summer solstice.  And so will go the POS, long a staple of the game.

Nope.  All the blueprints are gone so you cannot make any new ones, but if you have one still deployed you can still hide within POS shields even today.  0 points.

19 – Key FOB

The POS announcement will come earlier as part of CCP introducing a new Upwell structure, the player forward operating base.  The FOB will be something akin to a corp/alliance sized mobile depot that will allow players to repair, refit, and resupply.  It will lack tethering or defenses and, give how cheap a Raitaru is, will barely get used.

Again, no sale.  0 points.

20 – 3DS Exit

Nintendo, after paring down the platform releases to almost nothing, will announce the end of their long running handheld line.  They will cease manufacture, blow out the last units, and throw themselves fully onto the Switch.  It will be the end of the Pokemon era.  Pokemon will just be another game, not something that made a platform worthwhile.

I am annoyed to say that Nintedo is still pushing the 3DS/2DS line on their website a year after it was effectively dead.  The only reason I can see for buying one is as a replacement for a failed unit for somebody who has an investment in older games.  There are a lot of older games out there.  But the online support for most of them is long gone.  0 points.

21 – MADE Pirates

Pirates of the Burning Seas will end up being the first MMORPG to make it into The Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment.  The unique state of its current ownership will create a situation where the game will actually be preserved, mostly because it won’t survive on its own.  And that will be it.  The games people ache to see enshrined, SWG or CoH, will never get there.  The only possible entrants will be games so small and unknown that few will notice.  So The Saga of Ryzom will be a possibility.  The MADE should work on preserving MUDs.  That is something they could make happen.

Pirates of the Burning Sea found a player  group to support it.  MADE remains without an MMO to call its own.  0 Points.

22 – Shlock Boxes

No wide spread change to the legal status of lockboxes or the selling of power or pay to win.  Some small jurisdictions might try to put something in place, as happened in 2018, but nothing will go in that will change the bottom line.  There simply isn’t a political power block against this sort of thing that could make any difference for politicians.  At best it will be used as a political football to try and divert attention away from other things.  For example, the NRA doesn’t care about video games… until there is yet another mass shooting, at which point they need something to blame.  More of that.

At the end of the day, with all the talk that spun around gambling, nothing really changed when compared to 2018.  10 points.

23 – A Prime New World

Amazon’s survival sandbox whatever MMORPG New World won’t be ready in 2019, but the company will announce special benefits for Prime members when the game does launch.  I hope it will be something more than expedited delivery from the in-game version of Whole Foods.

Nope. New World has disappeared into a black hole for months after testing.  Apparently it might end up being a thing next year, but I’ll believe it when it actually launches.  0 points.

24 – Behindcraft

While Microsoft and Mojang haven’t given up on Minecraft – Java Edition, which is the Mac, PC, and Linux version of Minecraft that lacks a cash shop, it has clearly slowed down development.  The rest of Minecraft has pandas and new cats and stuff while Java is getting development snapshots still.  This trend will continue as the Java code base won’t release the panda update until March and that will be the only update to be released for Java in 2019.

I mean… sorta.  Java got the update in April, so close on that I guess.  But the updates have gone to something of an annual cycle, so getting another update… as opposed to bug fixes… was never in the cards to begin with.  2 points for being close on that date.

25 – Avatar’s Shroud

Shroud of the Avatar will see further constrictions, if not an outright closure, in 2019.  Like most early access games, it used up the goodwill of all but the most dedicated fans as it was being built out and now nobody is left interested in buying a copy.

Lord British has grown bored and his remote mechanical telepresense has rolled off into the sunset in Austin.  Potalarium is… no more I think.  Some other company owns the game, being setup as a last ditch effort to keep it alive.  Predicting the online aspects of the game going dark in 2020 wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch.  10 points.

26 – Guild Wars 2 Continues

The pattern seems to be an expansion every could of years.  That is about as deep as my insight into the game really goes at this point.  But given that, I expect they will announce an expansion this year set for launch in 2020.

Nope.  Not really.  They’re just re-arranging the deck chairs over there at ANet these days.  0 points.

27 – Cattle Royale

As we saw the final rounds of the MOBA shake out with Blizz cutting back on Heroes of the Storm, the culling of the Battle Royale pretenders will commence in earnest.  Anybody for whom Battle Royale is just a mode tacked on to an already solid franchise, as with CS:GO, won’t have much to worry about, but anybody all-in on that alone… that isn’t Fortnite or PUBG… will be dead or dying by the end of the year.  This will be most unfortunate for the late comers that show up this year.  Also, how they hell am I even going to score this one.  See what I mean?

I’m giving myself 1 point for H1Z1, Z1 Battle Royale, and PlanetSide Arena.  They all stunk on ice and remain alive only because somebody has an unrealistic hope still.

Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction

Sony buys back some, if not all, of Daybreak from Jason Epstein at the bankruptcy sale at discount prices.  If Daybreak is headed for a fall, who has the most to lose?  At this point, aside from Daybreak itself, Sony makes a tidy sum on the PlayStation 4 from DC Universe Online and, for the moment, H1Z1.  Maybe they also make a bit from PlanetSide 2, but I’d be surprised at that.  20 bonus points if it comes to pass.

No bonus points here.

Double Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction

Daybreak announces a new EverQuest title, sells pre-orders, never makes it to early access, and shuts everything down without any refunds.  I want 40 bonus points if that happens.

And none here either.

Score

Out of 270 possible points this year I managed to only earn a meager 82 points, giving me a 30% success rate, such that it was.  Still, not my lowest percentage ever!  I was at 25% in 2017, and have done worse than that.

As with Jeane Dixon, I am sure people will forget all the failed predictions and just remember the time I called the next expansion for EverQuest II and being based in Kunark or last year when my wild-ass prediction was that CCP would be acquired.  After all, that is all I am ever going to mention, right?

So another year has passed and now I have to think about what the next year will look like.  Will I go with New Year’s predictions again?  Or should I try something else to see in the launch of a new decade?  Is it time for another turn at something like goals, questions, or aspirations?  Tune in on January 1st to find out.

Others reviewing predictions:

WoW Classic gets Battlegrounds and Key Rings Today

Today’s WoW Classic US downtime sees the deployment of World of Warcraft Classic version 1.13.3. (EU realms won’t get this until 1am tomorrow if I read things right… but that will still be today here.)

Classic is as classic does

This update brings with it a few changes, the biggest being the introduction of battlegrounds to WoW Classic.

After the introduction of world PvP and the honor system with phase two of the WoW Classic plan caused… issues… like the expected non-stop gankfests made more sinister by increased populations relative to vanilla and the usual faction imbalances on servers (there might be an all Horde server now)… and also how honor is even calculated… led Blizzard to introduce battlegrounds early, before they got around to the full phase three release.

So, as of today we now have the Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley battlegrounds available, one of the first vanilla things you could queue up for… not counting the queue to get onto the server.

Warsong Gulch is the 10 vs 10 player capture the flag game that allow players level 10 and higher to join in.  It is divided into level brackets (10 to 19, 20 to 29, etc) along with the level 60 bracket.  Last week a level 19 hunter twink in planning paid me 5g to take him through the quest in Duskwood that has the special quiver as a reward, all while he was in ghost form because he was afraid the xp would level him up.  So expect a lot of that.

Alterac Valley is the 40 vs 40 epic zone struggle that allows players level 51 and up vie for control of the zone.  I’ve done Alterac dozens of times and I am still not sure how the whole thing even works.  I just follow the mass and kill the things.

Whether or not these two will take any pressure off the gank fever on the PvP servers remains to be seen.  I suspect life will remain miserable for many.

Also on the list of things WoW Classic is getting today is elemental invasions.  In the zones Un’goro Crater, Azshara, Winterspring, and Silithus elemental invaders will be showing up.  I am sure this is in furtherance of some event, but I honestly don’t recall what at the moment and the patch notes don’t say.

In addition we are also getting the key ring today.  This is a special 12 slot inventory space that lets you store the keys to various things so that they don’t take up your otherwise limited and often critical inventory space.  I have at least three characters that will get an extra inventory spot because the key to the side door of Gnomeregan will go there.  Worth it to me.

Oddly I remember both the key ring being added and later being removed from the game.  If you want to know more about it, WoW Head has a guide.  Just remember it doesn’t show up in the UI until you actually have a key to store in it.

Finally, there appear to be a few changes to the LUA interface to keep addons from doing more than they should, a way to access paid character transfers has been added though such transfers are not yet available, the executable has been renamed, and some bug fixes have come along for the ride.

I have seen some people saying that with all of this we now have phase three in place, but that is not so.  Phase three won’t be fully deployed until Blizzard opens up the Blackwing Lair raid and adds Darkmoon Faire to WoW Classic.  We won’t see those until “early” 2020.  That will bring us up to the July 2005 level of vanilla content.

Somebody did a nice post about the phases of WoW Classic if you are interested in what else is coming.

Now back to my nice comfortable PvE-RP server where open world PvP issues aren’t really a thing.

Top Five Rejected WoW Squish Ideas

We know Blizzard isn’t exactly a font of new ideas.  When they find something that works, they like to re-use it, to hone it, and to stick it in completely unexpected and inappropriate situations.  We have had the stats squish twice already, and what essentially adds up to a server squish on retail. (They don’t merge servers like failing games! But suddenly two servers now behave like one.)  At BlizzCon we were told that the level squish is coming coming with the Shadowlands expansion next year.  So squishing is clearly a thing at Blizz.

As it turns out, there was a leak recently that showed some of the other things that Blizzard has been considering squishing as part of an attempt to revitalize the game.  A few of them have made their way to me.

Jeff Kaplan hearing about more leaks…

  • Gold Squish

The economy has been a big concern for Blizzard.  They put in easy gold faucets so that casual players can obtain enough gold to stay afloat, but hardcore players exploit and farm every such faucet.  Even after boosting the cap on gold, more and more players are ending up at the 10 million mark.  The various sinks do not absorb enough gold as most of them tend to be one-time purchases and players with maximum gold tend to distort the auction house.

So the idea of a “gold squish” was floated.  The plan was to simply cut the amount of gold on every character by 50%.  The whole thing was easy to understand and affected everybody equally.

However the idea was scrapped when feedback from focus groups indicated that reinstating Blitzchung’s original year long suspension, taking his prize money away again, and incorporating the flag of the People’s Republic of China into the Blizzard logo would be more popular with fans than taking any of their gold away.

  • Alt Squish

Name usage and database size are big issues when it comes to a game the size of WoW.  People make alts, roll up on multiple servers, and generally use up all the names and hoard stuff in their banks until the database tables runneth over and a new player cannot show up and roll up a new toon without putting special characters in their name.

A management consultant group came up with the idea of “squishing” player alts that had been idle for a specific amount of time into a special “conglomerate” character that would total up all the currency, experience, and inventory into a single meta character.  If a player returned, they could activate that meta character, selecting sex, race, and class and collect all of the combined assets into one new character.  Names would be freed up and the idea of being able to get a new, revitalized character might bring people back to the game.

However, somebody pointed out that this might cut into level boost sales while the database team complained that there wasn’t a lot of benefit to them unless there was also something like an inventory squish as well, so the whole idea was scrapped.

  • Guild Squish

As with alts, there are many idle guilds with inactive membership roles littering Azeroth.  Similar to the alt squish, the plan was to create something like an unnamed meta guild and push together sets of inactive guilds on individual servers into them.  Which ever member of any of the guilds logged on first got the meta guild, could name it, and was named leader, after which they could do with it as they pleased.

After much discussion it was decided that it was easier to just stick to the current plan where the database team would just delete inactive guilds and if anybody called customer support about such a guild, a flag would come up to prompt the agent to tell the caller that it looked like one of the member accounts got hacked, took over the guild, then was deleted for suspicious activity, then lecture them about the importance of account security.

  • Battle Pet Squish

In a little over nine years Blizzard cranked out almost 1,250 battle pets in WoW.  Nintendo and Game Freak have been at Pokemon for more than 20 years and across eight game generations still haven’t crossed into four digits.  Some at Blizz were starting to feel that maybe they had gone too fast and that, perhaps, some of the battle pets were not very… special.

A proposal was made to tighten up the battle pet roles by doing what was at one point called “the bug squish,” largely because the roach and moth battle pet population were two of the main targets.

The idea was to squish down the number of battle pets who share the same model and abilities (and have nearly the same name in many cases) to a more discreet number.  Who needs, for example, a dozen variations on the cockroach?  Roaches, moths, frogs, and a few other common model/ability families were facing the squish.

And then the Shadowlands art team spoke up and said that there was no way they were going to be able to produce 200+ new battle pets for the expansion and meet their schedule if they all had to be unique.  Already pressed for time, the idea was dropped.  Expect some new, yet very familiar, roaches, moths, frogs, and whatnot in the next expansion.

  • Expansion Squish

We heard at BlizzCon that the the company felt the path to level cap was too circuitous and confusing.

Before they decided to go the Chromie route, allowing players the initial plan was to mash the expansions together to make the path through to the current expansion more clear.  However, the whole idea fell apart when the group looking into it could not come to a consensus as to which expansions to mash up.

For example, the group seemed fine with Pandaclysm.  However, the strict orderist faction felt that meant you had to either mash up the base game and the first expansion, giving you something like The Vanilla Crusade, or leave the original game alone (good plan) and end up with Wrath of the Burning Crusade.

More radical suggestions included lumping together the three Draenor/Burning Legion related expansions into Legion of the Burning Crusade Warlords, though there was a strong argument made for just  disappearing Warlords of Draenor altogether.

At one extreme point towards the end of the life of the working group it was being proposed that they mash ALL the expansions together into something like Wrath of the Burning Panda Cataclysmic Vanilla Warlord Legion of Azeroth when one wag at the back of the room suggested that maybe they shouldn’t mash any of the expansions together and just make them all scale across the the same range of levels so the player could decide.

You get to choose

The idea was accepted, the working group was disbanded, and we got the result at BlizzCon.  It was an expansion squish of a different color, but one all the same.

No. I’d Rather Kill Rats.

In keeping with the anniversary theme of this year, and dipping once again into the Computer Gaming World archive.  I give you the ad that ran in the December 2004 issue, which hit news stands and mail boxes in November.

Computer Gaming World Issue 245 – December 2004

A two-page spread isn’t so bad.  Since I am working from a scan, ads spread across two pages don’t line up unless I leave an appropriate gap.  That is a decent screen shot to capture a bit of the game.  It feels like it is in Stranglethorn Vale maybe?  I’m sure somebody will know where it is set.  I’m not sure there is such a dragon there abouts, but maybe there was at one time.

The only fly in the ointment was that the ad was way back on pages 78-79.  That’s the back half of the magazine, the cheap seats.  Diablo II didn’t have to put up with anything that far back in the magazine.  That position placed it lower in precedence than the horrible Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude ad, another Vivendi title, which got the opening pages, and the IGE.com gold seller ad, which holds the back cover.

I suppose at least it was a few pages ahead of the Saga of Ryzom ad.

You might get a sense of how tentative the launch date for WoW actually was from this ad.  Placement of ad copy has to happen a couple months in advance.  So when this ad suggests that you sign up for the beta, it means that likely back in August or so they were really not feeling firm about November.

Again, as I have said in the past, CGW isn’t any sort of definitive measure.  It wasn’t the biggest video game magazine out there.  But it was scrappy and it jumped on big titles to sell copies.  And on the cover of that issue was EverQuest II.  You can see that cover, and download a .pdf of the whole thing, here.

Anyway, happy fifteenth anniversary to World of Warcraft!  I didn’t get around to playing until early March 2005.  When WoW launched I was with Jeff Green, wading into post-cataclysm Norrath wondering if the lighting that was EverQuest might strike twice.

Also, you can totally kill rats in Azeroth if you want.  Sure, that quest in the tram station just has you charm them, but with the implication that they were to be turned into kebabs, which I find to be something of a distinction without a difference.  And the fact that they went hard on the bear, boar, wolf quest kill quests doesn’t exactly represent a leap in the genre.

Where they really innovated was in the realm of poop and outhouse related quests.  Why don’t we have a trailer about that?  Where is my poop parade?

Oh, and today also marks the 25th anniversary since the launch of the Warcraft franchise.

Warcraft has been a thing for almost half my lifetime.

Friday Bullet Points About Aether Wars, Stadia, and Other Things

It is Friday and, as often happens, I have a few items which I want to note but which I do not really want to create whole blog posts about.

  • Aether Wars

Tomorrow is the day, the time for the big attempt at the world record for most players together in an online battle… or so CCP and Hadean keep telling me.  They have had a count down all week on Twitter.  But it is tomorrow, Sat 23 Nov 2019 at 20:00 UTC.

Aether Wars Tech Demo

As I mentioned in my previous post, the client is available on Steam.  It is a quick and easy download and you don’t have to register or sign up or anything, just launch the game when the time for the event comes up.  The event itself has not changed much since the summer version, which I wrote about here.

See you there tomorrow?  What if I told you there was a Steam achievement for joining it?  Because there is.

You could also win an all expenses paid trip to Fanfest 2020 in Iceland by just showing up, but I am betting the achievement will have more influence on who plays.

  • Stadia Launches

Google’s cloud gaming service, Google Stadia, went live this week.  Reports were that the phone app required to configure the service and buy games was downloaded 175,000 times, which doesn’t exactly put the launch into the realm of unqualified successes.  However, the launch was only for people who pre-ordered the $129 Chromecast Ultra package.  Numbers will no doubt go up when the free version is released next year, but the press has not been kind to it and data usage could still be a problem for some.

Like some others, I don’t really get why Stadia is even worth considering relative to any of the possible alternatives, which might just mean I am not the target audience.  Still, there was an excellent long Twitter thread comparing Stadia to a similar product design from the past that stirred up my own lingering feeling that Google was doing this more because they can than because they believed there was a market.

But the real pessimists have started a countdown clock to Stadia’s expected demise, a number reached based on the average life of Google products.  And they do have a point.

  • Minecraft Plans

I was going to mention this previously… and then forgot.  Such is my life.  But back at Minecon it was announced that the next update for Minecraft will focus on the Nether, adding new biomes and structures and mobs.  There are some basic details here  However, if you put a bed down in the Nether and try to sleep in it, it will still explode.

As usual, the update will only affect new worlds or areas explored after the update drops.

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield Sells Big

I mentioned last Friday that Pokemon Sword & Shield was launching.

The core RPG line continues

While I wasn’t buying a copy… we don’t own a Switch… it turns out a lot of people were on board with the new game as it sold around six million copies in the first week, making it the fastest selling Nintendo Switch title so far.

Announce you’re making a real core Pokemon RPG game and people will line up.

  • Mobile WoW When?

Bobby Kotick was up talking about the idea of perpetual franchises, which I guess is the line you take when you cannot make anything new that outsells the stuff you already have.  Seriously, the Activision Blizzard big money makers remain World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Candy Crush Saga.

As part of that he said that the growth would be staggering once they brought all of these to phones.  That makes me want to ask where Diablo Immortal is, but never mind.  However it sure sounds like we’re going to get some flavor of Warcraft on mobile.  Maybe.  Some day.

Quote of the Day for WoW Classic Fans

World of Warcraft® Classic drove the biggest quarterly increase to subscription plans in franchise history, in both the West and East.

-Activision-Blizzard Q3 2019 earnings report

WoW Classic brings another ray of sunshine.

Given what SuperData told us about WoW Classic previously, this was not unexpected.

This ray of sunshine however comes amidst some cloudy skies at A-B.

The company took a lot of heat at the start of the year when it announced layoffs in practically the same breath in which it announced record financial performances.  While people were outraged, the 2019 financial reports have supported the company’s pessimism.  Blizzard was especially hard hit with its margins dropping from 30% to 16% in Q1 2019 as Battle for Azeroth shed players while the company had nothing else new to attract people.  And things have remained down.  The charts show that Blizz has recovered a bit on margins, but now Activision is was down.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2019 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

And the talk at the presentation was largely about the long term tent pole products, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.  Even as they try to diversify their stable of titles, the old champions have to carry water for everybody.  Even the up part of company, King and its mobile games, the emphasis was on the Candy Crush franchise.

This is a very common problem, creating a popular and very profitable product then never being able to create something that could match, much less surpass, that product.

There was even mention of possibly beefing up the WoW team.  And, it was recognized that WoW Classic gave the company a boost during an “off” year when WoW did not have an expansion set to go.  There was some uncertainty about how sustainable WoW Classic would be over the long term.  And certainly, if they don’t do anything else with it, it will dwindle off to a much smaller population.

Finally, Q3 ended on September 30, 2019.  The Hong Kong debacle did not come to pass until mid-October, so that may put something of a damper on Blizzard numbers for Q4.  Opening up pre-orders for Shadowlands during BlizzCon may offset that somewhat, but that is a short term solution for a long term problem.

You can find all of the quarterly result information at the Activision Blizzard investor relations site.