Category Archives: Diablo II

July in Review

The Site

A few months ago I mentioned that I had decided to confront the spam comment problem on the site by closing down comments on posts more than 800 days old.  I was a bit hesitant to do that, because I really don’t mind comments on older posts, so long as they are from real people.  But the whole spam comment thing was becoming a pain to deal with and I was more concerned about losing the occasional legitimate comment in the spam filter when there were a couple thousand comments in there than somebody leaving a message on a post about Air Warrior that I wrote more than a decade ago.  Sorry man.

Meanwhile, I have also been noting that ad revenue has been down.  The first couple of months I had ads on the blog it was bringing in close to $20 a month.  More recently it has been down around $10 a month.  That is fine, as it covers the Premium hosting plan I have with WordPress.com, but I always just wonder why things like that change.

And then about mid-month some comment spam bot hit the site, targeting more recent posts, and suddenly there were more than a thousand comments in the spam filter to deal with.  Just like old times.

Then I was looking at the daily stats for the number of ads served and saw a big spike, but that spike did not correspond with any sort of increase in traffic.  How strange.

“Spike” is a relative term here

What I realized a while later was that the spike in the number of ads served corresponded with the day that I got the burst of comment spam.

Spam bot comments generate ad revenue!

And here I had turned off the spigot on my own revenue hose by closing down comments on older posts.  Oh well.  As I said, as long as the revenue covers my annual hosting cost, I am fine.  But if you want to make more money, leave those old posts open up for comments!

Anyway, as always, if you’re going to visit here regularly I suggest using an ad blocker.  Let the comment spam bots pay my annual hosting fee!

Meanwhile, on the Bing front, nothing I have done in the Bing Webmaster Tools has managed to shake their embargo of my site.  Their graph… which is a copy of the graph Google uses in their own Search Console Tools, right down to the colors of the lines… shows my site as a flat line from June 8th forward.

But my WordPress.com stats show some traffic.

Search Engine traffic for July 2022

Now, I have said in the past, web traffic stats are garbage, useful for trends but not accurate enough to be more than a hand wave.  Still, I do wonder how it came up with four Bing and two Yahoo referrals, since Bing is resolute in saying they have sent me nothing.

Meanwhile, it was a banner month for Yandex and Baidu, who made up for the missing Bing traffic.  I cannot explain that either.

One Year Ago

There was the usual Steam Summer Sale.  When it ended it turned out that I actually bought a few titles.  That led me to sum up what I had played so far in 2021.

At home we were still binge watching TV despite there being a lull in the pandemic.  We watched Community, Hacks, Manifest, and The Kominsky Method.

My wife and I completed Pokemon Go Fest 2021, in part because the cut the price to $4.99.

Lord of the Rings Online launched the Shadowfax and Treebeard special servers for a fast or a slow run through the game’s content.  I was also on about how much stuff ends up in my bags when I start a new character in LOTRO due to my having been around the game since launch and owning all the expansions.

The instance group was into Burning Crusade Classic and finally creating a guild tabard.  We finally had some gold, in part because I was scarfing up thorium in Frostwhisper Gorge.  Meanwhile, I was MIA from Outland leveling up alts back in the vanilla content due to the eased level curve and better traits.

Somebody once again claiming they could dictate what immersion meant to other people got me on a kick to explore what immersion meant to me.  It is a complex and somewhat less than tangible topic, but I wanted to go down that rabbit hole.  Middle-earth was one of my first stops on that exploration.

World War Bee was hitting its nadir, with a declaration that PAPI was going to take the summer off.  But lots of people were taking the summer off it seemed as the PCU, which had kept around 30K most weeks, dropped down to 25K.  Fraternity, however, was getting tired of the war and demanded and end to it, so PAPI came up with a plan to win in four weeks.  CCP also said that scarcity would be over in Q4, which turned out to be a flagrant lie.

Anyway, this is what I wrote about EVE Online in July of 2021:

Then, past me, whom I really hate, wrote four freaking Friday Bullet Point blog posts that were each all over the map.

The first was about Crowfall shipping, RimWorld Ideology, some stats from the Burning Crusade Classic beta, and Minmatar Liberation Day.

The second mentioned the Steam Deck announcement, Pokemon Go anniversary items, the Diablo II Resurrected alpha, and the reserve bank keys coming to EVE Online.

The third was on about the New World beta, the Path of Exile expansion, EverQuest offering old items, and Blizzard’s big harassment scandal starting to come to light.

And the fourth carried on with MORE about Blizzard’s scandal, the Guild Wars 2 expansion, bards coming to Neverwinter, Crimson Desert failing to ship, and a panic about California having some power consumption recommendations for gaming PCs.

It was quite a July.

Finally, there was the traditional announcement that Blaugust was coming.

Five Years Ago

We adopted a new kitten.  He is much bigger now.

The Steam Summer Sale wrapped up and I went over what I bought and what I considered buying, but then passed on.

Amazon Prime Day came and went and I realized I had been buying things from Amazon for 20 years.

I started using a dual monitor setup at home.  It took me a while to get used to it… I would turn off the second monitor a lot early on… but it seems natural enough now.

Gevlon was telling us about the corrupt game developer career path.  I bet you wish you knew it was just that easy to get rich.

The call of nostalgia got me to subscribe to EverQuest II for a bit to try the Fallen Gate progression server.  I got far enough to get the crazy mount.

In EVE Online Reavers were deployed in the east of New Eden where we helped blow up a Fortizar in the Great Wildlands.  CCP has used a picture from that fight a couple of times. It then took us two days to get back to Delve, during which we argued about BBQ sauce.

Back in Delve we covered the deployment of another Keepstar in the region.  I was also producing mechanical parts via PI.  And I tinkered around with one of my Alpha clones, running some of the profession quests and mining in a Vulture… I mean a Venture.

The July update for EVE Online brought us revamped Strategic Cruisers… the start of the reign of Loki supremacy… as well as an update to Project Discovery.

It was also announced that the captain’s quarters would soon be removed from the game.

We also got our first taste of The Agency in New Eden.  It was just an event at the time, though it would grow to be all things PvE soon enough.

And CSM member Jin’taan was advocating for cat ears in space.

I found that Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin still ran on my system.  A great old war game.

Albion Online launched.  I didn’t play it.

And, finally, Lord of the Rings Online got us to Mordor.  It only took ten years.  I bought in, but then there was the question of how to proceed… and with whom… and how to get back into the swing of a game I hadn’t played for ages.  I returned to one of my favorite places in the game, Annuminas

Ten Years Ago

In New Eden my heart went “Boum!

Elligium took its pandas and went home.

Blizzard set the date for Mists of Pandaria.

There was a Steam Summer Sale.

The Secret World launched.  I never played it.

I was wondering if Torchlight II could live up to its potential.

Ultima Forever!  A shot across Lord British’s bow.

Rift decided to sell mounts for cash.  It wasn’t like they were going free to play though… not yet, anyway.

Let it be noted that not all Kickstarters fail.  There was the Defense Grid expansion Kickstarter.  I kicked in, they built it, I played it.  Simple as that, and much better than any 99 cent app I have purchased.  And I still get a free copy of their next Defense Grid game when it comes out.

I wondered aloud if nostalgia servers… official ones… would remain the sole domain of EverQuest.

Meanwhile SOE was talking about Vanguard’s free to play plan.

I was underwhelmed at the so-called “reskin” of Qeynos in EverQuest II.  The sorrow of Qeynos knows no end.

In EVE Online, there was war in Delve… again… if only I could get there.  There were battles in 49-U6U, C3N-3S, and DSS-EZ, a conga line in 319-3D (where we also watched the alliance tournament), and a flying titan in F2OY-X.  The tiny Wallpapers Alliance held out longer than Nulli Secunda, before being crushed.

Then having done the heavy lifting for TEST, the CFC was asked to go home.  TEST was going to be its own alliance, but we would all remain the best of friends in the big blue donut of love.  Anyway, it was time for a convoy back to Deklein.  Somewhere along the way I got a warning from CCP for causing lag.

And there was also a link to a list of things to do in EVE Online.

Fifteen Years Ago

Hey, it was time for the Revelations expansion in EVE Online, and I was running through the updated new player tutorial. It was a huge improvement over what I went through when I started the game, though I ran into a glitch or two.

The instance group was still off in Lord of the Rings Online for the Summer, though we were having issues at The Great Barrow when we weren’t playing Truth or Dare.

Vanguard was already planning server merges. 13 servers were being reduced down to 4.

EverQuest II got its own magazine… again (okay, it was an SOE magazine for Station Access subscribers the first time around, but it had an EQ2 scantily clad dark elf on the cover!)… in the form of EQuinox. And they were offering Rise of Kunark beta access to subscribers!

Dr. Richard Bartle, keeping to his strict regime of “one controversial fanboi enraging quote every summer” said he would like to improve the MMORPG species by turning off World of Warcraft Seemed kind of mild after the next year’s entry and reaction!

Perpetual was making crazy-insane statements about Star Trek Online… like no Galaxy-class starships for you! Ships that size were planned to be “space cities” and quest hubs. Back then I told Cryptic take note: If I cannot aspire to be Captain Kirk, I am not sure I want to play! Or just go read Tipa’s post on the subject.

The end of Auto Assault was announced by NCsoft and I took note and pondered a (silly) solution.

I stopped in front of SOE headquarters for a picture. (Mirror universe Wilhelm, with goatee.)

Microsoft finally announced a warranty extension due to the “red ring of death” problem with the XBox 360.

And Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw did his fist Zero Punctuation video.

Twenty Years Ago

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos launched, the third and final major installment in the Blizzard Warcraft RTS franchise.  From a graphical and story perspective it was very much a prototype for World of Warcraft.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Neverwinter Nights, the proto-MMO that ran on AOL and not the BioWare game of the same name, was shut down after running for six years on the service.  Given the rate of change computers went through in the 90s, that was quite a run.

Forty Years Ago

Timex Sinclair released the TS1000, a modified version of the Sinclair ZX81 that was modified for US TV signal compatibility.  I had one of them for a brief period later that year.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Fruits of the Cultural Revolution
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. EVE Valkyrie, Gunjack, and Sparc All Coming to an End on August 5th
  5. CCP Lets EVE Online Players with Multiple Accounts Subscribe Secondary Accounts at a Lower Price
  6. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  7. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  8. The June Update Brings DirectX 12 Support to EVE Online
  9. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  10. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  11. Things Like Valheim in a Post MMORPG World
  12. CCP Promises “a very special offer” if you Link Multiple EVE Online Accounts to the Same Email Address

Search Terms of the Month

lm-composite molecular condenser
[That’s a new one… no idea]

to get to the elder in valhiem do i need a boat?
[Probably? Eikthyr is the only guaranteed walkable boss]

what happened to battleclinic.com
[All good things…]

rimworld crap game
[RimWorld no crap, RimWorld good]

rimworld dangerous bad game
[Seriously, where is this coming from?]

Game Time from ManicTime

July saw some new titles appear as well as an old title top the list.

  1. Minecraft – 36.33%
  2. Solasta – 25.70%
  3. EVE Online – 22.78%
  4. WoW Classic – 8.03%
  5. Raft – 6.99%
  6. World of Warcraft – 0.18%

However, July was also absolutely the lowest play time number of the year so far overall, running at just over half the time spent playing in June, which was the previously low ebb of the year.  But, as you can see, a perennial favorite here has reappeared on the list.  Will going back there get me playing more?

EVE Online

Well, that was a month in New Eden.  We had the downfall of The Mittani, which constitutes a major change in the political landscape of null sec.  The Imperium got a harassment policy and reporting process as a result of the fallout.  And even CCP woke up from their usual summer snooze to remind people they shouldn’t be bad and… well, they went back to sleep after that.

I didn’t exactly blaze a trail in game either in July.  I went on a couple of ops, but overall I didn’t spend a lot of time playing.

Minecraft

The month started out strong with Minecraft.  It seemed like something that would keep our attention for a while, what with all the new things that came into the game since we last played.  And that lasted for about two weeks.  Minecraft is an excellent game when you have a project in mind.  I can play for hours listening to an audio book or some pod casts.  But if I don’t have something driving me it can feel kind of empty.

Pokemon Go

I kept plugging away at Pokemon Go, though the fact that I now leave the house about once a week has slowed me down somewhat.  If it wasn’t for remote raid passes and the fact that incense now works decently, I would be even further behind my wife.  She’s a sales rep, so she leave the house all the time while I work from home.

Level: 42 ( 66.6% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 717 (+3) caught, 739 (+4) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 21
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Wimpod

Raft

We spent some time with Raft.  As I said in my post about it, not a bad game.  It didn’t grab me and it doesn’t seem to be a fit with for the group, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its merits.  And hey, I played another new game.

Solasta

Potshot and I spent some time playing this, and it has its merits.  It is very much a representation of table top fantasy role playing games.  But, in our group, I think that might be just a thing the two of us like.  It wasn’t an easy sell… or any sort of a sell… to anybody else.

World of Warcraft / WoW Classic

Yeah, I have resubscribed.  We’ll get to that in the coming week I am sure.  But all of the play time counted above was pretty much just yesterday.

Zwift

At some point I am going to write a post about where all my gaming time went over the last few months, but it has been at low ebb, with July ringing in the fewest hours spent playing so far this year.  This has also had an impact on exercise.  I still get on the bike, but not as often as I might like.

  • Level – 15 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 1,104.4 miles (+64.5 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 44,337 (+2,044 feet)
  • Calories burned – 36,215 (+2,002)

Coming Up

It is Blaugust tomorrow… so you can probably expect tomorrow’s post to be something Blaugust related.

There is, of course, the return to Azeroth to ponder.  I still really haven’t made a plan, so it seems like I’ll be improvising until I figure one out.  But the group seems keen to return after having been away.

New leader of the Imperium Asher Elias is trying to get the coalition serious about our war in the southeast against FI.RE.  That could be interesting and, if his call is heeded and it draws a response from our traditional foes, might even help the currently sagging online numbers for the game.

I do wonder if we’ll get the EVE Online monthly economic report tomorrow.  CCP Estimate has been on top of that.  But, more so, I wonder what the numbers will tell us given the state of the PCU in July.

We’ll no doubt be getting some financial results from Activision Blizzard.  They’ll short and to the point without a call or a slide deck, but they still have to report something.  They can’t hide in Microsoft’s financials yet.

And I am sure there will be more.  It will be August already, and I am not sure how that happened.  But there we are.

A Decade in the Shadow of Error 37

What was going on ten years ago?  I mean, I guess you’ll get a full run down in a couple of days with my inevitable May in Review post, but work with me here for a bit.  But today we have a special anniversary to talk about.

Back in May 2012 people were trying to play the newly launched Diablo III and complaining about the dreaded error 37 that plagued the early days of the game.

Oh, I remember that

That was just the first of many issues Diablo III faced.  For example, there was error 75.

Once we could all log the game wasn’t bad, but there were the problems the itemization and the auction house, both the in game money version and the RMT version.

Wyatt “don’t you guys have phones” Cheng, the principle game designer on the Diablo team, gets irked if you suggest that the itemization was designed to force players to use the auction house (I’m too lazy to find his rant from a few months ago on Twitter), but it sure seemed like the simplest explanation.  If you take that out of the equation, then the team just messed up on itemization horribly because at-level drops were badly under powered for the content and the only way around it was to got to the auction house.

Still, even with that, it wasn’t a bad game.  The most controversial post I wrote in 2012 was probably the one where I said there wasn’t much of a gap between it and Torchlight II, which raised the hackles of a few Torchlight supporters.  A post with 38 comments is what passes for controversy around here.

That was, in part, because there was some rivalry between who would carry inherit the mantle of successor from Diablo II, the official next in the series, Diablo III, or something in the same spirit from a few of the same people who made Diablo II, which was the Torchlight story.

And then there was the dark horse, Path of Exile, the late entry in the race.

In the end, none of them really captured all of Diablo II.

Diablo III got story, Torchlight II got mods, and Path of Exile got atmosphere, but none were really a substitute for the original.  And then Blizzard gave us Diablo II Resurrected, after which nobody was really the successor because the original was alive and well again.

Meanwhile, over the last decade Blizzard spent a lot more time with Diablo III than its predecessor.  It got the Reaper of Souls expansion, which on the PC side of the house fixed itemization and got rid of the auction houses, both gold and RMT based.  That was a HUGE improvement for the game.  Then they did seasons and updates and a mini-expansion.

They did a lot better by it than they did Diablo II… at least until Diablo II Resurrected.

I even named Diablo III my ARPG of the decade, based primarily on play time.  I found it more engaging and playable than either of it rivals… and the Diablo II revival didn’t arrive until last year.

Now we’re about due for another Diablo title.  It took almost a dozen years to go from Diablo II to Diablo III, and we look to be about on the same time track as we wait for Diablo IV.

Friday Bullet Points on a Chilly Spring Saturday

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

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

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

Enad Global 7

  • EG7 Dropping Russia

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

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

Database evolution

  • EVE Online Database History

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

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

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

A new drama generator

  • RimWorld is Legal in Australia Again

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

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

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

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

The return of the classic

  • Diablo II Resurrected Gets Ladders and more

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

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

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

Playable Worlds

  • Playable Worlds gets $25 Million in Funding

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

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

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

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

Specifics about the project were not forthcoming.

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

Blizzard Sinks Slightly in the Low Key 2021 Financial Results Announcement

Citing the planned Microsoft acquisition, Activision Blizzard did not feel the need to go through the full dog and pony show when announcing their Q4 2021 and full 2021 financial results.

No fun graphics, no fancy slide deck, and no investor call for questions.   The minimum financial reporting requirements were met and that was it, no time for awkward questions about unions, the ongoing problems with the state of California, Blizzard’s product roadmap, or exactly how much cash Bobby Kotick will walk away with when he hands over the keys to Phil Spencer.

It will all be Microsoft’s problem soon enough I suppose… if the FTC is good with that.

As I noted at the end of my month in review post, should Microsoft’s purchase go through, we’ll probably be getting even less detail about what is going on at Blizzard, as they’ll be a part of a much bigger organization.  I’m not sure it will be like SOE being completely invisible in Sony’s financial statements back in the day, but they probably won’t get their own slide in a presentation once it happens.

Anyway, over on the investor relations site… and that will go away once the deal is done, so somebody back that up… you can find a press release and a PDF file that has all the bits and pieces of information we usually get.  Just, as I noted, no snappy graphics.

Overall the company earned $2,163 billion in Q4 2021, down from the $2.413 billion earned in the same quarter in 2020, but that was still a bit more than the advisory they put out in Q3 2021.

Blizzard itself earned $419 million in Q4 2021, down noticeably from the $493 million posted in Q3.  That is also off from the $433 posted in Q2 and the $483 million posted in Q1, making the normally lucrative holiday season the lowest quarter for the division.  But that is what happens when you don’t have anything new to sell for the holidays.

Overall Activision Blizzard brought in $8.8 billion in 2021, up from the $8.09 billion they booked in 2020, largely on the back of Activision figuring out new ways to make the Call of Duty franchise pay.

By itself Blizzard brought in $1.827 billion of that in 2021, down from the $1.905 billion the division earned in 2020, but that is what you get when you ship zero new products and have to rely on remakes and remasters.  Over at Massively OP, where they have been tracking the Monthly Active User numbers (MAU), they reported that Blizz only pulled in 24 million MAUs in Q3, down again, with the long term trend showing 14 million monthly users fewer than back in Q1 2018.

The report had this to say for Blizzard and its prospects:

  • Within the Warcraft franchise, fourth quarter World of Warcraft reach and engagement continued to benefit from the combination of the Modern game and Classic under a single subscription. In 2021, World of Warcraft delivered its strongest engagement and net bookings outside of a Modern expansion year in a decade. Hearthstone fourth quarter net bookings grew year-over-year, driven by a steady cadence of new content.
  • Blizzard is planning substantial new content for the Warcraft franchise in 2022, including new experiences in World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, and getting all-new mobile Warcraft content into players’ hands for the first time.
  • In the Diablo franchise, Diablo II: Resurrected sold through more units from its September release until the year end than any other Activision Blizzard remaster over an equivalent period. On mobile, Diablo Immortal concluded its public testing with positive feedback.
  • Blizzard is making strong progress on its pipeline, including new experiences in Warcraft, ongoing development in Diablo and Overwatch, and an exciting new IP.

Basically, various flavors of WoW, along with Diablo II Resurrected, carried most of the water for the division, though the company does like to be coy and put Hearthstone under the Warcraft IP banner.  But WoW still probably brought in close to a billion dollars in 2021, even with a foundering retail experience.

Nostalgia has paid off as WoW Classic has turned out to be as popular as many of us thought it would be.  I know I said I’d lay off him on his famous quote, but I really want to ask J. Allen Brack where Blizz numbers would be today if we really didn’t want vanilla.

As for the future, Diablo Immortal is still being dangled out there, as is the threat of some sort of mobile Warcraft related experience. (Some speculation on that here.)  Wake me when they have something to ship.  And there is a reference to the unannounced survival game that Blizzard announced last week, but it is so far out in the future it doesn’t even have a name yet, putting it somewhere behind Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, neither of which will see the light of day in 2022.

Still, things went pretty well for Blizzard considering their legal problems and the fact that they spent much of 2021 living off of 15-20 year old content.  But I suspect they’ll need to ship something new in 2022.

My Games Played for 2021 and Looking Forward into 2022

It is that time again, time to look back at what I played last year and maybe try to get an idea as to what I might play in the coming year.

2020 plus 1

Past Entries

Last year I wasn’t really feeling it for what I might play, probably because the list I made didn’t really pan out, so when I made the call for 2021 I kept it short and sweet.

The likely candidates were:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW
  • Burning Crusade Classic

I also threw out RimWorld, Civilzation V, and maybe World of Tanks as possible candidates to which I might return.

So now is when I look at what I actually played.  I don’t go as into as much detail as Belghast, but my chart is more colorful!  The top ten titles, which represent the games I spent 10 or more hours with in 2021, were:

2021 in gaming for me

Overall I tracked time for 20 games, so the bottom half of the list did not make it to the ten hour mark.

  1. WoW Classic – 29.61%
  2. Valheim – 23.10%
  3. EVE Online – 18.73%
  4. Diablo II – 7.18%
  5. New World – 6.67%
  6. Forza Horizon 4 – 3.68%
  7. Forza Horizon 5 – 2.36%
  8. RimWorld – 2.21%
  9. EverQuest II – 1.77%
  10. Pokemon Pearl – 1.21%
  11. World of Tanks – 0.92%
  12. War in the Pacific – 0.56%
  13. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.49%
  14. The Fermi Paradox – 0.48%
  15. World of Warcraft – 0.38%
  16. Flashing Lights – 0.36%
  17. Runes of Magic – 0.18%
  18. Art of Rally – 0.13%
  19. Hearthstone – 0.05%
  20. LOTRO – 0.05%

EVE Online was the only title I played through all year, and even that was fairly light once World War Bee ended, which explains why it ranked in third in overall time played.

WoW Classic, which includes Burning Crusade Classic, topped the total time played, but petered out when we were reminded that we did not exactly love The Burning Crusade the first time around.  Our WoW Classic time probably peaked in Blackrock Depths, which we ran into a dozen times at least.  Leaving was made easier by having Blizzard’s behavior exposed.

Valheim, which came out of nowhere to become our obsession for a few months managed to come in second.  We got our money’s worth out of that title, though the content ran out of steam for us and the small team working on it was overwhelmed trying to just keep things going.

Diablo II Resurrected was also a good time for a bit.  New World showed up in September, but we didn’t really start playing it in earnest until more than a month had gone by and the login queues began to subside.

The two flavors of Forza Horizon were in there as well.  I combined them into one row on the chart, though they would have easily both made it on their own.

RimWorld made the cut when the Ideology expansion hit, giving your colonists their own belief systems to work around.

I wandered into EverQuest II for a bit, as I tend to do, but didn’t make a big commitment.

Once it arrived, Pokemon Shining Pearl was a hit for me, making it into the top ten for time played in just the last five days of the year.

And then there was World of Tanks, after which time played starts to drop off rather quickly on the chart.  I suppose my one regret was not being able to get into War in the Pacific, though honestly the biggest hurdle was how tiny the print was on my 34″ monitor.  It is a war game from an earlier age of small monitors with large pixels.

So of the four likely candidates, I did end up playing three of them.  Retail WoW quickly fell off the rotation for me in 2021 as the Shadowlands expansion turned into a repetitive grind for somebody not interested in raiding.  Technically I logged in for quiet a while into the year, but I am not sure you should count the monthly run at Darkmoon Faire as really “playing” the game.  I only did that because I was already subscribed and playing WoW Classic.

Which I guess brings us to the 2022 outlook.

2022 is what we get

Here is what I can see from where I sit this week.

Sure Things

  • EVE Online
  • Forza Horizon
  • New World
  • Pokemon Shining Pearl
  • Stellaris

I already have time logged for all of those this year.  I might give up on them sooner rather than later, but they will be somewhere on the list.  I certainly have much still to do in Shining Pearl and the group seems committed to New World for the time being.  And I just bought some of the DLC for Stellaris, so I’ll play a bit of that I am sure.

Likely Candidates

  • EverQuest II
  • RimWorld
  • World of Tanks
  • WoW Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I own the latest expansion for EQII and am subscribed for another two months, I’ll probably play some.  Likewise, it is easy enough to pick up World of Tanks whenever.

And, naturally,l I started thinking about RimWorld again since I started writing this, which makes it more likely that I will go back and play it.  It happens.

WotLK Classic though, that depends on Blizzard actually shipping it this year, though it feels like that is all the WoW team will manage in 2022, and Blizzard not being a complete shit show that makes me feel bad handing them money.  I am biased towards playing it, that expansion representing what is my likely peak in Azeroth, but I am also wary of Blizz and how they might screw it up or just make doing business with them so unpalatable that I’d rather just stick with the memories.

Maybe, Maybe Not

  • Age of Empires IV
  • LOTRO
  • Valheim

AOE4 is part of the XBox PC subscription, so I just need to download it.  I am just wary of another 100 megabyte download for a title that might not pan out for me.  I haven’t liked anything in the series since AOE2.

LOTRO I want to go back and play now and again, but it looks so bad on my big monitor that they have to do something for wide screen support before I will commit.  If they do that I’ll give it a shot, otherwise I’ll pass.

And then there is Valheim.  I am wary of this because any updates they ship will only apply to unexplored areas, and on the world we build up we explored a lot, including into biomes that should be getting content.  So going back for new content means started over again on a new world, abandoning all of our work.  That might be too much to ask.

Unlikely

  • World of Warcraft
  • Burning Crusade Classic
  • WoW Season of Mastery
  • Diablo Immortal

Okay, I might  try Diablo: Immortal when it arrives, having a phone and all that… though I’ll likely play it on the iPad instead.  But otherwise the theme here is clearly Blizzard games I would be likely to play in past years not drawing much appeal from me in 2021… and honestly it is as much because of their own lack of merit as much as because of anything Blizzard is up to.

And then there are the new games that might show up.  As I have noted in the past, in January of 2021 I wouldn’t have called Valheim, New World, or Pokemon Shining Pearl even being options, yet they all made the cut.  So I am open to some new things, but I cannot see far enough into the future to tell what might show up and tickle my fancy.

Looking Back at 2021 Highs and Lows

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

2020 plus 1

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

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

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

Blizzard

Highs

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

Lows

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

Enad Global 7

Highs

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

Lows

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

CCP

Highs

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

Lows

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

Amazon

Highs

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

Lows

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

Pokemon

Highs

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

Lows

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

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

Highs

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

Lows

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

Television, Books, and the Media

Highs

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

Lows

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

Blogging and Such

Highs

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

Lows

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

Just Life

Highs

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

Lows

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

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

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

Answers to My Questions for 2021

Back at the start of the year I eschewed the usual predictions post and instead went in for a round of questions.  After 2020 I was clearly feeling unprepared to predict anything, though this was not the first time I went down that path.  Now we have hit the middle of December and it is time to see if any of my questions got answers we like.

2020 plus 1

There is a long pattern of me making such posts on the first of the year.

Anyway, let’s get tucked in and see what I can come up with.

What will a return to normalcy bring to the video game industry?

Right off the bat I am going to have to object here to the assumption that we’ve returned to anything like normalcy.  We’re not in 2020 anymore, but we’re not not in 2020 anymore either.  The shadow of that year lay heavily over this one, its poison seeping in.  People who can are still working from home, Covid is still spreading, the economy is still in a bind from the pandemic, and the world still seems to be going to hell at a rapid pace.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Well, at least we have an easy one here.  The answer is “no.”  There are a few reasons, not the least of which is Blizzard not releasing much in the way of additional content and Blizzard being revealed as a nightmarish Dickensian workhouse of misogyny and intolerance.  Also, maybe “run Torghast every day for the next two years” wasn’t the winning plan that somebody thought it was.

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

Another easy one!  And another “no.”   Wyatt Cheng once asked if we had phones.  Many of us probably have new ones since he asked that question at BlizzCon 2018.  Now does he have a game?  That seems to be a more pertinent question at this point.

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

Three for three here on the easy questions, with another big “no” on the tally.  Diablo II Resurrected is about as “new” as they got, and they had Vicarious Visions do the remaster of a twenty year old title for that.  It was a good remaster, but it wasn’t new.

Along with that we had Burning Crusade Classic and WoW Classic Season of Mastery, also not new.  Even the solo mode for Hearthstone didn’t feel very new.  I guess their bigger company issues got in the way for some of that, but it still feels like they came into 2021 just winging it and hoping something would come up.  And, honestly, they don’t seem to have much lined up for 2022.  How can such a big studio… more people work on WoW than most MMO studios have total employees… deliver so little?

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

A reverse merger, with Ji Ham now at the helm?  I wouldn’t have called that one.  Otherwise there has been some promises for the future, but the first year really seemed like business as usual for Daybreak… except maybe they didn’t lay so many people off in 2021.  That’s a plus.

Will Norrath continue to boom?

Kinda, maybe, sorta.  As noted above, things were mostly business as usual.  That has generally been good for the Norrath titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, which get an expansion in November/December and a major content drop in late spring/early summer every year.  So things roll on there.

But when it comes to doing anything new, it is LOTRO they want to put on consoles, DCUO they want to update, and an unannounced Marvel IP MMO that gets all the headlines.  They even keep bringing up H1Z1.  But EverQuest as a franchise?  Any plans for that look to be dead.

What happens with H1Z1?

Nothing.  As I wrote above, EG7 keeps bringing it up when they talk about the important IPs they control.  There is clearly some wishcasting going on about the title returning to the top of the battle royale genre. But actual progress?  There was some mention that they had a few people look into being able to run a build, but otherwise nobody appears to be working H1Z1 in any meaningful way.

At least they stopped renaming it I suppose.

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not with Daybreak and EG7, we know that much.  Somewhere between the announcement that Daybreak was purchasing Cold Iron and the launch of their game Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Cold Iron went somewhere else.  Details are hazy, the story is mostly inferred, but Cold Iron never made it into the EG7 stable of studios.

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Pretend nothing has changed and announce an expansion?  This is the problem with bringing up studios and games I do not watch closely.  A bunch of key people left ANet last year, but back in August they announced the End of Dragons, slated for February 2022, so I guess everything is good.  Maybe?  I don’t really know.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

Nowhere?  Seriously, after the Triglavian story cycle the company has been been focused on the new player experience and trying to force the in-game economy into a form that they believe is best for the long term survival of the game, ignoring the short term “hey, can you give us something fun?” requests from the players.  Short sheeting the economy isn’t fun.  Even if you don’t care about the economy and mock miners and industrialists who are complaining, you have to admit that there is very little fun in what CCP has been doing for the last year.

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

No.  There was a promise over the summer that the end of scarcity was coming.  But the Q4 quadrant, New Dawn: Age of Prosperity, involved very little prosperity.  For every relaxation of the economic restrictions there was some matching nerf to offset things, often hidden behind some oppressive new game mechanic.  CCP said they were listening to feedback, but they mostly slowed their roll a bit (compression will be in 2022 now) and tried re-arranging the deck chairs some (“waste” got renamed to “residue”) as they carried forward with the goal of resetting the economy to some past halcyon state.  I am sure this will end well.

How Will World War Bee End?

The side with the 3:1 numbers advantage got tired and went home.

There are many ways to spin who “won” the war.  PAPI can claim that they forced the Imperium down from four regions to one constellation and destroyed trillions of ISK in ships and structures.  The Imperium can claim that they held out, denied PAPI their stated victory conditions, and in the end destroyed as much in ships and structures as PAPI did.

As for losing the war, that award generally goes to the group that loses their space and has to move elsewhere.  That makes Legacy Coalition, the main instigators of the war under Vily, the losers.  TEST, the leading alliance in Legacy, lost their old space, couldn’t hold their new space, and ended up trying to live as far away from the Imperium as they possibly could.  Brave gets a special mention for losing hardest of all, as not only did they lose their old space and their new space, but now the rest of PAPI is attacking them because Brave sold structures to the Imperium so they could at least asset safety their stuff and get some seed ISK in the bank to carry on.

Really though, the honor of ending the war goes to CCP.  It was already somewhat obvious after the second battle of M2-XFE that their servers were not going to be up to a final mighty battle.  And then CCP made changes to resources and production that made capital ships too valuable to expend freely, so the attackers were limited to subcaps.  In the choice between investing a lot of time and effort in a real blockade of the final Imperium constellation or just going home, they opted to go home.

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

Yes, goddammit, yes they did.  About freaking time.  And it has shipped and there is a copy for me and my daughter under the Christmas tree.  We’ll see how that plays out soon enough.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  I mean, Crowfall went live I think.  I am not sure it will survive, but it shipped.  And they are a stand out in the stable of crowd funded MMOs, which mostly promised things they couldn’t deliver.  Don’t spend money on things that you cannot play today.

Project: Gorgon is the right path, as it was in playable form from the day of the first monetary ask. Camelot Unchained is the wrong path, asking for money, blowing through every promised date ever, and starting a new project before the promised one is even in beta.  And then there is Star Citizen… well, they certainly know how to milk a community.  Star Citizen is a lot of things, but being an actual video game seems to be a few bullets down the list.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

The metaverse maybe?  That seemed to be the topic for 2021.  I don’t know if it is Raph Koster’s desire to remake the simple days of MUDs in the 90s or Mark Zuckerberg’s dystopian vision of an all controlling metaverse that turns our very desires against us, but I guess either might be something new… at least for MMORPGs.

Oh, and something about crypto and NFTs.  But we’ll probably burst that bubble in 2022.

Will I play anything new this year?

Valheim.  That was a bit of a left field star, but ended up being our main game for about two months earlier this year.  New World showed up and, once the initial chaos settled down, the instance group got into the game.  And then there was Forza Horizon 4 & 5.  Open world driving for the win.  There were a couple of other small titles that were new, but nothing that I invested more than a couple of hours in.

That I played three new games made 2021 a departure from the usual routine.  In 2020 80% of my game time was spent in WoW, WoW Classic, and EVE Online.  The year isn’t over yet, but so far those three titles represent less than 50% of my tracked play time.

Will VR get a killer app this year?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  VR will remain a niche so long as it requires a real world obscuring mask strapped to your face… oh, and the motion sickness issue gets addressed.  Ready Player One and Zuckerberg’s idea that we’re all going to live in his ad laden VR metaverse hell is a pipe dream.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

Not really.  The industry’s best defense so far has been regulators being interested in other things to further their own interests.  It has to be a slow news day for lockboxes to make the headlines of late, so politicians and regulators have mostly been busy elsewhere.   Except for Blizzard.   Yeah, Blizzard is having some regulatory issues, though not over lockboxes and that sort of thing, just mundane things like running a hostile, discriminatory work place.  The usual corporate thing.

But the industry keeps on trying to get the government to come down on them hard, with cryto and NFTs on their list of things to try next.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not yet, though Facebook seems to be pushing to have that taken away, because they have the money and the staffing to deal with any new regulations which would help them cement their place in creating our dystopian future… and present… and recent past.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

Write a post about it.  That is my answer for most things I suppose.

So that was the list for 2021.  As those were just questions rather than predictions there is no score.

I think I’ll be able to warm up to doing some predictions for 2022.  I have a couple of weeks to get on it.  But first I need to make a 2022 graphic.

November in Review

The Site

Spam comment bots will hate you if you know this one special trick!  Or they would if they had the capacity to hate.

Over the years I have mentioned how many spam comments that Askismet racks up and how many I end up having to clear out of the spam filter because it isn’t sure.  And then, in looking through yet another thousand spam comment day, hoping to find any false positives in the mix, I noticed that almost all of the spam comments were on old posts, in the 8-12 year old time frame.

Then I was hit by a blinding flash of the obvious and went and set WordPress to not allow comments on posts over a certain age.

The setting I was looking for

Once I clicked the check box it actually worked.

This was not an completely slam dunk idea for me as I don’t mind comments on old posts, and there are a few, like an old one about the Kesmai game Air Warrior that attracts somebody new now and then.  But eventually real people stop showing up.  So I set the timer to turn off comments on posts once they were up for 800 days.  That should give anybody looking to leave a comment plenty of time and I am now much more likely to find false positives in the spam bucket.

And then there are the ads.  Despite serving up only slightly more ads than last month, the total amount earned was over $20, up from $15 in October.  I won’t be able to give up my day job, but the Premium account option will at least pay for itself.  I also think the quality of the ads might be getting better, though I don’t check often enough to make a blanket statement on the topic.

As always, I encourage you to use some sort of ad blocker to keep your browsing safe.  I have on a number of occasions hit a site that demanded I turn off my ad blocker to be able to view their content, only to the have Malwarebytes, my virus protection software of choice, throw an alert that it had to block an ad due to malware.  I never want to be that site.  Be safe on the internet friends.

One Year Ago

EverQuest II celebrated its sweet sixteen with some unexpected downtime.  Oops.  EverQuest was getting ready for the Claws of Veeshan expansion.

World of Warcraft was spinning up for the Shadowlands expansion, and I was getting in a few tasks before it landed.  There was also the beta and something about multiboxing software and the fact that BlizzCon Online being free.  I was also wondering if anybody really needed a level booster after the big level squish.  The ride to 50 was pretty fast.

We were still playing around a bit in the level squished Northrend, trying to do a three person with Prince Keleseth.  That did not end well.  I also started a demon hunter to try the run to 50 in the level squish.  It was a quick run, though it got strange because I wasn’t in quite the right timeline.

Then there were the pre-events in Northrend… and I always love going to Northrend.  There was plenty to do up there.

And then there was the pre-launch calm before we were finally let into Shadowlands.  It seemed like a pretty smooth launch once you got past the crowd in Stormwind.  The zones were quick and fun and I was soon making my debut in the theater of pain. and then off into Ardenweald.

Meanwhile, in WoW Classic, we were working out way to the detention block in Blackrock Depths and then Shadowforge City after which we went walking with Marshal Windsor.

On the WoW Classic front Blizz was talking about plans and bans.

I hit level 40 in Pokemon Go.  I was also using Discord to get overseas raid invites to catch special legendaries.

There were some more shows to write about in the great pandemic binge watch.

And of course there was EVE Online and World War Bee, which I will just sum up in a list of posts:

And so it went.

Five Years Ago

I got back from EVE Vegas and reviewed a bit of what I saw including SKIN changes.  I also borrowed CCP Rise’s Vegas Alpha fit for a trial run.  Of course the Ascension expansion and Alpha Clones were the big deal.  Logging in when the expansion hit wasn’t always easy, but the PCU passed the long distant 50K user mark.

Then suddenly it was election night.  I was in a fleet during which the winner projections turned on their head.  At least we got a tower kill.

Meanwhile back in our old home in the north, the war in Tribute started to come alive.  Sort of.  A bit.  Well, there was some propaganda.

BlizzCon was underway a week after EVE Vegas, and I first projected what I wanted to see/thought I might see and then reconciled that with what I actually saw.  It took a while for me to see Weird Al though.

Project: Gorgon was back to crowd funding.

Pokemon Sun & Moon were coming and I got ready by wrapping up Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.  I took Pokemon Sun while my daughter went with Pokemon Moon.

In Minecraft Aaron was using the in-game maps to create art to hang on his walls.  Then there was the update with forest mansions… and llamas!  That meant going on an expedition to find my own mansion.  And once you have your own mansion, you have to do something with it.  Like burn it down.

Daybreak, in looking after Norrath new and old, launched the Kunark expansion twins, with Empires of Kunark going live for EverQuest and Kunark Ascending going live for EverQuest II.

And, finally, in a bullet points post on Black Friday it was death to The Mittani, a new Google widget in my side bar, and some Pokemon news.

Ten Years Ago

I looked back at the Star Wars Extended Universe novel Heir to Empire, which turned 20 years old. That might be my most coherent piece on the site.  Also, it is 30 years old now.

In EVE Online, the upcoming Crucible expansion had a chance to remove the Incarna stink from the game. Oh, and ship trails were back. And Hulkageddon V was announced… about six months early it turns out.

I reviewed my 2011 MMO outlook. Rift appeared to be the unlikely winner, while DCUO had already gone F2P.

Speaking of going F2P in under a year, I had my first peek at Star Wars: The Old Republic in the beta. Pre-NDA drop, I used Star Wars Galaxies to describe the game as nothing new. Then the NDA dropped and I bitched some more. I did not find the game fun, cancelled my pre-order, and went back to Rift.

And then there was EverQuest II going free to play on all servers, which made me wonder what else in the SOE line up might follow suit. (Turns out the answer was “everything,” or at least everything that they didn’t shut down.)

Vanguard started showing inexplicable signs of life.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Scars of Velious was complete and the Luclin expansion went live. Also, breaking the retro aspect, Fippy Darkpaw players got the same new hot bars that all EverQuest players got with the new Veil of Alaris expansion. They actually worked like hot bars in other games.  Amazing!

In Rift, we made it to Meridian and then faced our first boss while learning the rules of their LFG tool. Oh, and the damn Yule rifts were up before Thanksgiving. I swear, it gets earlier every year.

We learned of the real money auction house in Diablo III. Actually, the real money part wasn’t the bad bit, it was that there was an auction house at all… and crap itemization.

And also on the RMT front was the Guardian cub pet in World of Warcraft. I did a couple of price checks on those, but somebody should probably go back and see how prices look a year later.  Can you even find one on the market these days?

Oh, and WoW had lost 2 million subscribers. Remember when that was a big deal?

Torchilght II was delayed because we had other things to play, right?

AOL shut down Wow.com. That doesn’t mean what you think.

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

Google was pissing me off by changing up Google Reader. Still, I’d take bad UI Google reader over no Google Reader.

A little game called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim launched.  A pity nobody played it and it never got ported to very many platforms or got several remasters.

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Fifteen Years Ago

Our World of Warcraft Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group finished up Blackfathom Deeps,The Stockades, Shadowfang Keep, and started in on Razorfen Kraul.

In EverQuest, I picked up The Serpent’s Spine and tried running a new character though some of the new level 1-70 content.  I also set out a minor goal of taking screen shots to compare Faydwer in EQ and Faydwer in EQII that lead to posts about Kaladim and Kelethin.

In EverQuest II, the Echoes of Faydwer expansion came out.  Once I found a copy and got past the patching process and into the game, I made a fae swashbuckler and went to town.

The Revelations expansion hit in New Eden, my first expansion update in EVE Online.  I followed the general wisdom and made sure I had a long skill training the night before.

The Wii and the PlayStation 3 were both released in the US.

I was talking about Diablo II, because that comes up every few years.

And the maker of the ubiquitous ZMud client announced a replacement product called CMud.  I tried the demo version, but since ZMud continued to work for me, I stuck with that.

Also, I was apparently hosting my blog screen shots on Image Shack back in 2006 and they’re all gone from many of those posts now.  I went back and fixed all the WoW instance groups posts at some point… probably five or ten years ago… but the EQ and EQII posts are just going to require you to use your imagination.

Twenty Years Ago

EverQuest went to the moon with its third expansion Shadows of Luclin.

Nintendo released the Game Cube in North America.

Microsoft launched its first game console, the original XBox, also in North America.

IL-2 Sturmovik, one of the more important combat flight sims for flight sim nerds, launched.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. The Crimson Harvest Returns to EVE Online
  3. The EVE Online New Dawn Quadrant to Start With Mining Changes
  4. Life on the M2 Hellcamp
  5. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  6. A 64-bit EverQuest Client is Coming
  7. The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch
  8. Protests in Jita Over New Dawn Changes
  9. Robbing Some Space Banks
  10. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  11. Why Harry Potter Wizards Unite Failed
  12. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor

Search Terms of the Month

eve online [barghest]
[The flying griddle!]

defeat the lord of flies in this java game
[No, u]

is there supposed to be a fence with torch on top of it in minecraft in the savanna village
[An oddly specific question. Yes?]

гипер врата в космических играх
[There are jump gates in EVE, but they aren’t hyper]

(Google made some change and now so few search terms make it through that I am down to single digits to pick from.  This might be a dying feature, and just when I killed off spam comments as well!)

Game Time from ManicTime

For the first time in a long stretch there was no significant WoW or WoW Classic play time recorded.  Basically my six month subscription expired at the end of October and that was that.  I did log in quickly to get the 17th anniversary achievement with a level 18 character, so I guess I will boost their MAU for November, but I have spent my last cash on Blizzard for a while.

  1. New World – 35.56%
  2. Forza Horizon 5 – 30.95%
  3. EVE Online – 12.83%
  4. Diablo II – 9.68%
  5. World of Tanks – 8.76%
  6. EverQuest II – 2.20%
  7. World of Warcraft – 0.02%

Considering how far into the month I grabbed FH5, you can see I spent a lot of time on the road.

Diablo II

I managed to get a necromancer through nightmare and into hell difficulty, and the instance group carried through and defeated Diablo, before we ran out of steam on the game.  It is a solid game still, 20 years down the road, though it could use some improvements.  But for purposes of nostalgia I own it and can go back and play some more whenever I want.

EVE Online

I did not spend much time in EVE Online this past month.  I got in, went on a fleet op or three, got on my requisite kill mail for the month, and even lost a ship… which was fine because my hangar has more ships in it than I will ever fly unless PAPI invades Delve again.  So at least losing a ship meant SRP and some more ISK back in my wallet.  Otherwise I let all but my main account lapse into alpha status.

The CCP team however went through its periodic routine of setting themselves on fire, this time with the “New Dawn: Age of Prosperity” dev blog, then denying there was even smoke while the player base yelled at them.  They appeared to acknowledge that, perhaps, there was some sort of combustion, but we won’t know what they’re really thinking until we get the next dev blog.  The only thing that is sure is that “prosperity” won’t be on the agenda for any reasonable definition of the word.

Also, what is going on with the algorithmic false positive bans?  CCP seems to have it in for certain activities.

EverQuest II

I played a bit more of EQII, finished out the Days of Summer/Panda quests, did a little mucking about with some alts, and then drifted off to play something else.  Unless there is something seriously unexpected in the new expansion next month, my account there will likely lapse as well.

Forza Horizon 5

Bought this on a lark for a freaking dollar… well, I didn’t really buy it so much as rent it for three months via XBox Game Pass for PC… and have played the hell out of it at times over the month.  A fun driving game with a lot of different options to suit anybody from the casual to the hard core.

New World

The instance group has found its way into New World and we are trying to move through it as a group.  The game itself seems to be deep in a new crisis every week and more than a few of them could be on the list of “why does this happen with every MMO launch?” But it is good looking and the combat is different and the trade skills are… well, there is a lot there to be done.  We’re all at level 20 at this point, so we might be able to do some group things soon.

Pokemon Go

The big event in November for me was hitting level 42 at last.  A big enough deal that I am including a picture!

Level 42 level up graphic – what I did on my way from 41 to 42

The downside is that now the mountain of xp needed to get to level 43 seems all the taller.  9 million experience will take a while.

Level: 42 (+1, 1.5% of the way to 43 in xp, 1 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 673 (+3) caught, 695 (+1) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 13 of 17
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat, but not for long

World of Tanks

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I cranked this up again to have something quick to drop into and play.  I started in at the beginning of the month and played quite a bit… then I got Forza Horizon 5 and play time fell off a cliff as I binged on that.  But I have come back and played some more since.  I have enough coins and bennies that I can drop in and out for a few days at a time and still play in premium mode most days.

Zwift

Another month in with Zwift.  I am a bit surprised I have kept up as well as I have, as one of my defining attributes is laziness. I haven’t really lost any weight, though I have redistributed some of it.  I know this because I need to cinch my belt up one notch further.

My distance cycled at this point is almost exactly the distance between my house and the happiest place on Earth; Tijuana!

  • Level – 11 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 487.9 miles (+115.5 miles)
  • Time – 1d 1h 48m (+5h 48m)
  • Elevation climbed – 20,013 (+4,875 feet)
  • Calories burned – 16,141 (+3,845)

Coming Up

Last month I had a list of things that were due in November or seemed likely to arrive and… a few didn’t make it, so I guess I get to rerun them.  The FFXIV expansion is now set to land on December 7th, while EverQuest and EverQuest II have expansions that should land on the 7th and the 1st respectively.  You can probably foresee tomorrow’s post in that.

Also, for those who know the blog, December means a series of end of year posts to sum things up and check on things like predictions and all of that.  Those posts are coming.

Otherwise it seems like there will be more New World in the offing and maybe things will heat up a bit in EVE Online after the post-war slump.

Oh, and there is a a sequel to The Matrix landing in December, The Matrix Resurrections.  I might have to go see it.  That is probably one you need to see on the big screen.

Facing Diablo without our Skeletal Front Line

Having moved forward into Act IV in Diablo II Resurrected, the group was now on the path straight to Diablo himself.

The return of the classic

However, the shine was fading from the apple that is Diablo II for the group.  We had been talking about other games to play and the click action of D2R was coming up a bit shy on the challenge front in normal mode and I am not sure the group was willing to bet that Nightmare mode would improve things.

So our necromancer Kevin, who was going to be away last weekend, let us know that we could carry on and slay Diablo without him.  That seemed to be the sign that this would be the last hurrah for D2R for now, so the three of us around set out to at least finish off the boss whose name adorns the box.

The question was, were we up to it?

For the past runs we had always had Kevin and his army of skeletons there to bear the brunt of any fight, with the rest of us working behind the wall of bones that were our front line.  Now it would be just the paladin, the amazon, and the druid to face the boss fight.

Assembled in the Pandemonium Fortress

We had our mercenaries to help us along, and Ulfar the druid could summon three wolves, a pair of crows, and that glowing floaty squid thing to assist us, but it seemed like it might be a challenge.

And our first steps out of the fortress and into hell did not seem fortuitous.  We ended up in a fight at the bottom of the stairs that saw all of our minions and one of us fall, and we had barely set foot into the first zone of Act IV.

We revived, re-summoned, and regrouped after that first onslaught, then set out at a careful pace.  The theme of the mobs in Act IV are “Hey, surprise!” and a dozen or so of them suddenly run up at you.  We stayed together and managed to push through the first area, finding the steps down to the Plain of Despair fairly readily.

In the plains we were able to find Izual, the mob for the first of the three quests in Act IV.  He was tough, and ran around quite a bit, which invited his neighbors to join in the fight.  But we held on and managed to bring him down via persistence and judicious use of Ulfar’s fissue area attack spell.  Izual’s spirit gave us a message for Tyrael.

Izual’s spirit mocks us

We took a portal back to the fortress and got the quest update and reward.  Then it was back out into the field, where we found the steps down to the City of the Damned.

Our luck on maps seemed to be with us, as we were not there for very long before we spotted the waypoint and the path down to the river of flames, which was where the next quest lay.

Our goal was the hellforge to destroy Mephisto’s soul stone.  We pressed on and in what seemed like a very short run, managed to find and clear out the hellforge and the area around it.  The hellforge hammer dropped Hephasto, the guardian of the hellforge and Ulfar picked up to destroy the soul stone.

At the Hellforge

Then we had kind of a strange update.  Ulfar destroyed it, but only he got the quest update.  Both Talon and I got an odd message in the quest log indicating that we would have to complete it in a different game.

Sorry, the quest you have reached is disconnected or no longer in service…

I don’t recall this from the old days, but I barely recall anything from 20 years ago at this point, but it seemed like an odd oversight by somebody that only one person can do the Mehpisto soul stone quest per game instance.

Still, only one of us needed to do it to press on.  Back in town all of us, soul stone or not, got the quest to go forth and slay Diablo.

We returned to the river of flame fought our way onward, looking for Diablo’s sanctuary.  We did end up having to backtrack a bit, but eventually found our way to Hadriel, who is at the entry to the chaos sanctuary where Diablo lives.  He didn’t seem happy to see Talon or I due to the whole quest thing that we couldn’t complete.

Yes, we know, we didn’t do the quest

Fortunately Ulfar was able to get us through and we ventured in to find the big guy.  That involved some more clearing of mobs and a few fights with mini-bosses as we unlocked the five seals.  But with the fifth seal undone, Diablo was unleashed and looking for us.

At that point we took a minute to make sure everybody was full up on potions, had their minions to hand, and a portal up to get back from the fortress should they fall.  Three portals, just in case.  I decided to put up my fire resist aura, which I had put a few points into, since a couple of Diablo’s attacks are fire based.  And then we ran over to the big pentagram and got ourselves stuck into the fight.

Diablo engaged!

It started off pretty well.  The first resist aura seemed to shake off most of Diablo’s AOE fire attack, though Ulfar’s pets didn’t last long.  His other fire attack seemed to be stymied as well, and his melee wasn’t doing much to hurt me.

And then came the red lightning, always the worst of hist attacks and our mercenaries started to get swept away.  A full on hit from that was enough to take any of us down, so I tried to keep on him in melee range and, as soon as Diablo would start that attack, I would use a health potion and start running in a circle around him, as his tracking turn rate isn’t fast enough to keep up with you and you’ll be ahead of his attack… if you get an early enough start.

I kept getting froze by him, which made my movement slow, and a couple of times I got penned in against something and barely got away.  The fight took a while and we all ended up dying a couple of times.  Then it was back through a portal and back to a corpse to get back into the fight.

Diablo Poisoned as I keep him in melee range

Ulfar found a lightning enhanced crossbow at the vendor and swapped that in for his melee weapon and laid down his fissure spell and shot at Diablo with bolts.  Talon was throwing lightning enhanced javelins and dodging Diablo’s lightning as he sprayed it about the room as I circled him.

As the fight got close to the end, Ulfar and I both got a bit greedy and stayed in close to try and finish him, but Diablo has a lot of health and we both died one last time.  We ran back, retrieved our corpses, then went back to our more conservative attack style, staying safe until Diablo went down.

And that was it, we defeated Diablo.  I suspect it would have gone considerably smoother with Kevin’s army of skeletons, having done the fight with a necromancer myself, but we managed it.

Amazon, paladin, and druid at the end

Diablo didn’t drop anything special for us.  There were five items, but none of them worth keeping.  We went back to the fortress, wrapped up the last quest, then stepped through the portal into Act V.

On to Act V and the barbarians

Act IV hadn’t taken that much time, so we went in and finished up the first quest in Act V, getting the first waypoint out in the field.  But Baal will have to wait until we’re in the mood again.  Act V is a long one, being a whole expansion worth of content, and maybe we’ll get back to it some day.

But for now the group has its eye on another game.  But that will be tomorrow’s post.

 

Through Nightmare and into Hell in Diablo II Resurrected

As I posted previously, I have been running a necromancer through Diablo II Resurrected, to see how far I could get playing a class I had previously ignored.  And it has been going pretty well.

The return of the classic

Having made it through Normal mode I launched myself into Nightmare.  It is a pity that the difficulty modes are hard coded to your character progression… mobs don’t have visible levels, but under the covers the effectively do… so you have to play through normal mode before turning the notch up a bit.  I think the group run through Diablo II would have been better for that.

In addition to mobs being high level and hitting a bit harder, you also start running into a lot of mobs that have default resists to various magic damage types.

Among other things, he is also immune to fire

Meanwhile, your own resistance to lightning, poison, fire, and cold damage start at a deficit, a negative percentage, which means that you take even more damage from them.

Fortunately I had collected enough gear with resist bonuses that I wasn’t hit too hard by that.  Still, I did end up dying more often that in the pass through normal.

And the tab for dying keeps going up, plus the cost to ress your merc

Act I wasn’t too much tougher, and and I even got a bit of a boost going into later on because I remembered, kind of late, that in Nightmare mode you can hire a mercenary with the Might aura, which boosts skeleton damage.  That had a noticeable effect and, while mobs were tougher, my own pack of nine skeletons were able to cut a swathe through most groups that showed up.

Act II went fairly well, and going into Act III I had maxed out my skeleton skills and was raising hostile dead to help fill my ranks.  They don’t last for long, but they can add some heft to a fight in a pinch.

Taking on Mephisto… and I still have the rogue merc, hrmm

Act IV was its usual short self, and in facing off against Diablo my biggest problem was keeping my aura mercenary alive.  I had to go in with a wave of skeletons, let them battle Diablo until they were whittled down to just a few, then portal out to the Pandemonium Fortress, from where I would use the waypoint to go back to an earlier act to kill some mobs to raise more skeletons for a return fight.

Early on against Diablo, when there were still some dead to raise against him

That is the hook with the necromancer, he isn’t a lot of use until he has some skeletons backing him up.  And if you left them all die, it just makes it harder to go fill your ranks again because the golem isn’t all that tough and I was in danger of going broke raising the merc over and over.

I managed it, and moved on to Act V, where skeletons and the Might aura and the occasional raised dead kept me going.

In the ice caves in Act V

I also have a trio of skeletal mages in that shot.  I picked up a piece of gear that, in addition to other benefits, gave me +3 to skeletal mages.  They are weak, so die quickly, but add a little but of damage on top of everything else.

I think one of the things that drags me through Act V quickly is that the waypoints are a bit awkwardly placed.  You get to one and you’re still so far from the next objective, and the next waypoint, that I end up just pushing on in very much the Diablo II version of “just one more turn.”

So I ended up doing a bit of a marathon run through most of Act V, breaking in to fight Baal who, most annoyingly, comes at you in a room with no other mobs, which is quite inconvenient for a necromancer looking to raise some replacements.  There was, once again, portals out to use waypoints to raise another group of skeletons… and to pay to revive my mercenary yet again… as I used them to chip away at Baal.

This time around I did get the clone version of Baal, so was facing the pair for a bit.  But the clone was gone when I came back from one of my skeleton recruitment runs, so he still seems to be a bit bugged.  And so I persisted… it didn’t actually take that many runs at him… and brought down Baal.

Baal defeated so Tyrael is back to give his speech

That got me the end game screen for Nightmare mode and the title Champion.

Victory over Nightmare mode

That put me into the reach of Hell mode, which I immediately jumped in and tried… and immediately died in.  Seriously, the first group that I hit after leaving the rogue encampment killed me, my golem, and my mercenary.  Mobs were tougher, and all the more so when I was out there without and skeletons.

I took more care on my next venture out of camp, cornering single mobs if possible until I built up a few skeletons.  Once I hit critical mass of skeletons, mobs out in the field were generally manageable.  I was able to get on my way, clearing out the Den of Evil and chasing down Bloodraven.

Hell-o Bloodraven

But on Hell not only are the mobs harder and your base resists even lower, but mobs often have multiple resists and mini bosses can be very tough if they have the right (or is that wrong?) setup against your build.

A tough cookie indeed

That guy in the screen shot has Stone Skin, which deflects a large percent of physical damage and is immune to physical damage.  I have a curse that can reduce mob resists, so they are no longer immune, but with my physical damaged focused pack of skeletons, that combo was too much.  I burned through a few groups and barely chipped away at him.  I eventually called it a night on him.

But I have a necromancer in Hell mode now, which is honestly as far as I think I have ever gone in the game.  I played it a lot back in the day, but there were not nearly the resources about for builds as there are now.  We’ll see if that information is enough to get me through Hell.