Category Archives: Diablo II

Remaking our Diablo II Group

After the three of us played Diablo II Resurrected on an off week, the return of Beanpole brought up the question of whether we should get back to Outland in WoW Classic or keep running in Diablo II.

Diablo II, being something different, won out, though Beanpole did suggest we would do just about anything to forget how to play our classes in WoW.  But now Diablo II is an instance group thing.

A larger group meant a restart with fresh characters.  We hadn’t gotten that far before, so it wasn’t a huge burden to re-roll.  And, in re-rolling it was a chance to try a new class.  There was some discussion as to what we ought to play, and Potshot asked if it would bother anybody if he played an assassin, a class locked as female.  I immediately say no, indicated that we would likely make fun of him at some point, which I guess was enough to throw that idea in the bin.  We’ll probably have to roll up a group at some point where Ula plays a barbarian and the three men play female classes.

But for now the boys each grabbed a male class, Potshot going with druid, Beanpole grabbing the necromancer, while I went with a paladin.  Paladin was kind of on my over-played list, but I thought it might be different with a group due to the aura thing that paladins get.  Ula went with an Amazon, which gave us the following characters.

  • Talon – Amazon
  • Ulfar – Druid
  • Ernest – Paladin
  • Kevin – Necromancer

Beware Kevin

Then we had to spend a bit of time sorting out how to play Diablo II again, as Kevin hand’t played it in many years and even I was still remembering things.  The whole skills and talent tree and right click swap assignments and accidentally hitting the W key which swaps you weapons were all refreshed.

Hanging out in the Rogue Camp while things get sorted

Still, we were out into the world soon enough, fighting the first few creatures as we made our way around to the Den of Evil, the first quest objective of the game.  We made our way into there and set about clearing it out.

Down in the Den of Evil

It was time for a couple of teachable moments.  Kevin got himself killed in a scuffle with a mini-boss, but I was able to open a town portal for him to get back quickly.  We also learned a bit about BNet issues.

You can see the four of us, Talon, Ernest, Kevin, and Ulfar in that picture.  Ernest has his might aura up, and you can see it glowing at the feet of everybody save Ulfar.  He was in the game, but somehow wasn’t fully connected.  It also turned out, as we went back to the rogue camp, that he couldn’t use the portal that I had to put up, and had to cast his own in order to return quickly.

We thought maybe the problem would sort itself out, so went off after Blood Raven.  However, even though we finished up that fight successfully, I noticed when we were going into the crypt in the graveyard, that Ulfar was still not getting my aura.

No aura for you

He also had to take his own town portal home yet again.  He could see mine, but couldn’t enter it.

We did a bit of disconnecting and reconnecting after that and eventually got everybody on the same page connection wise, with everybody getting the paladin aura and able to use each other’s portals.

Of course, after the Blood Raven quest everybody got a rogue mercenary.  With four of those, and Kevin’s growing skeleton followers, and Ulfar with a couple of wolves, we were starting to become a bit of an army.

From there it was on from the Stony Field, through the dark tunnel, and into the Dark Woods and the Tree of Inifuss for the scroll for Akara.  Being the old hand at this, I insisted that we explore a bit more to get the waypoint in the Dark Woods.  We would be needing that later.

From the waypoint it was back to the rogue encampment and Akara.  By that point we’d been playing for quite a while.  We were just warming up as a group so things were going a bit slow.  But I got everybody to come along for one last push.  I figured we could get to Tristram easy enough.

So it was back to the Stony Field and the Carin Stones, which opens the portal to Tristam.  Then it was into the portal and into town to rescue Deckard Cain and clear the place out.

Clearing out the town square while Cain waits in his cage

We cleared the town out, freed Deckard Cain, who took a portal back to the rogue camp, then swept around the town to make sure we got everything.  I made sure we found Wirt’s corpse and that somebody grabbed his leg.  I will do the cow level some day, I swear.

Then it was back to the Stony Fields, because the waypoint was next to the Carin Stones.  No point in wasting a town portal scroll while we were still poor.

Leaping back into the Stony Field

Then it was back to the rogue encampment, where Deckard Cain thanked us and promised to identify all our items, which is also a bit of a gold saver this early on in the game.

So that brings us up to where we stand in Diablo II Resurrected.

That actually wasn’t last weekend, but the weekend before, which was probably a good thing.  Apparently Diablo II Resurrected is doing very well, to the point that the servers were falling over last weekend, at least during EU prime time. (I played in the evening Pacific Time and never saw a blip, but by that time the load had passed.)

Blizzard actually has a long post about the troubles the servers are having, which is in part because the code from 20 years ago didn’t face as much traffic as it is getting now, and because people are starting new games in rapid succession to farm specific mobs for drops because the end game of Diablo II has always been trying to get some crazy rare item in the rain of loot that litters the game.

There is a list of things they are doing to handle the problem.  People have been making a comparison between this launch and the Warcraft III Reforged launch.  But that feels like a false comparison.  Both saw problems, but not the same problems.

Warcraft III Reforged launched missing a lot of features and some petty restrictions that left a bad taste in the mouths of many.  Blizzard ended up having to offer refunds on demand.

Diablo II Resurrected feels more like it delivered what it promised.  It isn’t anything new, just better looking.  But that seemed to be the right mix to get enough people on board to swamp the servers trying to recreate a 20 year old experience.

A Necromancer in Diablo II Resurrected

In thinking about my initial lack of enthusiasm for Diablo II Resurrected back during the beta, I suspected that part of my problem was that I went and played the same class in the same way as I generally have over the years, which contributing the the feeling of sameness.  So I decided for my first post-launch play through I would try something new.

Having watched Potshot play a Necromancer as part of our first group adventure in the game, I thought that might be a good place to start, so I rolled one up for myself.

And I managed to bumble my way through the first act doing my usual routine of just putting skill points wherever they might feel good.  I put some into skeletons, some into skeleton mages, some into teeth to give me a ranged attack, then put my stat points into making sure I had enough mana, and it kind of worked.

With my first follower mix

I died a few times in the first act, and the final boss, Andariel I struggled a bit.  And end of act boss should be a bit of a challenge, but the first act is kind of a warm up and I’ve always been able to slouch my way past her.

Go myself a little too deep into the fight

I had to make a few trips back to town through a portal, but eventually managed to finish her off and wrap up the act.

At Andariel’s throne

My normal mode of operation is to continue to half ass my way through Act II until I am facing Duriel at the end and then use my re-spec to fix my setup because he is usually too tough for whatever nonsense picks I have made.

My problem with talent trees, and especially the Diablo II talent tree, is that I see a smorgasbord of choices available and I want to serve myself up a little bit of everything.  I have some vision of flexibility, but anybody who crunches the numbers will tell me I am an idiot.  The game doesn’t care about flexibility, it cares about damage on target and killing mobs dead.

So when I looked up necromancer builds I found that going all-in on skeletons was the optimal path.  20 points into skeletons, which gets you 8 followers, and 20 points into skeleton mastery, which makes them tough and hit hard.  They have you put a point into golems early on, just to get something a bit tankie when you’re starting out, but after that it is all skeletons all the time until you’ve gone 40 points in.

Meanwhile, on the stats front, the guide was to put enough into strength to be able to wear gear you need, but otherwise to put everything into vitality so that your health is enough to survive.  As a side benefit, your stamina is also huge so you can go everywhere at a run when you get enough levels behind you.

So I went all-in as suggested and headed into the sewers of Lut Gholein with six skeletons, a golem, and my rogue archer from Act I and the results were… pretty funny.  The skeletons are all over the place, though they do try to go where you are going.  As a group they mobbed most everything that showed up and, when I lost one now and then I just raised a fresh skeleton from a corpse.  Ranament was no problem.

No match for Skeleton patrol

The main problem is that every time you start the game to play again you have to go out and find some corpses, which are required to raise skeletons.

My little army stormed the desert and made it through very well.  It is a little tough in tight corridors, as the skeletons follow you and won’t run ahead until they seem something to attack.  There are times when you have to act like a SWAT team with a no-knock warrant, kicking in the door to a room and rushing it to beat down anything that moves.

The most troublesome bit was probably the Arcane Sanctuary… Act II has the widest variety of locations, which is part of why it is my favorite… but that was largely due to pathing, skeletons lagging behind me, and the general narrowness of the ways through the zone.

All the melee is out in front for once

I did ignore the advice to get one of the Act II followers which have auras that can boost your skeleton army, but I had found a very nice bow for my rogue and she was killing it, so I stayed with her.

I managed to get through Duriel at the end of Act II in two passes, jumping back to town through a portal to restock my skeleton army.

Act III was a cake walk.  The paths are wide enough for skeletons to roam ahead and they just chewed up any mobs that happened by.  I had enough points in skeletons by the time I got to Mephisto to do him in one go without having to head back to town.  I was light on skeletons when I was done, but I was done.

Act IV saw me swarming through the first part pretty well.  When you’re going through as a single character the game tries to get you with the big “Ah ha! Here comes a pack of a dozen mobs! Fight for your life!” routine.  But by the time I was into Act IV I had 8 skeletons, a golem, my rogue, and a skeleton mage because I picked up a wand that gave me +1 to that skill, along with myself, which gave me a dozen on my own team as well, so the scrum was pretty even with me just needing to replace a skeleton now and then or summon a fresh golem.

You have an army? Hey, me too!

Pretty soon it was time to face Diablo.

That turned into a bit of a challenge.  Actually, the groups that came as I unlocked the five seals cost me some skeletons and a surprise attack actually brought me down.  But once the seals were undone and Diablo appeared, then the real challenge began.

Diablo had my number when it came to skeletons.  I would get on the floor with him and he’d do his big AOE attack and my rogue, my skeleton mage, and my golem would be down and my skeletons would all be fairly weak.  They would beat on him for a bit before dying off and I would have to run around and find more corpses.  That became the real issue for me, as corpses don’t last very long on the floor, so despite slaying hundred on the way in I was scrounging for corpses after expending three waves of skeletons.

I also decided to get in and do some damage of my own.  The wand I had, which gave me a skeleton mage, also gave me +3 to the spell Bone Spear.  And while my mana pool was pretty small, it isn’t a high cost spell, so I loaded up on mana potions and got in there with my skeletons to hit at the boss.

I finally brought him down with my seventh full wave of skeletons, five remaining alive when Diablo died.

Diablo defeated

I got the big pat on the back and collected my rewards and moved on to Act V.

Not being a huge fan of Act V, I was going to write this post ending with the death of Diablo.  And then me and my skeletons stormed through the final act in a single evening where I kept saying that I was going to stop at the next waypoint, but then the waypoint seemed awkwardly far from where I would need to go next, so I just kept rolling along until I was at the final waypoint in the Worldstone Keep.  And once you’re there you might as well finish the tour.

I had a bit of a problem with the last group that Baal summons before the final fight.  For whatever reason my skeletons were not biting very hard on that round, even with curse applied, which doubles their damage.  I had to get out the mana potions and Bone Spear again to push them along.

Then it was time for Baal.  I had no idea how this would go.  I went in, opened a portal to town, then headed straight at Baal, letting my skeletons get at him.  As with Diablo, my golem, rogue, and skeleton mage were having a tough time of it, but the skeletons seemed pretty durable.  By this point I was level 35 and had 20 points in skeletons and 15 points in skeletal mastery, so they were pretty tough.  They just were not doing much damage.

So when I lost the first wave of skeletons I went back to town, want to the first waypoint and scrounged some more mobs to rebuild my skeleton force.  Then, back in town, I filled up on more mana potions and went in to assist my skeletons with Bone Spear once more.

Facing Baal with Bone Spear

That seemed to tip the balance again and I only had to assemble one more pack of skeletons before I was able to bring Baal down and finish Act V.

Baal down with six skeletons, a golem, and my rogue still alive

Now, there was something odd with the fight in retrospective.  There was no second, fake Baal in the fight.  I don’t know if the fight is bugged, but I only had to chase down the one Baal, which made it go a lot more smoothly.  And, thinking on that, I recalled that Diablo had gone a bit soft as well, not putting up the bone prisons on the town portals like he used to.  Maybe they softened up normal mode because they were afraid kids these days couldn’t handle the truth as it was back in 2000.  Or maybe it is just bugged.

Either way I finished my first play through of Diablo II Resurrected.

There is something amusing about being Slayer Siddartha

On the way through I managed to collect a whole bunch of gear and gems and jewels and runes and what not such that I have already managed to fill up all three shared stash tabs, so I am going to have to make a storage mule or two after all.

I am on such a roll that I will have to jump in and see how I do on Nightmare mode.  I know I have played through Normal mode multiple times over the years, including my play through last year, but I cannot recall if I have ever finished on Nightmare.  We shall see.

Also, I once again forgot to do the cow level.  Still things to do.

Carbot’s Diablo II Lord of Destruction Trailer

Carbot Animations has been a bit down on World of Warcraft lately, even following the trend into Final Fantasy XIV, but the Diablo II series carries on.

Having covered the defeat of Diablo and the cow level, it was time to move on to the Lord of Destruction expansion and the Act V content.  Bring on LOD!

Make way for LOD

All of which is summed up in this trailer set to a tune you may recognize.

My memories of the Lord of Destruction expansion mostly revolve around two new classes and an upgrade in video resolution from 640×480 to 800×600, the latter being the more important of the two.

But the pile of other things added to the game… charms, gems, runes, the ability to ad sockets, and all the gear… had a huge impact on the game as well.  And it all gets summed up pretty well in this video.  LOD was kind of a big deal.

Diablo II Resurrected as a Group

For all my talk and nostalgia around Diablo II Resurrected, one thing I have not done in probably 18 years was play with anybody else.  Early on in the Diablo II era we played together at the office and I played with some friends from home via BNet, but since then the game has been a solo venture.

The return of the classic

Last weekend however we were a bit at loose ends with Beanpole away and were looking for something to do.  With Outland or Brewfest as options in WoW Classic, we turned to the newly released Diablo II Resurrected to occupy some time on Sunday afternoon.

All of us had played Diablo II.  Some of us had played it more recently than others however, so we got off to a bit of a slow start as everybody got settled into the 2000 era design that is the game.

Actually having somebody asking questions was good for me because I’ve certainly forgotten more about the game than I remember even if I played in beta and did a run through the game last year.  I, for whatever reason, always forget about being able to bind skills to function keys for quick swaps when you need them.

We started off by picking classes.  Ula went with the sorceress and Skronk, playing under the handle Daugrim, went with the necromancer.  I avoided my usual pattern, which is to play paladin or barbarian, and went with a druid.  I cannot recall having played a druid before, though surely at some point in the last two decades I must have at least tried one out.

And then we had to get together in a game, which is another thing I have forgotten to do over the years.  The UI at least implies that people on your friends list ought to be able to simply join a game you start, but that didn’t seem to be coming together.  I ended up going into the BNet lobby, a place I have avoided since 2001, to create a game with a password which I then said aloud on voice coms so we could all get in the game together.

I don’t mind the updated character models, but it feels like somebody decided that they all needed to be aged 20 years to go with the age of the game.  They feel a bit old and weathered compared to the original graphics… though those were so low res I am not sure how much you could really tell.  But we got the band together .

Aging rock act reunited

That accomplished, we spent some time getting oriented, wandering around the camp, getting keys setup, and grabbing that first quest.  And then it was out into the Blood Moors, the first area, to warm up.  We slayed a few things, Daugrim brought forth his first skeleton follower, and we hit a level pretty quickly.

With three of us sticking together we seemed to level on the same kill pretty consistently.

Once we got a level though it was time to look at those Diablo II skill trees.  I passed on my general philosophy of the skill tree, which is that you can screw around with points, assigning them to things that look interesting until late in Act II, at which point you will probably want to look up a usable build and then turn in you one respec to run with that.  Ula went with more damage, Daugrim more skeletons, and I started down the werewolf path.  We’ll see.

Then we managed to find our way into the Den of Evil, the first destination in the game.

Quite a well lit den… also, skeletons in motion

There we managed to mostly stick together… the tendency to wander off or away is strong, and all the more so when you have skeleton pets that run around like sugared up eight year olds… and cleared the den, returning to the surface to head back to camp for our reward.

Respec in our pockets for later, we got the next quest from Kashya, which was to go find Blood Raven in the cemetery over in the Cold Plains.  As we explored we found the road into the next zone beyond, the Stony Fields, and I led us in there in hopes of finding the next waypoint, as it is sometimes just there inside the zone, easy to grab.  That would save us a bit of walking later.

However, as we probed into the Stony Fields rather than finding the waypoint we found the cairn stones, which come into play later, and in the midst of them was the familiar mini-boss Rakanishu.  He is memorable both because the carvers shout his name every so often when attacking and because he is likely the first lightning enhanced boss that you run into in the game and that is generally when you learn that lightning enhanced means handle with care.

We were quickly in over our heads as the skeletons began beating on the boss, summoning forth waves of lightning.  We started to run away but Ula and Daugrim were down for their first deaths in the game.  I kept running and chugging health pots, dropping a town portal when I had a moment.

I managed to get safe, but when they came through the portal it was quickly obvious that it was too close to the cairn stones leading to more deaths.  At this point I tried to kite Rakanishu away from the area, which surprisingly worked.  Once I had him off in the Cold Plains… he just kept following… Ula and Daugrim came through and collected their stuff.

Kiting the lightning

I ran Rakanishu around Flavie, the rogue who guards the bridge between the Blood Moors and Stony Field… I was really on a tour with him in tow… hoping she might kill him off for us.  Flavie took some potshots, but didn’t really seem invested in the killing.  After running around her a few times, I headed back across the Cold Plains for the Stony Fields and the group.

Maybe Flavie helped more than it seemed, because once I got back and kited Rakanishu past the rest of the group a couple of times we were able to take him down.  A warm up for when we have to get him next time.

After some extended searching, the waypoint was found.  We were then able to hop back to the Cold Plains to look for Blood Raven.

After some wandering about I went back to my usual pattern, which is to follow the paths in the zones, they are generally there for a reason.  The one towards Stony Fields was obvious, so I figured that the branch off from that would take us to the cemetery, and I was correct.

Having some ranged attacks with skeleton and werewolf druid melee, we were able to chase down Blood Raven and dispatch her without straying too far.

Going after Blood Raven

After that we took a turn in one of the crypts before returning to camp.

That was about all we had in us for one session.  But there was some learning and warm up along the way.  All in all, it was fun and a good change from my usual solo mode.  We’ll keep these characters as group characters and see if we can get back together again for the next round, which includes rescuing Deckard Cain.

Loot drops were a bit stingy on our run, even considering splitting three ways.  But on another BNet character I rolled… a necro because the skeleton thing seemed like a lot of fun… it was practically raining gems, jewels, charms, and gold level gear.  But I can always put that in the shared stash.

September in Review

The Site

And we’re now at the fifteenth anniversary of the first month in review post.  So there is that.

The state of the blog – Sep 2006

In the categories drop down there shows 182 Month in Review posts, one more than there should be because I wrote a post about Month in Review posts a while back.  It even had a poll.  But we’ll get to polls in a bit.

Otherwise it has been quite a month.

I mean, I can’t really complain about the first ten days.  I was in Hawaii for most of that.  But less than a week after I came back I came down with the dreaded “flu-like” symptoms, which was just in the COVID incubation period, so I ran down to get tested and started isolating at home… or tried to, it is harder than you think when your life is intertwined with another person… while my wife cancelled all her in-person appointments.

Luckily, it wasn’t COVID… it took a couple days to get that result… just a cold that has been going around.  I was sick, but just normal-ass sick, not plague sick.

And then the cold developed into an inner ear infection, a malady I could not recommend.  That started almost two weeks ago and I am still recovering, still feeling the effects.  At its peak it was an sharp and constant pain along with my tinnitus cranked to 11 at all times, plus gunk oozing out of my ear, and bouts of motion sickness as it messed with my inner ear functions.

That meant antibiotics.  But, having had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin a few decades back, I have to have the azithromycin based alternative, which makes one prone to stomach upset and what I refer to as “turbo diarrhea” as everything I at seemed to be very much in a rush to exit my body at its earliest opportunity.

At this point you might be saying, “Wow, that sucks… but what does all of this have to do with “The Site,” which is the name of this section?”

Well, all of that has certainly affected the quality of content.  The first eleven days of the month were all pre-written in advance.  I started to catch up a bit, then got sick, and the level of effort devolved to “look, a thing happened” without much in the was of my usual attempts to tie things into a greater theme or the historical context of the genre… though I am kind of curious if anybody actually noticed that or the fact that words per post dropped rather significantly.  Probably not.

All of that added up to the lowest monthly page view count since mid-2007.  It was a slow month here.

Somehow though I kept my post streak going and I still have a stack of things I meant to get to in September that I now mean to get to in October.  I still haven’t even watched that Ji Ham EG7 video.  But here we are.

Oh, and in other news, WP.com broke polls in their attempt to monetize them through their Crowdsignal brand.  My fourth email finally got somebody to look at the problem (the first three happiness engineers just tossed aside everything I said and sent me a link about using the new Poll Block in the awful block editor… which is broken as well so WTF?) and now… they’re looking into it.  I wasn’t planning on creating another poll any time soon, but now it seems I cannot and when I eventually can I will have to buy credits.  So look forward to no more polls I guess.  Yay?

One Year Ago

The blog turned fourteen and I made my usual post about stats and the passing of time.

Nintendo announced the end of their long running DS hardware line.

Chris Roberts was annoyed because people are so cynical online, threatening to unleash an irony-quake.

With no BlizzCon planned for 2020, Blizzard announced BlizzConline for February of 2021.

My third entry in the ongoing binge watching series was posted.  I was also looking at the main streaming channels I was viewing as well as some secondary channels.

In my play through of Diablo II on its 20th anniversary I wrapped up Act II, then launched myself into the somewhat forgettable Act IIIWhen it came to Act IV I had to go use that one time respec to finish Diablo.  On finishing Act V I summed up with some thoughts about the game.

In WoW Classic we were taking on the upstairs portion of Sunken Temple, though it took a third run to get to the Avatar of Hakkar.  I was also still plugging away with some alts.

In EVE Online CCP introduced quantum cores for Upwell structures.  Abyssal sites also got some updates, with T0 and T6 sites opening up with the Depths of the Abyss update.  They also tried to breath some life into the EDENCOM ship lineup.

Meanwhile, metaliminal storms were doing whatever it is they really do.  There was the GM Week bot bash in Yulai, where high sec players got to blow up some capital ships, including two titans.

My own main character hit 220 million skill points in the game.

And then there was World War Bee, which I will just list as bullet points:

Then, in a final Friday Bullet Points post for the month I looked at LOTRO’s mini-expansion, Microsoft buying Zemimax, PlayStaion 5 pre-orders, the end of FarmVille, EA being dumb about lock boxes again, EVE Online ship models, and something about CCP planning to do some sort of resource redistribution thing in New Eden, which became the whole economic starvation plan of the last year.   Kind of a lot for one post.

Five Years Ago

It was the tenth anniversary of the blog.

I was looking back at day/night cycles and full zone respawns of yore.

My wife’s Pokemon Go account was hacked, but I recovered it pretty quickly.  That post brings in a lot of search engine traffic looking for ways to hack Pokemon Go accounts.  So many bad people.

Daybreak announced that both EverQuest and EverQuest II would be launching Kunark focused expansions, with Empires of Kunark slated for the former and Kunark Ascending for the latter.

Smed was taking his Hero’s Song project back to the crowdfunding arena again, this time via Indiegogo which, unlike Kickstarter, lets you keep the money even if you don’t meet your goal.

I was going on about problems EVE Online has getting new players to stick with the game… again.  We also had the YC118.8 Update which revamped a the look of mining barges and some frigates, among other thing.  It also launched the Purity of the Throne event that had me chasing white skins for Amarr ships.

There was also the ascension of Caitiz of House Tash-Murkon to the Amarr throne.  All those ships are still lined up in Amarr for some reason.  Did they have to wait a year for the first Jubilee?

And Alpha Clones would soon be a thing, so I was wondering what you could do with one.

In post-Casino War events the Imperium finished conquering Delve and a state of normalcy was starting to come to pass.  I also got my last ship out of Deklein.

And then there was World of Warcraft where the Legion expansion was off and running.  There was even an app for it.  I started off slowly as I figured things out and moved clockwise around the Broken Isles.  That didn’t stop me from checking up on my Draenor garrison though.

And then in one of those bullet point posts that I always hate a year later when it comes time to do the summary I covered Star Trek Online going to consoles, Legends of Norrath card packs, rewards for Omega players in EVE Online, and the then upcoming EVE Vegas.

Finally, No Man’s Sky launched, capping off yet another dismal episode of fan behavior.  After getting death threats for delaying the launch, Hello Games finally shipped the game only to have the fan base explode even more so when it was discovered that features that were straight up said to be in the product… multiplayer being the prime suspect… were not.  Still, it made a lot of money and features have since been added and it got its own Honest Game Trailers video.  There are, no doubt, lessons to be learned here.

Ten Years Ago

I did the great survey of blogs that had, at one time or another, included this site in their blog roll over the last five years.  Only 28% of them were still up and active.  There was also the five year anniversary post and all that it entailed.

implied that Tobold’s mother a llama.  This had NOTHING to do with him not having a blog roll.

I was totally going to resist Steam selling me Rift for cheap.  That didn’t work, and I ended up playing for about a year or so.

Star Trek Online announced it was going free to play, though I couldn’t imagine how it wasn’t already.

In LOTRO, the Rise of Isengard expansion came out and I almost didn’t notice.  Which was odd, because we were kind of playing LOTRO still.

The Goons were going to wreck the EVE economy by blowing up high sec ice miners.  Another vast Goon conspiracy.  I was being nostalgic for my earlier days in EVE.

GameSpy had a post about re-imagining Diablo as a first person perspective game, which was met with much derision.  Me, I liked the idea and even had suggestions for further topics in that vein to explore.  Meanwhile, Diablo III was pushed out to the middle of 2012.

In other Blizzard news, the Official World of Warcraft Magazine went belly up after just five issues.  And then there was a drop in WoW subscribers.  They lost 600,000 players, though I wasn’t one of them… yet.  Good thing they never lost more than that…

I was still playing Need for Speed: World pretty regularly.  I was filming police chases, avoiding police chases, and buying the squarest ride in the game.

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw server, the retro experience was made complete by “guilds behaving badly” when it came to contested content.  Some GMs came up with unorthodox ways to resolve conflicts.  Somewhere along the way I got my SOE Authenticator, which I never use.

ArenaNet said something about private GuildWars 2 PvP servers.  I wonder how that would play today?

EA/BioWare gave us a release date for SWTOR at last, so I could start fretting about pre-orders and grace periods.  While I wasn’t in beta yet, BioWare was asking how I was enjoying it.

There was no word about life on Planet Michael.

And, finally, I was wondering how 9/11, which took place just a couple months before the birth of my daughter, would influence her view of the world relative to my own.  This was triggered by her trip to New York, where she visited the Nintendo Store.

Fifteen Years Ago

Here we are, able to at last dip into the blog archives for fifteen year old items.

There was the first post.  I still haven’t covered all of the topics I promised 15 years back.

After that I was straight into the EverQuest nostalgia, an oft recurring topic here.  The Serpent’s Spine expansion came out for the game.  I would get to that in a bit.

LEGO Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy launched, setting the casual path for future Traveller’s Tales LEGO based games.  My daughter and I would later play this on the Wii, but that was still out in the future.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, the first core Pokemon RPG titles for the Nintendo DS platform shipped in Japan.  They wouldn’t reach US shores for another six months.  Again, another series that would show up here as time moved on.

Green Monster Games, later 38 Studios, was unveiled to the public by founder Curt Schilling with R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane as part of the creative team.

Roblox launched.  I didn’t know about it at the time, but the title has grown to be many things, including controversial.

I was into EVE Online, which I began playing just about two weeks before I started the blog.  My first post about it concerned the tutorial, then I went on to my impressions.  I already had EVEMon up and running, because you cannot play EVE Online without it.  And, while I was hardly aware of it, the first titan had been built in New Eden.

I was musing about games slated for the future, including Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online I had reservations about both.

I kicked off my old school gaming reminiscences with a post about Stellar Emperor as it was back in 1986.  That was 30 years ago.  Damn continuous motion of time.

The instance group formed up for adventures in Azeroth.

I wrote the first “Month in Review” post.  I am not sure WHY I decided to do that, but it became a thing as here I am doing the 181st such post a decade and a half later. (About nine years ago I decided month in review should have its own category, so I went back and edited each and every last one to put them all in that category.  Fortunately, being a once a month thing, it was easy to figure out if I missed any or not.)

I also wrote something about Saga of Ryzom in that month in review post, which might be the one of the few times I ever wrote anything about it.  It had launched two years before and people were talking about it, but my play time with it was very short and unfulfilling.

But the smartest thing I probably did in that first month was link out to Brent at VirginWorlds in a post, which got him to notice my brand new blog, which kind of got me into the club pretty quickly as well as getting me my first comment.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Meridian 59 by 3DO launched.  It remains part of the perennial discussion as to what was the first “real” MMORPG.

Forty Years Ago

Wizardry for the Apple II launched, one of the early influential titles for me.  I still have graph paper maps of the levels in a drawer in my office.  Robert Woodhead, one of the creators of the title would later serve four terms on the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management.

Apple ][+ back in 1983

Castle Wolfenstein, another influential Apple II title, launched as well.  I needed that two button joystick to play that for sure!

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. Robbing Some Space Banks
  4. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Twenty Years
  7. Enad Global 7 Q2 2021 Financials and Concerning News
  8. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  9. My Blogging Quinceanera
  10. Getting Setup with Zwift
  11. New World Blues
  12. Dealing with Mudflation

Search Terms of the Month

nantworks h1z1
[That didn’t really work out]

is lotro dead 2021
[I mean, it’s been better…]

eve meta 2021
[HACs in null sec]

eve cv-composite molecular condenser
[I’m not going to be much help with gas mining]

eve online jedi gas
[I think you meant “ninja” there, right?]

Game Time from ManicTime

This month we get kind of a Bizarro world “what year is this?” list for my game play time:

  • EverQuest II – 35.06%
  • EVE Online – 24.37%
  • Diablo II – 22.55%
  • WoW Classic – 14.42%
  • New World – 3.61%

If not for New World I might convince you this was from a decade back or more.  Of course, it was, as noted in the opening, an odd month and my total play time was roughly a third of the average month in 2021 and less than a quarter of the month with the most hours played… which was March.  I guess it was all Valheim all the time that month.

Diablo II Resurrected

The last week of the month saw this nostalgia blast arrive and I managed to find some time for it.  I am still not into Act II with any characters, but I am also not in a big hurry.  Some rides don’t need to go fast to be enjoyable.

EVE Online

I went on exactly one strategic operation in September.  The war is over and I was away for one week and sick for another and in the middle there wasn’t a lot going on.  My planetary industry plans kind of crashed when oversupply of what I was producing hit and I didn’t really have it in me to re-do all of that to pursue some other PI goal.  I did, however, get on one Fortizar and two Keepstar kill mails.  Not a bad month for that.

EverQuest II

The announcement of the next expansion got me thinking about post-cataclysm Norrath and whether it might be time for a return to the old game.  After all, Pandas were on the horizon and there wasn’t really much else going on mid-month.  I subscribed, ran the 2020 Days of Summer event and did the intro quests for the next expansion.  Then Diablo II and New World showed up and now… maybe.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.

New World

New World, the new game under the sun.  I’d play more if I could log in.  Unfortunately, while I managed to slip in during the afternoon of day one, since then the queue on the server I chose… which had no queue at that point… has been mid-three to four figures and honestly I don’t want to play the game that badly.  But I am also not keep to toss ten levels overboard just to avoid the queue.  This isn’t working out so well I guess.

Pokemon Go

If you’re one of my friends I might have sent you a gift from Hawaii… and if you’re one of those people who actually look at the gifts you get, you might even have noticed!  I got in a lot of steps with my buddy while traveling, then had to send my wife with my phone out to get me a Pokestop while I was sick.  Not a lot of progress made overall.

Level: 41 (83% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 665 (+3) caught, 689 (+3) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 12 of 14
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

WoW Classic

My avoidance of Outland overland content continues on.  The instance group did the Blood Furnace in one go, so we have that going for us.  I also did a bit of Brewfest, but honestly I wasn’t up to grinding out the tasks for a mount.  I got the mug and went on to other things.

Zwift

I am going to put my Zwift progress here in the monthly update.  I’ve written a couple of posts about it and I have a few more brewing.  It is now Wilhelm canon.  I did not make my modest monthly goal of 75 miles but, as I have repeated ad nauseum by this point, vacation and illness.  Leave me alone.  Anyway, my standings right now:

  • Level – 9
  • Distanced cycled – 264.9 miles
  • Time – 14h 28m
  • Elevation climbed – 11,352 feet
  • Calories burned – 8,783

Coming Up

Welcome to Q4 2021 as of tomorrow I guess.  Last year ActiBlizz gave us their Q3 financials at the end of October rather than sliding into November.  We’ll see if they’re as eager this year.  The will probably be eager to get players back to their games, so we’ll see what incentives and updates they throw out.

I imagine we’ll get more info about the EverQuest II expansion as well as the announcement for whatever EverQuest has in store for players as well.  Maybe those perks will go live too.  They were delayed due to technical issues.

The instance group will be headed towards Zangarmarsh in WoW Classic.

I will carry on with Diablo II Resurrected.

And then there is New World, where my mild indifference is both a blessing and a curse.  I’ll play it if I am enjoying it, but I am not interested in queues.  I guess we’ll see how that settled down as time goes on.

Finally, I am thinking about turning on ads for the site for Q4 just to see how that plays out.  Your feedback on them is welcome, though I clearly won’t be putting up a poll about it.  We’ll see if they can offset the extra I am paying for the premium plan.

August in Review

The Site

Another month goes by.  I hit two minor meaningless milestones in August.  In addition to my 6,000th post I also managed to make it to 500 consecutive days of posting.

Quantity has a quality all its own

That was one that was easy up until I got past 400 posts and then it started to weigh on me.  But I made it.  In fact, today marks 521 days in a row.  But I probably won’t keep it going.  The pressure of starting over again at 1 is starting to be outweighed by inability to really care about that sort of meaningless milestone after a certain point.  500 felt worth it somehow, but beyond that is just yadda yadda yadda.

Otherwise it was kind of a slow month for traffic here, which was odd because Blaugust usually heralds a bit of a boost in page views and visitors.  I appear to have fallen out of favor with Google again, as search engine referrals have tanked over the last three months.  Such is life on the web.

One Year Ago

It was Promptapalooza Blaugust a year ago, a bit of a change up since we kind of did Blaugust as Blapril earlier in the year.  I wrote something about Quote of the Day and my alleged writing process.

The pandemic was still in full swing with no vaccine in sight.  I started writing about the shows we were binge watching around our house.  And then I did it again.

Twitter reminded me I had been on their site for a decade.

Facebook said you would need a Facebook account to log into your Oculus VR headset.

Epic broke the rules for the Apple Store and the Google Play store and, when Fortnite was removed due to this, immediately sued, which was their plan.  But what did Epic really want?

Daybreak bought Cold Iron Studios.  I think.  The press release about the acquisition has since been scrubbed… classic Daybreak, though still available at the Internet Archive… and Cold Iron has since gone on to ship Aliens: Fireteam Elite, which was not published by Daybreak or EG7 so far as I can tell.  Both Massively OP and MMO Fallout followed up on this for me though.

The pandemic was turning out to be quite lucrative for Activision Blizzard and the Shadowlands expansion was just two months out.

Over at SSG they were in danger of entering J. Allen Brack territory in warning people that they didn’t want “classic” LOTRO.  They’re probably right in the case of LOTRO, but it still gets people worked up.

I had returned to Diablo II, writing up my adventures in Act I.

In WoW Classic, which turned one year old, we were getting ready for Sunken Temple.  The road there takes some time.  Our first run went down stairs.

EVE Echoes, the NetEase mobile game based on EVE Online, launched.

In EVE Online CCP was introducing space weather in the form of metaliminal storms.  We got armor plating tiericide, Niarja fell to the Triglavians, and the promised metaliminal storms came out way before the month was out.

I hit my 14th anniversary with the game and wrote something about the spaceship meta.

World War Bee was in full swing.  I’ll just list out the posts on that:

Finally, Brian Green passed away and the community mourned his passing.

Five Years Ago

It was really Blaugust, so I was posting every… single… day even though it was supposed to be the “super relaxed” version of the event.

After spilling Mr. Yoshida’s delicious sauce over my ancient cell phone, I finally joined the smart phone boom with an iPhone 5S.  Of course, that meant playing Pokemon Go, something my wife does better than I do.

I tried to come to grips with the constant whine that every MMORPG should cater to every single play style by asking if any MMORPG had ever managed to find a new audience after launch.  I remain unconvinced that it has ever worked.

Blizzard was telling people that World of Warcraft was still the number one subscription MMORPG. But after their vow of silence on subscription numbers, that brag seemed a bit hollow.

In the game though things were looking up as the pre-Legion expansion event , the demon invasions, proved to be a boon to leveling up alts as they built up momentum.  And I still had that level 100 boost with the expansion to look forward to.

And then WoW Legion launched and it was on to the Broken Isles and class halls and what not.

I speculated what WoW expansions would look like if they were done like Pokemon games.

The Stormhold server in EverQuest II was facing a unlock voting crisis over the Rise of Kunark expansion.  It failed the first two votes, and failing a third would put votes in a moratorium for a while.  However, it passed on the third try.  I also shared my secret EQII shame.  Of course, with the coming of WoW Legion I was out of the game… like Legends of Norrath… just in time to miss some deals.

In EVE Online we had the YC118.7 update.  I was wondering if better PvE could save the game, though I remain unsure as to what “better” would really look like.

I was also celebrating my ten year anniversary with EVE Online.  Meanwhile CCP had a free to play plan lined up for New Eden.  It looked like it had some holes in it though… which we later learned it did.

Down in the southwest of New Eden the Imperium had set up shop in Sakht and was banging on the door of Delve, dropping citadels, blowing up citadels, and fighting LUMPY over sov timers.  Despite threats to keep the Imperium down for good, the locals in Delve got very little support in their fight and we were into the region shortly.

Back up north I was able to slip my last belongings out of the newly quiet system of Saranen.  Meanwhile, Executive Outcomes, which rode out the struggle as part of the Imperium, parted ways once the Casino War was over.

And somewhere along the line I found the time to get out Half-Life 2 and give it another spin.

Ten Years Ago

Blizzard announced some crazy idea that you would have to be logged on to Battle.net at all times to play Diablo III.  Glad that never came up again.  Oh, wait

SOE finally got a comprehensive server status page, and Scars of Velious opened up on Fippy Darkpaw.  I was wondering if they had “made good” with customers after the great hacking in April/May of the year.

I hit 70 million skill points in EVE Online and prepared to check out after the summer or rage.

I was back playing LOTRO for a bit.  I made it into Moria, then went looking for hoes.  I also wrote a post summing up my relationship with LOTRO up to that point.  It’s complicated.

Wargaming.net announced World of Battleships.  They have since changed the name to World of Warships, because we cannot have enough games we can shorted to WoW yet.  This got me musing on battleships and related games.

Meanwhile, World or Warplanes (another WoW) got a web site with cool pictures and stuff.

David Reid was telling people that Rift had ONE MILLION CUSTOMERS.  How one actually defines a customer was left as an exercise to the student.

I was still playing some Need for Speed World.  I was enjoying destructible terrain, though the weekend the police broke lead to some different destruction.

I mentioned some of the little things I liked in MMOs.

I was wondering about World of Warcraft Magazine issue 5.  It seemed to be very late.

And Namaste put out a Very Short History of MMOs video.

Fifteen Years Ago

This is the last month in review where I have to pull things from fifteen years ago without linking back to my own blog posts.

AOL, which is still a thing even today (I strongly suspect my mother-in-law still gives them money every month), bought the GameDaily site which, in a case of foreshadowing, was eventually disappeared into the Joystiq brand.

I started playing EVE Online on August 29, 2006.  It was my last “pre-blog” MMO start.  It was certainly another stepping stone on the way to the blog, as I felt I have to tell somebody about the horrible new player experience.  Some things never change.

Thirty Years Ago

Tim Berners-Lee released to the public the first browser for something he called the World Wide Web.  Geocities sites and pop-up ads and massive link rot are on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Linus Torvalds announced the operating system he was working on to the Usenet news group comp.os.minix.  While he wanted to call the OS Freax, it would eventually get the name Linux.

Forty Years Ago

IBM launched the IBM Personal Computer, perhaps the most influential and least IBM-like product the company has ever created.  After failing to come up with an internal design and feeling the market slipping away, IBM let a team working outside of the normal company hierarchy put together a machine with off the shelf parts and an open architecture that was the essential foundation of the PC market we have today.

IBM, seeing all the clones spawning in its wake, eventually decided to make a more proprietary model, so introduced the IBM Personal System/2 in 1987.  The rest of the market said, “No thanks!” and the clones became the standard and IBM no longer makes desktop or laptop PCs.  I think the most lasting legacy of that 1987 design is the PS/2 port.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. The Blizzard Name Will Go
  7. PAPI Begins Pulling Out of Delve
  8. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  9. Activision Blizzard, the Lawsuit, and the Q2 2021 Financials
  10. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  11. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  12. Tempering Expectations with the Diablo II Resurrected Beta

Search Terms of the Month

Карта страны майнкрафт
[There are some map generators out there]

база майнкрафт
[I have made many]

симулятор секса игры на пк
[I get this search term in English a lot]

test alliance please ignore
[Easier to do these days]

ancient winter poncho
[No Ponchos!]

Game Time from ManicTime

The usual suspects top the list, though I was on EVE Online a lot more in the first couple weeks of the month.  Then, once Delve was recovered, that fell off somewhat.  The others I mention in their own entries below.

  • EVE Online – 45.29%
  • WoW Classic – 27.87%
  • RimWorld – 15.47%
  • Diablo II Resurrected beta – 6.20%
  • The Fermi Paradox – 4.96%

Diablo II

The Diablo II Resurrected beta was available for two weekends for some of us, so I was able to get a look at it.  It is good, though the team clearly still has some bugs to work out.  We’ll get to see if for real come the end of next month.

EVE Online

World War Bee is over.  The enemy has retreated from our territory, various parties are still finding new homes, Legacy Coalition is no more, PAPI has effectively been disbanded, and the threat of the dreaded blue donut has been averted once again.  There is lots of rebuilding left to be done and lessons to be absorbed.  Absent our Ansiblex jump gate network Delve has become a target for neutrals looking for easy kills and gates camps pop up all over, so the Home Defense fleet has been pretty active.  The jump gates will be back up again in less than two weeks though.  Then there will be a new transit network to learn.

Pokemon Go

My wanted Pokemon, Heracross, showed up in raids in August, so I got my wish and finished off the Johto Pokedex.  So what do I wish for next?

Otherwise the month was okay.  After the high of Pokemon Go Fest last month I haven’t been too excited about playing, and was all the more turned off when Niantic went back to the 40m radius for gyms and Pokestops.  It is nice that it is back to 80m permanently, but I need something to spark my interest.  Level 41 is dragging on and every level after is that much more of a grind.

Level: 41 (77% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 662 (+8) caught, 686 (+9) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 12 of 14
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

RimWorld

I kept on playing with the Ideology expansion for RimWorld.  It is pretty neat.  I have been meaning to write up a little review of it, but the dev has been adapting it from player feedback and it has evolved some, so it is probably better that I have waited.

The Fermi Paradox

I wrote a post about this during the month.  I played it for a while, but it felt a little light to me.  As I noted, it is in early access, and just arrived there in July, so it has plenty of room to grow.  I will likely revisit it at a later date because I like the concept, even if the initial execution isn’t quite there yet.

WoW Classic

As I mentioned in a post this month, our group has decided to stick with WoW Classic despite the troubles at Blizzard.  It is just the game that brings us together and I am not sure another title would work as well in the long term.  We spent the month working on epic mounts and then finally finished up Hellfire Ramparts as a group of four.

Coming Up

It is rumored that we will be getting the Valheim Hearth & Home update mid-month.  Our server is still running, so we might have to log in and see what that brings us.

By the end of the month we should also see the launch of Diablo II Resurrected.  I’m down for that.  It even sounds like mod support might be in place for it.  There was a piece about how the Median XL mod would be ready to go for it at launch.

There is also a likelihood that Amazon’s New World will ship next month, though I am in kind of “I’ll believe it when it happens” state of mind there.

In EVE Online it will be a time of rebuilding and homeland defense fleets.  In WoW Classic it is time for us to try the Blood Furnace, the second dungeon in Outland.

And, of course, there will be the biggest of my annual meaningless milestones in about two weeks when the blog will turn 15 years old.

Tempering Expectations with the Diablo II Resurrected Beta

Since Burning Crusade Classic launched there have only been two titles in my sights for 2021, both of which are also remakes/remasters; Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl and Diablo II Resurrected.

I am sure it makes some game dev sigh deeply that I am only really on board to replay titles I was playing actively twelve to eighteen years ago, but that is where I am at.  But when they announced Diablo II Resurrected at BlizzConline back in February I was hyped.

The return of the classic

So of course I jumped on board when it was announced that there would be an early access event for the open beta.  I wanted to see what was going on with Diablo II right away.  So I downloaded the 30GBs that make up the beta client on Friday night and gave it a look.

And I was almost immediately underwhelmed.

Seriously, my first thought was, “That’s it?” as I walked out onto the Blood Moor with my first character.  I just couldn’t figure out WHY that was my response.  It was an emotional response and perhaps the natural reaction of the build up the game has in my head, though I played the original through less than a year ago.

I had to stop and consider that for a bit.  I am sure some of it was just too much build up and the weight the game carries in the titles I have played over the years.

But when thinking about it, the game is just kind of dark, especially in the beginning.  Oddly, though people went on about how dark Diablo II was when we started seeing previews of Diablo III, the remastered graphics are even darker.

Thanks to the magic of the remaster, which lets you hit the G key to swap between original and remastered graphics, I could see how much brighter things were in the old days.  I was down in the first set of caves with an amazon and the original graphics looked like this:

Amazon fighting a zombie

That still seems pretty dark, especially when compare to Diablo III.  That is just a crop of the middle of the screen, which fades off into an inky blackness in all directions outside of the pool of light around my character.

That same amazon with the new graphics

It isn’t really darker, but the brightness of some of the items, her armor, her hair, her skin tone, are all much less vibrant and flashy.  The world is even more subdued and, I suspect after some of the bright and flashy demos they were showing, I was expecting things to be brighter rather than following the darkness vibe.

Once I figured where I was coming from, I was able to get into the new look more readily.  And I will admit that in a lot of places it does look very good.  The animations of movement and combat are especially good when compared to the roughness of the original.

I flipped back and forth between original and remastered graphics quite a bit when I started off.  Both fill up my monitor in full screen mode, though the remaster only goes to 2560 x 1440, shy of my ultra-wide monitor’s 3440 x 1440 resolution, but the boarders fade to black, which works well enough in Act I.  That might be a little more stark in contrast when I get to the desert of Act II.

The original graphic don’t even reach out to 2560 in pixel width due to it being done in 4:3 aspect ratio back in the day, but it too fades to black as it gets out to the edges.

Eventually I kept playing with the new graphics, popping back into the old once in a while just to remind myself what one mob or another looked like.

And the other thing I… and anybody coming to the game for the first time… should remember is that this is a remaster of twenty year old title.  There are a few niceties that have been added… some shared storage across your characters and that you can pick up gold just by walking over it now… but it is otherwise trying to be true to the original.

I did not get a ton of time to play this past weekend, but the real open beta starts this coming Friday, so I can return for another look.  What I saw so far makes me keen to play, though it was not without problems.  I didn’t run across anything game breaking, but the animation and sound were excellent… except when they fell out of sync.  There were a number of times when I would swing, see the blow hit, see the loot drop, hear the blow land, then hear the loot sound.

I am not sure if that was Battle.net lag… a constant problem back in the old days… or that they just haven’t gotten things screwed down tight enough, but there is clearly a bit more work to be done.

I’ll see how it looks next weekend.  They have until late September to get it ready for prime time.

Summary: True to the original in vision and execution, just remember that the original came out 21 years ago.

Activision Blizzard, the Lawsuit, and the Q2 2021 Financials

You don’t want to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.

-J. Allen Brack, BlizzCon 2013

I am pretty sure that J. Allen Brack would be pretty happy just being known as the guy who arrogantly pissed all over, and probably helped delay, the huge money maker that WoW Classic turned out to be.

I am also pretty sure both he and the company wish that statement was worst thing to come out of BlizzCon 2013.

But yesterday saw him step down as President Blizzard… a polite way to say he was the first big sacrifice in the wake of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing hostile workplace lawsuit.  He was joined by the SVP of HR, Jesse Meschuk

Not that he didn’t deserve it.  Sure, a lot of the most egregious behavior happened on Morhaime’s watch, but Brack was still in the thick of things, still a leader in the company during that time as well.

Brack was replaced by new Blizzard “co-leaders” Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, both of whom have roots outside of Blizzard.

For those of you who like the “Bobby Kotick is cementing his dominion over Blizzard” narrative, it has been noted that Morhaime was CEO of Blizzard, Brack was President of Blizzard when he replaced Morhaime, and Oneal and YBarra are co-leaders now, whatever that means.

And the Brack announcement went out in advance of the Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 financial results announcement, no doubt following the theory that you get bad news out of the way before and hope that you have good news during and after.  So was it a good thing that Kotaku pointed out that the company is losing T-Mobile as a sponsor of their Call of Duty and Overwatch esports league before the call as well?  And then there was the expected shareholder lawsuit.

Which brings us to the report.  You can find the detailed financials, the presentation, and the recording of the call over at the investor relations page.

The presentation opened right up with five actions the company is taking in light of the lawsuit and the protests both from outside and within the company.  They are:

  1. We have asked Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra to assume responsibility for development and operational accountability for Blizzard.
  2. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. When we learn of shortcomings, we will take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we will be adding additional staff and resources.
  3. We will terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.
  4. We will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions.
  5. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We will be actively reviewing that content and removing it, as appropriate.

Again, this is a change from the stubborn defiance that was the hallmark of the initial response from the company, but is unlikely to be enough in itself to soothe anybody.  The employee organizers are still not buying the company’s new tack.

When it came to the numbers, all three pieces of the company saw a decline in revenue from Q1 2021, though that is not unexpected given the roll back in pandemic restrictions we saw midway through the quarter.  People went outside and did things, a trend that will no doubt continue into Q3 if the price of airline tickets and rental cars are any indication.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 11

Blizzard alone was down $50 million in revenue when compared to Q1, which was a direct hit to margins.

When it came to singing Blizzard’s praises, the song remained the same, a tale of Azeroth making the money while other franchises languish.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

WoW bookings doubled year over year, with much of the credit going to the launch of Burning Crusade Classic.  A lot of people bought that pack with the lizard mount.

Hearthstone kept on rolling as well, cranking out yet more expansions.

And while Diablo II Resurrected holds promise for the company, Diablo IV is still on the distant horizon and Diablo Immortal has been pushed back again, this time to the first half of 2022.  We could see a four year gap between when it was announced at BlizzCon 2018 with a playable demo and when it finally ships.

Meanwhile over at Massively OP, where they have been keeping score, the running tally of monthly active users for Blizzard continued its downward trend, with the company shedding another million users.  We don’t know where they came from or where they went, but they aren’t hanging out in Blizzard games anymore.

After being down in revenue and players in Q2, we have yet to reckon with Q3 and the iceberg that is the California lawsuit.  The only thing Blizz has in the near future is Diablo II Resurrected and some likely misguided hope about “stronger engagement” with the Shadowlands expansion.  But people were already leaving retail WoW for FFXIV before the shit hit the fan.

I appreciate that Activision Blizzard seems to have finally decided that they need to clean house, though the cut off for responsibility is clearly enforced before you get to the C-level suite, but the company clearly needs to step things up a couple notches or the Q3 results will be a bloodbath.

Friday Bullet Points on Deck for Summer

Back in the day I used to have a regular “mail bag” feature that took items from the blog inbox… reader submissions and press releases… that I thought might be interesting.  I don’t get much reader email these days and the press releases… where to even start?  Leaving aside the non-gaming updates, and the interview offers for random “experts” on even more random topics, the best one I’ve seen in months was about a Hello Kitty mobile app.  It even has a video, if that is your thing.

Bullet points though… I can pull those from anywhere.  All of which was a too long way of saying we’re back to the Friday Bullet Points thing again.

  • Steam Deck

Probably the big PC gaming announcement of the week was the Valve announcement of the Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck hardware

Basically it feels like Valve looked at the Nintendo Switch and said, “Yeah, we can do that and then some.”  No doubt experience garnered with the failed Steam Machine helped them along

It runs on the Linux based SteamOS, plays games directly from your Steam library, has a docking option that allows you to hook up a keyboard, mouse, and monitor if you so desire, and is supposed to be available by December, with pre-orders opening up today.

Pricing is “aggressive” according to the company, starting at $399 for the 64GB base model and rising to $649 for the 512GB top end unit.  It seems pretty cool.  There are games in my Steam library that certainly favor a controller for input, and $400 for a mini gaming PC seems like a pretty good deal.  But I’ll probably wait and see on this one all the same.

Picking additional coverage to link to is tough as literally any web site that has any connection to video games has an article up by now, so there is plenty out there about the device.  Still, IGN’s article links to a FAQ they put together with Valve, so I’ll link to that.

  • Pokemon Go Fest

Pokemon Go turned five this month and the annual Pokemon Go Fest is this weekend to celebrate.  I haven’t really felt the need to buy the $14.99 in-game ticket to join in on the event in the past.  Some things, like all the special raids, are there for everybody.  But this time around they knocked the price down to $4.99 and have a pile of thing available for those who buy in, so my wife and I spent the money.

the 2021 event price

It is summer, we can go outside again, and it isn’t like the war in New Eden will miss me for a couple of afternoons.  I also have to go feed somebody’s cat on Saturday, a walk which will take me past at least three gyms.

  • Pokemon Go Five Year Collection Event

It is lucky for Naintic that we bought the event tickets before we finished the warm up event.  For the five year anniversary there was a run to collect all of the starter Pokemon from the first six generations of the game.  They were out in the wild, so the first dozen or so were easy enough to collect.  But there are always a few who seem reluctant to show up.  We found out that the daily tasks related to the event always had one of the starters, so the night before the deadline we were out at the community center, which has a a bunch of Pokestops, doing tasks to try and get the last two we needed.

Take 5 pictures of a wild Pokemon was a common task

After some persistence, my wife ended up getting her final catch.  I got my final one the next morning… a totodile if you are interested… so we were able to collect the rewards.

All of the starters checked off

They were some Pokeballs (yawn), a few rare candies (decent), and a special encounter.  The hope was that it would be something good.   Instead it was the anniversary Pikachu.

5 year Pika

That would have been cool… had that Pikachu not been littering the pavement throughout the event.  They were everywhere.  I wasn’t even bothering to catch them.  My wife about exploded when she saw the reward for the effort.  So here is hoping we get a bit more from the weekend’s run.

  • Pokemon Go Raid Achievements

Earlier this month, in advance of the anniversary, Pokemon Go got some big updates on the graphical front.  It is no longer either day or night.  Dusk and dawn see the light change as the sun moves through the sky.  Shadows are also more realistic.  When joining a raid there are some splashy new graphics.  And, there are now raid level achievements for things like most damage, final blow, and best dressed.

My wife got the final blow, but I just make this look good

There are, of course, badges for getting raid achievements… achievements for achievements are my favorite achievements I guess.

I can hit hard when I want

The interesting one is the traveler award, which goes to the remote raid pass person furthest from the gym.  I’ve had one friend from Japan get the furthest I’ve seen so far.

That is pretty far away… I was about 1km from the gym

  • Diablo II Technical Alpha Updates

I am trying to be cool about Diablo II: Resurrected.  We’re not getting it for a while, so no need to get all excited about it.

The return of the classic

But then we get updates from the company about how the technical alpha is going and it becomes hard to sit on my hands.  I want to play.  As a pre-order I will get a chance in about a month I guess.  That isn’t too far down the road.  Time flies.

  • Reserve Bank Keys are Coming

Back when CCP was nerfing ratting by forcing the ESS on it last November, they setup a main bank, which can be stolen from ratters, and a reserve bank, which would require special keys that were not yet available.  Since then trillions of ISK has built up in the reserve banks across null and low sec space.

CCP has announced that the reserve bank keys are finally coming.  They have put the keys, which can be found in low sec sites, up on the test server so people can try them out.

I expect comedy will ensue.  A few keen players will get in, figure out the system, keep quiet about whatever flaws there are, and otherwise position themselves to act the moment that the keys are released on the live server, at which point there will be a rush for them.  The winners will likely be the preppers and large groups that will rob their own reserve banks.

I expect that the reserve bank keys will be live on July 27th unless some tragic flaw is found, reported, and actually investigated by CCP.  At least they put the ISK payout flow on a timer,  made the keys specific to a particular quadrant of New Eden, and gave us two flavors (5 minute and 15 minute) so all the reserve banks won’t be empty in a week of furious activity like they did with structures a while back.  And, like the main bank, the payout is in bonds that need to be redeemed at an NPC, so they can be lost even after the heist.

 

Diablo II Resurrected is coming September 23

Blizzard announced at E3 this past weekend that Diablo II Resurrected will launch on September 23, 2021.

Just a few months away

I have been a little concerned that the only two new titles… both of which are remakes/remasters… that I am interested in so far this year, Diablo II Resurrected and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl were both looking to collide somewhere in Q4 when it came to release dates.

We heard at the end of May that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl had launch date of November 19th.

Now we have the Diablo II Resurrected date, which is almost two months earlier.  That seems like a pretty decent gap.  And, if you pre-order, you can get in a few weeks early with the late beta… so, of course I pre-ordered like an idiot.  They are singing my song here, or promising me I can relive my relative youth, or something.  Just take my money already!  Yes, I know I already own two copies of the old game, give me the remaster!

I am clearly still pretty excited about this title four months down the line since it was announced at BlizzConline.  I would have been happy for old graphics that just scaled up to modern monitor sizes, but to get a full graphical remaster… with the ability to toggle to the old graphics… plus a lot of nice quality of life changes like a shard stash, that is killing it.

There is, of course, a new trailer up that shows some of the new graphics (and a bit of the old as well).

The launch date is also far enough out that it might be time for a break from Burning Crusade Classic.

So mark me down for this come September.