Category Archives: Diablo III

BlizzCon Yawns 2018

Well, BlizzCon has come and gone and some of it was pretty tepid.

BlizzCon 2018

My rough draft title was just “BlizzYawn 2018,” but it wasn’t all that bad.

As I have said in the past, the problem with BlizzCon is in part because it was effectively WoWCon for a number of years, so if you were a WoW fan you had a lot of people catering to your needs and whims during that time.

Now with six franchises sharing the spotlight, if you are only interested in one of the titles, and they split the coverage evenly, 83% of the show is not of interest to you.  Nobody is getting all the attention, or even most of the attention anymore.  And if your title doesn’t even get equal time… like Diablo last year and StarCraft almost every year… or if what Blizz shows isn’t anything you’re interested in… like Diablo for a lot of fans this year… then you’re not off base to feel left out.

Anyway, I spent a bunch of time watching with the Virtual Ticket and I still found a lot interesting, even if a lot more wasn’t for me.

Opening

Mike Morhaime came out to open the show and greet everybody as he does every year. However, this time it was a farewell tour. He introduced J. Allen Brack, new CEO of Blizzard, got a handshake, and was sent off stage left for likely the final time on stage at BlizzCon.

I am still not sure how I feel about the change of leadership.  The leader gets blamed for all bad things and praised for all good ones, but in many companies is more likely riding the wave of events rather than shaping them.  So maybe the change won’t matter.  Blizz is old enough to have a culture set in concrete, and there is nothing so difficult as trying to change corporate culture.

And, of course, J. Allen Brack is this guy.

World of Warcraft

With J. Allen Brack now at the top of the pyramid they had to have the new chief of WoW come out and speak. While not an impressive figure, John Hight isn’t nearly as tall as his predecessor for instance, he did show more charisma on stage than the unemotive J. Allen Brack.  I mean, he was no Chirs Metzen, but who is? (Except for that guy in line at the WoW Q&A.)  Still, he seemed excited and invested and glad to be there.

When we got to the actual “What’s Next” presentation for WoW Ion Hazzikostas took the stage to actually get into the details as to what is coming with the Tides of Vengeance update, which is coming on December 11.  Basically, they are trying to follow the successful path they went down in Legion while improving on some of the things, like azerite armor and such.

He was followed up by Ryan Shwayder, formerly of SOE, the 38 Studios fiasco, and the Nerfbat blog, who spoke of new allied races coming with the 8.1.5 update, changes to Darkmoon Faire, holiday updates, Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin remaster, and portal rooms in Stormwind and Orgrimmar.

Basically, lots of things are coming and, while I am not totally invested in WoW at the moment, there were things on the list for me.  Blizzard is still trying to tend to its biggest money maker, not that I doubted they would.  They haven’t addressed every little concern, but clearly there is still a lot going on.

WoW Classic

This was the interesting bit of BlizzCon for me.

First, the big news.  We got a ship date… well, a ship season anyway… for WoW Classic.  It is slated to launch in Summer of 2019, so at some point before September 23.  Going back and looking at what I have said in the past, I was clearly betting on 2020.  But the timing of Summer 2019 seems about perfect as that would put it a year after the Battle for Azeroth launch, about the point when many expansions start shedding players in large numbers.  It will also be pretty close when all those “six months for a mount” subscriptions start to come due.  It is like they planned that.

The other item is that WoW Classic access will be part of your WoW subscription, something I fully expected.  No conspiracy there to my mind.  You want to make it easy for customers to give you money.

And then there was the “Restoring History: Creating WoW Classic” presentation.  I wish they would put this up on YouTube, because it was great to watch. They spoke about how they managed to unearth all of the WoW 1.12 data from a backup of a backup and how, to solve the problem of making it run, merged it into the current WoW cand Battle.net framework.   With just some adjustment to data formatting they were able to get a prototype running.  This solved a lot of infrastructure problems for them and gave them a solid platform that works with their current systems.

Now there is a matter of paring back some of the things that come with that framework which led to a segment about their design philosophy.

Overall design philosophy

The last bit means if something is working the way it was back in 1.12, that is the way it should work.  There were some easy choices to make.

The easy stuff to eliminate

Other things were less obvious items, such as the debuff limit.  In 1.12 you could only have 16 debuffs on a boss.  That was a technical restriction, not a design choice, that they managed to get past later, so the number is now 255.  But since it was 16 back then it will be 16 in WoW Classic because to change it might change the raid and dungeon meta.  Other things they might let in, but only after close scrutiny.  You will likely be able to shift-click on in-game mail to collect attachments, but in-game mail will take an hour to be delivered.

Also, because WoW didn’t spring on us fully formed certain things will be introduced over time in waves.  The time frames are not set yet, but this is what they are considering, including the appropriate in-game events to go with them.

Raid progression

This opens the question as to whether or not they will be starting new servers over time as well, because maybe you want to run the Onyxia era raiding, but the server has already progressed to AQ.  We shall see.

And then there was the WoW Classic demo, which let you run around either Westfall or The Barrens in a character boosted and geared to the right level.  On the first day there were so many people that Westfall was effectively scourged of NPCs, even on a low population server (there were 20 servers up), but I was able to run around a bit.

Later in the evening, when the BlizzCon people stopped playing, things got more manageable and I was able to hunt the Defias and such.  While I didn’t go in with a strong mind as to how things ought to be, every time I touched the UI I was reminded of how things had changed and remember what it was like back in the day.  For example, remember how “B” used to just open up your first bag by default?  There were lots of those revelations.

Blizz has done a really good job so far, though there is clearly some work left to do.  Some random screenshots:

I am actually really impressed with how serious the WoW development team seems about WoW Classic.  This feels like Blizzard getting serious about a project and being determined to do it right, a welcome change and pretty much a complete about face from the “it can’t be done” and “you think you want this” messages of the past.

Candy Crush Diablo

This was the surprise disappointment part of BlizzCon for me.

Here is where Blizzard learned that if your user base is mostly PC gamers, with a smattering of console fans in the mix, announcing a new mobile title might not be the best BlizzCon plan.

Diablo Immortal, the NetEase created game set to bring the Diablo franchise to mobile platforms, was the only thing Blizzard had for the franchise, and did not sit well with fans in the Diablo hall at BlizzCon. Blizz had their most dedicated fans in the audience that day and managed to disappoint them en masse.

This seemed to be one of those polarizing moments. It you were an outsider or a member of the gaming press, you were likely fast to criticize the reaction of the fans. More entitled toxic gamer hate.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  Do you guys not have phones?

On the other hand, imagine if you were a fan and saw the primacy of place given to the “What’s Next for Diablo” presentation on the schedule, something that sets expectations even when Blizz tries to cool down the anticipation. The IP with the biggest announcement is always up first after the keynote. You have spent money on the Virtual Ticket or, worse, spent a lot of money getting to Anaheim for BlizzCon, and the announcement Blizzard has about the Diablo Franchise is essentially not for you. You might rightfully feel more than a bit betrayed if the only news you got was for somebody else, somebody not even at BlizzCon.

Blizzard had their core audience right there and was talking past them to some potential future fans who weren’t even watching.  I mean, they literally said that Diablo Immortal was for a market segment that doesn’t play Diablo.  So the complete lack of cheering or any enthusiasm in the crowd was a big red flag at an event where cheering is the norm. You have to have made a pretty serious con mistake to get there.

Guess what? Platform matters. Blizzard makes games for the PC platform with some titles available on console, and I am honestly surprised the PC and console players get along as well as they do. Yes, Hearthstone is available on mobile, but given that it only ever cracks into the top ten on the PC charts, my guess is that the PC demographic dominates. And Hearthstone fans were not sitting in the Diablo room.

Nor were Hearthstone fans or other mobile players at BlizzCon interested in the demo it seems. Pictures  from the demo area for Diablo Immortal showed sparse interest in the title from all BlizzCon participants who lined up to play all the other demos.

And the response from fans was entirely predictable.  We have seen it before.  We watch Disney kill Club Penguin with its mobile plan, ignoring the loud complaints of its installed base.  We saw a quite a tepid response to EVE Echoes, the mobile EVE Online game also being made by NetEase, just two weeks ago.  The saving grace at EVE Vegas was that we knew a mobile game was in the works and CCP had the good sense not to make the EVE Online keynote all about an outsourced mobile game.  Blizzard totally missed the expectations of their fans and is paying the price.  The Diablo Immortal videos on YouTube are getting a huge amount of down votes, so much so that they have removed and re-posted them in hopes of clearing the down vote tally.

You know what could have alleviated the pain of Diablo fans? Literally any news about something new for the franchise on PC.

A teaser for Diablo IV would have been oil on turbulent waters.  A mention that they were working on a remastered version of Diablo II, something we’ve suspected for three years now, would have dissipated most of the outrage.  But the only other news to announces was that Diablo III for the Switch was now available, but Nintendo had been bombarding us with that for weeks already.  Good for Switch owners, not all that interesting to the core Diablo fanbase.

I might hope we have a lesson learned here, but probably not.  Blizzard is certainly trying to walk this back without blaming the fans.  They love to stoke up that fan passion when it is going their way, so they have to eat it when it gets out of their control.  It is at least good that they get that.

As for own feelings about Diablo Immortal, I am sure it will do well with some demographic, but that isn’t me.  I like slower games on my iPad and on my iPhone I only ever play Pokemon Go, mostly because I have a small iPhone, which I prefer, so I need to put on glasses to see tiny text on the screen.  And given that the gaming press, which was so quick to jump on Diablo fans, could barely string together three nice things to say about Diablo Immortal in their own write ups, it seems unlikely that I will bother to give it a look.  Oh, and it is always online, just like Diablo III.  No single player for you!  The hits just keep on coming.

Of course, while this grabbed so many headlines and hot takes, it was only a small part of BlizzCon overall.

Addendum: And now word is going around that Blizz considered mentioning Diablo IV, then decided against it, leaving them with anger at BlizzCon and removing some of the surprise from any future announcement because now we know it is a thing.  Now they’re just using it as damage control.

Addendum 2: Now Blizz admits there was a Diablo IV video made, but denies there was ever plans to show it at BlizzCon.

Overwatch

Unlike Diablo fans, those there to see Overwatch seemed pretty happy.  They got a new character to play, Ashe, and a couple of cinematics.  I don’t play Overwatch, so it is difficult for me to gauge how much this meant.

They are also getting a kids cereal with loot box prizes inside.

Lucio Ohs

This is really a thing coming in December.  A free loot boost is now part of this complete breakfast.

Hearthstone

No surprise here, a new expansion was announced, Rastakhan’s Rumble, a troll and Stranglethorn Vale themed package.  Seemed to get all the cheers Blizz could ask for.

Heroes of the Storm

A new character to play, Orphea, who is free to all BlizzCon participants.  There was also some gameplay updates slated for 2019.  I’m really at sea when it comes to HotS, but fans seemed happy.  But since I hear so little about HotS outside of BlizzCon, my suspicion is that they are happy to be getting as much attention as they do.

StarCraft II

StarCraft II got Zeratul a new co-op commander.  Also coming are building skins and the ability to earn skins and such by watching SC2 esports events.  I keep thinking I will go run the single player campaign for this, since the base game is free now… but somehow I never do.

Warcraft III Reforged

The good BlizzCon surprise, even though I mentioned it as a possibility last Thursday, was Warcraft III Reforged.

The return of RTS again

This one interests me.  I’ve been back to play Warcraft III and blogged about it.  It was the last Warcraft RTS, was very popular, and a player mod for the game, Defense of the Ancients, essentially kicked off the MOBA idea and is largely responsible for what became League of Legends and DOTA 2.  But it also came along in 2002 and once World of Warcraft hit in 2004, Warcraft III fell into the background, like everything else at Blizzard, as the company tried to get hold of the overwhelming success of WoW.

It’s legacy is huge, but timing put it in the shadow of its younger sibling, so I wonder how the remaster will play out.  It is available for pre-order at $29.99, which includes the expansion The Frozen Throne.  Or, for ten dollars more you can get the Spoils of War Edition, which gives you items in other Blizzard games including a mount in WoW.  Given that $25 is the usual toll for a WoW mount, that might be a deal.

Also, now that we have this and StarCraft remastered, Blizz might finally get to Diablo II remastered.

Destiny 2

Activision continues to try to horn-in on the Blizzard launcher.  They already have Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 in their own little roped off section.  It was announced at the start of BlizzCon that the Destiny 2 base game was available free to download from the Battle.net launcher, and would remain so until November 18th.  So if you want to try it out and have about 80GB of drive space to spare, there it is.  Of course, they hope to get you hooked so you’ll buy the expansions.

Panels and Other Events

If the gaming press had really wanted to roast gamers, they might have spoken up about how sparse the crowd was for the “Play Nice; Play Fair” panel.  That was an empty hall.  But I am going to guess the gaming press didn’t bother going either given that Google didn’t show me a single result when I went looking for which gaming news site covered it.  The press isn’t as different from the fans as they would like to think I guess.

I have long since gone off the cos-play and dance competitions.  I’m just not into it enough to care after watching it for a few years.  There are too few fresh stand-outs for me.

There were also five channels at BlizzCon devoted to “esports,” which I am putting in quotes just to annoy people, and I didn’t watch a single minute.

Still, I watched and enjoyed quite a few of the panels.  There are still some I want to watch before the time runs out on the Virtual Ticket and they disappear forever.  I think I might have enjoyed “Build A Panel: World Creation in WoW” the most, as it combined my enjoyment of looking behind the scenes on how things are made with just enough silliness.

Overall I suspect that for the rare Blizzard fan who loves all of their games equally, this was a reasonably satisfying event.  Everybody got a little something… well, except for the core Diablo audience.  But it you love Blizzard uncritically, as some seem to be demanding we should, then Diablo Immortal was good for you too.

Of course, people have been complaining about BlizzCon since the second one, during that dream era when it was just WoWCon.  The long time complaint was always that Blizz shouldn’t bother unless they have a huge announcement.  The few times there has been a huge announcement do tend to set a high bar.

However, I am fine with a tepid BlizzCon when it comes down to it.  In the end there is always more going on than I am able to watch and sometimes the fine details are more interesting than the big announcements.  And I got to play WoW Classic, which got me back to playing some WoW, so op success for Blizz on this front I guess.  I might even hit level 120.

Others in the neighborhood talking about BlizzCon 2018:

Looking Towards BlizzCon 2018

BlizzCon starts tomorrow, so it is about time I got around this post.  I have ordered the Virtual Ticket, so I will be watching all of what is coming.  However, the question is, what will we actually see?

BlizzCon 2018

  • World of Warcraft

There will no doubt be some words about Battle for Azeroth, how everything is fine and wonderful and even if it isn’t Blizz will be making things better shortly.  There might even be a mention of some new content and plans and maybe a reference to how the game will be fifteen years old next year.

But the main thing will be WoW Classic.  Once I ordered the Virtual Ticket I figured out how to download the demo so I could play it once it goes live.  It doesn’t get its own entry on the Blizzard launcher… not yet at least.  Rather, it is one of the options under “Region/Account.”

The option to select

There are not any Patch Notes, the link there points to to WoW 8.0.1 patch notes.

Once you have selected it, you can click the “Install” button and off you go.

The download

The download itself is… substantial.  It weighs in at 11.5GB, so I suspect we are getting more than just The Barrens and Westfall as part of the package.

Given that I said last year that this BlizzCon would be all about WoW Classic, at least on the WoW front, I suspect that will be the case.  I don’t know what else they would go on about.

The play time people will be allowed for WoW Classic, even for the home download, is reported to be capped or otherwise limited, which I am sure will bring out some rage.  And reports indicate that the experience will be very much in the classic vein.

  • Diablo Franchise

There has been considerable buzz around the Diablo franchise over the last few months, with speculation that we might get a Diablo IV announcement.  And, looking at the BlizzCon schedule, the first item on the main stage is Diablo: What’s Next presentation.  That primacy of place usual goes to the franchise with the big reveal.

On the other hand, Blizz has been dumping cold water on rumors, warning people not to expect too much.  So who knows.

I would still like to hear something about Diablo II remastered, something they mentioned ages ago.  Other than that, and taking Diablo IV off the table, I don’t know what else they would have to present.  I mean, Diablo III on the Switch is nice and all, but it is old news by now, even if it officially launches tomorrow.

  • Overwatch

A new hero seems to be in the works.  A new map or a new play mode would be interesting, but as with the Diablo rumors, Blizz has been trying to set expectations low.  Since I don’t play Overwatch, I am not sure what else they might announced.  New cosmetics maybe?

  • Hearthstone

Hearthstone seemed to do pretty well as a franchise over the last year.  But with a collectible card game the path forward is always clear; new decks and new play modes.  Would anybody bet against one or both being announced?

  • Heroes of the Storm

It is getting a “What’s Next” presentation on the main stage, so something is up.  I suspect we will hear more about how they are going to make it better and/or more competitive with its rivals… though, it main rival, League of Legends, has been down so far in 2018, so maybe the MOBA thing is fading.

Also, new heroes and new cosmetics I am sure.

  • StarCraft

What do you do when your franchise doesn’t get a “What’s Next” panel until mid-way through day two?  I suspect that means no big announcements.

StarCraft and StarCraft II have their own room and channel for the esports league competition, so the franchise remains a staple there.  I expect that the most likely news will be some sort of adventure pack for SCII.

  • Others

Along with the StarCraft and Diablo II rematsers, there was also talk of a Warcraft III rematser as well.  Maybe we might hear something about that?  StarCraft made it and is on the launcher, so the trail has been blazed.

And then, of course, maybe Blizzard could announce something new.  They have been hiring for new projects and they are good at announcing and keeping momentum going through until launch.  But I don’t see any large, unaccounted for open slots on the schedule.  Maybe that “Inside Blizzard” presentation is just a decoy?

Anyway, that is my somewhat mild forecast for BlizzCon.  Blizz could still shake things up with a surprise or two, but unless there really is a Diablo IV announcement I think WoW Classic will be the big item for the event.

Can We Trust a Torchlight MMO?

…because of WoW, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.

-Rob Pardo, MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007

We’ll get to that quote in a bit, but first we must go back to 2012, back to the war to see who would be crowned the REAL successor to that most beloved ARPG Diablo II.

The claimants were Diablo III, which had the name and Blizzard’s might behind it, Torchlight II, which had some of the original Diablo development team on board, and Path of Exile, which was the dark horse indie candidate in the race.

The competition was a big enough deal that I made categories on the blog for all three of them.

In the end I think Path of Exile felt the most like Diablo II when it came to style and atmosphere.

Diablo III, after a bad start, eventually got fixed when Blizz removed the auction house and got the itemization lined up  correctly and went on to be the big money maker of the three.  It sold more that 30 million copies, got an expansion, and continues to get attention and updates from the company that we could only dream of during the Diablo II era.  A version was just announced for the Nintendo Switch even.  Still going!

And then there was Torchlight II.  It was good.  Cute.  Colorful.

But where Diablo III had story and Path of Exile had atmosphere, I am not sure what Torchlight II really had.

Not that it did poorly or anything.  According to that Steam leak thing I wrote about a few weeks ago it was in 57th place on the list with close to five million copies in play on the platform.  The is an impressive haul, well ahead of Civilization VI.  Nobody can fault you if you beat Sid Meier.

Granted, it took them a few years to get the promised Mac OS version out the door and at that point it sounded like those working on the game were done with Torchlight.  That seemed to be the end of plans for a Torchlight MMO, something that had been talked about since the original Torchlight came out.  The original talk was of going from single player to multiplayer and then to an MMO.

And then there were some of the founders leaving the studio along with the fact that Perfect World Entertainment bought them out, and it seemed like the Torchlight saga was done.

Again, not that it had gone badly, but maybe Torchlight II was enough.  I mean they never did any addon expansions or DLC or any of the usual things you do to keep something you want to remain a franchise in the public eye.  Sometimes you just reach the natural end of things, which was what seemed to have happened here.

So I was a bit taken aback when a couple weeks back there was an announcement that Perfect World was planning a Torchlight MMO.  What is the vision for Torchlight Frontiers here?

Torchlight Frontiers

Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but I couldn’t see the real point, at least not in MMO form.

And no, I am not going the Gevlon route about “productive MMOs.”  That is nothing but the usual gamer hubris where we project our own likes on the world and pretend that everybody thinks the same way or that it has some actual logic to it.  Wrapping your personal bias in a tissue thin layer of faux objectivity doesn’t change what it really is in the slightest.

My objection tries to get closer to objective reality, or so I would hope.

MMOs are not easy to make and they certainly are not cheap to make.  Also, the market is already crowded with competitors.  Meanwhile Perfect World has traditionally been a purveyor of Asian style MMOs that don’t really do all that well in the West along with titles that couldn’t keep their original studios alive and were no doubt scooped up at bargain basement prices to be milked via cash shops and lockboxes for every last farthing they can provide.

In that scenario it is difficult for me to see much in the way of hope for anything worthwhile coming out of this idea.  Instead of an attempt to meet some real world demand or cater to a specific demographic, this all smacks of the quote at the top of the post, except in 2018 we have to substitute in “pushing for that cash shop pie” in place of “pushing for that subscription pie.”

Yes, there is talk of there being some Diablo and Torchlight devs involved, but when they say it won’t be a generic MMO but a Torchlight MMO through and through it sounds almost like a contradiction, because if I were to fault Torchlight II on anything, it would be on its mild blandness.  There was nothing wrong with it, but despite playing through the game I barely remember any of it.  I am sure there must have been a story to it, but I cannot remember any of it.

I actually reinstalled it via Steam last week just to revisit it for a while to see if my memories of the game had just faded over time.  After a couple of hours of play my hazy impressions were pretty much reaffirmed.  It is a decent game, if a bit bland, with a story that never really gets much traction in my brain.  It feels more incidental than anything.  There are just several other ARPGs that I find more engaging, such as Grim Dawn, Diablo III, Path of Exile, or even the remastered version of Titan Quest.  So I am not really seeing this as a property that screams to be made into an MMO.  Of course, I could say the same for the other four titles I listed out.

I know, I know, you can say you’re going to make any sort of MMO and you’ll always get some people excited about it.  In spite of our constant and repeated experiences over the last decade the acronym “MMO” still retains some magical properties.  People still long for a shared, persistent world to travel.  People will project their memories and ideas on it and get all excited about an imaginary game that as like as not will bear no resemblance to reality.  That path leads to inevitable disappointment.

So given all of that I cannot help but draw back from this and ask if it is really a good idea.  Given the state of the market, the limits of the franchise, and the reputation of the publisher is this something to get emotionally invested in yet?

And that leaves aside the basic game play questions.  For example, is playing Torchlight II with more than the full party you can play with now really a worthwhile goal?  Are dozens or even hundreds of other people around in this click-fest really a benefit?

I think that the best possible outcome might be a setup like the original Guild Wars, where there were certain shared areas like towns but that the actual content was limited to you and your party.  That sounds a bit like what they are aiming for, though I think having the overworld all shared and only dungeons instanced out for parties might be too much shared space unless they plan on a lot of dungeons.

As for the worst outcome… the mind boggles at the possibilities.  I would not bet against something like a revival of the failed Diablo III real money auction house for starters.  But we know from history that you don’t even need a cash shop to get RMT in motion in an MMO.

Diablo II RMT site ad from back in the day

I mean, Path of Exile is there as an example of how not to get mired in RMT, but I suspect that that Perfect World would see that as limiting their revenue potential.

Meanwhile, the fact that it is targeted for next year (developer optimism is evergreen) and is planned for Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBox One makes me wonder if Torchlight Frontiers will in anyway resemble what made Torchlight and Torchlight II as popular as they were.

That is the problem with experience; it inevitably makes a skeptic out of you.

Anyway, we’ll see what comes of this.  Maybe we’ll even see it next year.

Others who have chimed in on the topic:

The Necromancer is Coming

Last year and BlizzCon Blizzard promised two things for Diablo III.

The first was the original Diablo experience mocked up in the Diablo III engine… with Diablo III assets.  The Darkening of Tristram event.  We got that in January, and while the experience was not very old school Diablo, it was, as I opined, at least some new content to play through in the game.

The second was the return of the necromancer class, which we will get next week in the form of the Rise of the Necromancer DLC.

The necromancer arrives soon

One of the questions unanswered at BlizzCon was how much the necromancer DLC would cost, because it was made clear it wouldn’t be free.

The answer is: $15

Not a bad price for DLC I guess.  For your fifteen bucks you get access to the necromancer class, a bunch of cosmetic fluff, two additional stash tabs (PC master race only), and two character slots. (details here)

But no content.

So if you miss the necromancer class from Diablo II and want to see it remastered in Diablo III, this is probably an easy choice.  A new class through the current content is likely draw enough for fifteen bucks.

But if you are indifferent to the class… I played it back during Diablo II and it was interesting, but not a class I finished the game with… it is also easy to pass on.  I thought Blizz might have a hook in there, something to attract those for whom the class and the fluff aren’t much of a draw.

And I know, I sound like I am expecting too much for that price, though I will point out that Blizz has added whole new areas for free in the past… and there was the Darkening of Tristram event I opened the post with, which was free as well.  So a bit of content would not have been wholly out of the question to my mind.

As it stands though, I’ll likely let this slide.  But if the necromancer is a must-have for you, look for it on Tuesday!

January in Review

The Site

I remain mildly stunned that WordPress.com decided to forego their briefly traditional yearly summary report for people’s blogs.  So I’ll just take last year’s main chart and update it for the year.

2016trafficsources

Top Traffic Sources in 2016

Oddly, that list is almost all EVE Online driven, save for Reddit.  The majority of the Reddit traffic came from repeated links to my homage to/preservation of Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!

That aside, I do have more tangible WordPress.com issues to complain about.  The new stats page is still broken as I indicated last month.  Furthermore, comments have been acting oddly for a while now.  I will get a notification that somebody has left a comment on the blog, I will be able to see the comment on the admin page, but the comment won’t actually be visible on the post in question for quite some time.  The comment count on the post will take even longer to update.  And the comment in question won’t show up in the Recent Comments list on the side bar for ages, often only showing up when somebody else leaves a comment, which then follows the same routine.  Ah well.

And then, as the month went along, WP.com did another revamp of the UI, which made things tangibly worse for me.  But I can at least still find the old (and reliably functional) editor and most of the functionality I am used to hidden away under a menu at the bottom of the list.

Sanity is under WP Admin

Sanity is under WP Admin

They also changed up their subscription packages in a way that is going to complicate things for me, but I will get into that in another post at some point.  No need to spend all my anger here!

My blog did hit a record high number of page views this month… not this blog, my other blog.  CCP Phantom used a picture from the blog and linked back to its source in an EVE Online news post, which led to a spike in traffic yesterday.

350 views in one hour, when 3 views is the norm

350 views in one hour, when 3 views is the norm

As it so happened, traffic here was down… skill point posts are dull, I understand… leading to the first time ever when daily page views for EVE Online Pictures exceeded the page views here by 81.  Usually the ratio is something like 8 -20 to 1 in favor of TAGN.  Strange times.

On the bright side, at some point Google finally mumbled something about how they changed the G+ API and WP.com dragged themselves over to update that bit of code.

google-plus-logo-640

That connection broke just about a year ago for me, causing posts to be shared, but only with myself.  Not all that useful.  All you have to do to make it work again is disconnect G+ from your blog then connect again and it seems to start working again.  So now the five people who both follow me on G+ AND still actually use G+ will get spammed by my posts yet again.  Blame

One Year Ago

I had 16 predictions for 2016. (Results for those who need to know.)

I was also included on some sort of MMO info page thing.

It was the end of another Steam Winter Sale.

I was wondering what Early Access should really be.  I was also checking out which MMOs made PC Gamer’s latest list.

Smed was going to Kickstarter for Hero’s Song.  It got cancelled before I could finish the post about all the problems it had.  More than a bit of foreshadowing in that I guess.

People were troubled by a potential paywall in Rift.

The price for the Occulus Rift was announced, which led to quite a sum if all I wanted to do is play EVE Valkyrie.

In EVE Online I ran my first incursion boss.  We also got the first of the “no name” monthly updates.  Karma Fleet turned one.  CCP told us about skill extractors. Blog Banter 71 was about spaceships.  Also, there was some sort of conflict going on between I Want ISK and SpaceMonkeys Alliance.

In space we reinforced a tower and ran about in Typhoons and Jackdaws.  At the end of the month Reavers headed south to Wicked Creek to tangle with TEST.

Outside the game Battle Clinic, long a staple of the EVE Online third party universe, was set to shut down while the election process for CSM XI was kicking off.

Daybreak announced that they were going to port the five year old DC Universe Online to the XBox.

I went in to Diablo III to try out the Season 5 content.  I ran through the story quickly, but there was more to do.

I wrote a bit about The Force Awakens.

Finally, I was marveling at all the movies from 1986 that I remembered.  Aliens! Top Gun!  Platoon!  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!   It was a hell of a year for movies.

Five Years Ago

I asked 12 questions for 2012. Some of those questions are still pretty legit.  I also did what was for a while the annual LEGO minifigure round up.

I updated the About Page to its “Infrequently Asked Questions” format.  Has it really been like that for five years already?  It is probably due for an update.

There was that whole SOPA thing.  We still live in peril of its return.

I struck a couple of games from my watch list, as it seemed I would never go back to play them again.

I bought an iPad for our cats… judging by the pictures.

LEGO Universe joined the ever increasing list of departed MMOs when its free to play conversion failed to save it from extinction.

SOE gave us the subscription matrix for the EverQuest free to play transition.  As part of that conversion, EverQuest Mac was targeted for extinction as well. (Spoiler: It survived… for a while)  Meanwhile, somebody had an EverQuest cocktail shaker on eBay.

Prompted by comments from others, I asked why those who sought an old school MMO experience were not out playing Vanguard.

Blizzard said they were going to be too busy in 2012 for a BlizzCon.  Speaking of Blizzard, I hit level 85 at last in WoWAnd then there was a panic about Diablo III maybe launching in February. (It didn’t)

Turbine announced that their fall LOTRO expansion would be Rider of Rohan.

There was an odd divergent current about Star Wars: The Old Republic, with some declaring it dead already (one month in) while others were still in “best game ever” mode.  My favorite (now deleted, but still on the Internet Archive) angry post called it a hate crime.

I was starting to moan… more loudly… about how free to play makes an MMO focus heavily on cash shop content… to the detriment of the game in my opinion.  This was prompted, no doubt, by those wings.  Smed, on the other hand, was very happy about free to play.

In EVE Online the war against White Noise came to a close, leading to a quiet time in the north.  But a conflict with Raiden was looming.  during the lull, I recalled my first PvP death in EVE and celebrated that Garde drones now actually went *pew* *pew*.  Boring no more!

In Rift, the instance group was kicked off its server.  We regrouped on a new server.  We were also warming up and starting to work as a group again in the Iron Tombs and the Darkening Deeps.  That last was a struggle.

The Type 59 tank was pulled from the cash shop in World of Tanks.

And, finally, there was Pop Muzik.

Ten Years Ago

I wrote 59 blog posts, which remains a monthly record here at TAGN.  Of course, that was before Twitter, so I was more likely to do shorter posts.  If I had the patience I would track the average word count per post per month over the life of the blog to see how I changed from short posts to more of a long form/long winded approach.

I gave a brief recount of 2006 in what I find is my first high/low post on the blog.  I had forgotten that I had done that post.  I also uninstalled some games I was no longer playing.  I was also looking forward towards Lord of the Rings Online.

The MMO blogesphere starting talking about generations of MMOs, and I asked if we had even gotten past the first generation, then quoted Wikipedia’s take on the generation debate.

The instance group in World of Warcraft finished up the Scarlet Monestary and rolled through Razorfen Downs.

Blintz, my fae swashbuckler in EverQuest II was just digging into Zek, The Orcish Wastes, one of my favorite zones in post-cataclysm Norrath, as well as hunting for Blood Talon in order to get my dwarven work boots.

Scott Hartsman described some of the goals for the EverQuest II expansion that would eventually become The Rise of Kunark.  I also discovered that Sony slipped a promo for the Transformers movie in with the Echoes of Faydwer installation.  That was back when SOE was under Sony Pictures.

I played in some of the Vanguard open beta, once I got it downloaded.  The team was still working on a lot of polishing and features. The launch date was announced somewhat late, but when the game actually launched (on the same day as the much maligned Microsoft Vista), I declined to buy the box even though it was on Station Access.  I thought one of the game’s potential flaws might be the inability to make a “hot” character. A female half-elf was the best I could manage.  The character models were not pretty despite a profusion of sliders and options in the creation process.

Blizzard launched The Burning Crusade without the usual first day disasters that generally accompanied an expansions back in the day, though I couldn’t figure out why I bothered to buy a copy.  I was wondering how long it would hold its $40 price tag.  It stayed at that price for quite a long time.  These days we get a discount before a game even goes live.

Given that expansions were on my mind, I was wondering what the best timing for expansions really was.  EverQuest was still doing two a year back then, while Blizzard took more than two years to get to its first one.

I gave a brief review of Massive Magazine issue #2.

And I found that SOE had provided the industry standard definition for the word “soon.”

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. I Will Play Candy Crush No More Forever
  2. Daybreak Doomsaying
  3. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  4. The End of Landmark Foretold
  5. Would You Rather Fight Than Switch?
  6. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  7. 2017 – Predictions for Another New Year
  8. Opening the New War at F4R2-Q
  9. Falling Back in Catch
  10. Too Fast Through Tristram!
  11. Steam Winter Sale 2016 Results
  12. Seagulls Stop it Now!

Search Terms of the Month

what does dellmon mean
[Been asking what he means for years]

pretty alien sto
[The one in Kirk’s quarters]

everquest imperfect diamond
[Summed up correctly]

what is vanilla wow
[A unicorn we all want to find or slay]

Broadband Advertising Church
[Our Latency of Perpetual Round Trip?]

“pantheon: rise of the fallen” pipe dream
[So you may think]

Diablo III

The 20 year anniversary event, The Darkening of Tristram, got me to patch up and log into Diablo III again.  It was an interesting little distraction, some additional content, but beyond superficial graphical tweaks, it had about as much to do with 1996 as Twitter and the iPhone.  It did get me to go find the soundtrack from the 15 year anniversary, which is available on iTunes.  But I got the bulk of the achievements and the pet all the same.  I am just not sure that the event is something that will necessarily be a draw for people every year.  Anyway, if you want to see it this year, you had best patch up and try it, as it is supposed to go away soon.

EVE Online

I started off with a bang in New Eden around New Years, with the battle over the two Fortizars.  But then it was back to work where I caught the flu that was going around and I found I didn’t really have the stamina for ops at that point.  I joined in the return from Catch, but that was about it.  Once I was better I started getting my carrier together to see if I could join in on the promised training ops.

EverQuest II

Somewhere along the line I fell off the wagon when it came to Norrath.  The single quest chain I was able to find wasn’t thrilling me so I was just logging in daily to do a couple of crafting writs and maybe just enough harvesting to get the daily loyalty token reward.  I have about 500 of those and have yet to spend a one.  I haven’t unsubscribed yet, but it seems likely to happen before the next billing cycle.

Minecraft

While I was slacking off elsewhere, I was putting a bunch of my free time into Minecraft.  Not only do I have a big project under way, but I was ill for a week or so and Minecraft is conducive to playing when you’re not feeling well.  The long road hasn’t reached the half way point yet, but I moved the end of the road forward several kilometers over the course of the month.

Pokemon Go

Bad weather and illness kept me from playing very much… though there was at least one evening where you could have seen me leaving the house past 10pm to get in the car in order to drive the half mile to the nearest Pokestop because dammit, it was Day 7 of my streak and I wasn’t going to give up on that big payoff just because I wasn’t feeling well.

  • Level: 25 (+0)  Almost to 26, but not quite.
  • Pokedex status: 111 (+5) caught, 137 (+3) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Anything second generation
  • Current buddy: Nidorino

Pokemon Sun

As with a couple of other titles, I fell off the Pokemon Sun bandwagon for a good stretch of the month.  You would think that Pokemon would be a good game to play when you’re sick, but for some reason whenever I picked it up, I fell asleep.  Late in the month I did finally get back on track and finished up the final trial on Poni island, finished the main story line, and made Nebby get in the goddam bag for the last time.  On to the Pokeleague and then endgame activities.

Steam

For once the Steam Winter Sale actually distracted me from other games.  I bought a few budget titles and actually played through them.  Train Valley probably got the most attention.  I did start off in Stardew Valley, but wasn’t really in the mood to get through the inevitable initial hurdles any building/farming sim puts you through.  I will get back to that later.

Coming Up

The Activision-Blizzard 2016 financial report ought to be rolling in next month.  While the first rule of subscription club remains “don’t talk about subscription club,” I do look forward to seeing what I can divine from whatever clever number arrangements and MAUs charts the company puts out.

There is the inevitable monthly patch headed for EVE Online.  Also the CSM 12 candidate period will be in full swing and we should know by the end of the month who will be on the final ballot.  Then there is the Winter War in the south and a plan for another Burn Jita, though no final date has been set for the latter yet.

There are some things afoot with Lord of the Rings Online… something about a horse… while their partners at Daybreak will be putting and end to Landmark.  And, as I mentioned in the post earlier today (I am writing this before I have written that post, so I hope I didn’t forget to write it!) there is some distant rumor that we might hear something later this week from Turbine about the final fate of Asheron’s Call... something besides “bye!”

Also, wasn’t the EverQuest II Race to Trakanon server supposed to close in January?  I haven’t seen an announcement yet.  Was the team was too busy with server issued this month?  Maybe that will be something for February.

Also, after writing a ranty opinion piece about an EverQuest successor, I suddenly feel like I should got back and revisit a few other opinions.  Maybe.  My writing has strayed from opinions towards reporting on what I am doing over the years.  It might be time to update some views that may have been altered with the passage of time.

And, in a final question, when did my month in review posts start passing 2,500 words on a regular basis?

Seeking the Eerie Red Glow in Tristram

Last week I ran through the Darkening of Tristram event in Diablo III with my best equipped character.  That got me a look at the whole thing, but left me shy on the achievement and rewards front.   Specifically, I wanted to get what seemed to be the main achievement for the event, which had a pet included.

On my list...

On my list…

That required rolling up a level 1 character and running through the event.  So, in a fit of unoriginality, I created another crusader… I really like the class… named Maurice (Steve Miller Band joke here) and set off to run the event one more time.

Unfortunately I got a little bit lost on the was in, as I started out in campaign mode and then tried to blitz through the whole thing until I got to the portal.  However, the portal is only there in adventure mode, which is the free form, open world.  I figured that out after a bit of fruitless searching, then exited that game, changed modes, and started over again.  The portal was listed on the map, so I jumped straight there and off I went.

Event Here!

Event Here!

I have already advanced to nearly level 4 at that point, but for the event you just have to start a level 1 character and eventually run through and slay Diablo.  This was the first alt I had made since I ran through season six and got into Paragon levels, so I a bit surprised to find that I had access to those as a low level.  Still, waste not want not, so I allocated those and headed into the dungeon.

Maurice versus the Skeleton King

Maurice versus the Skeleton King

The Crusader excelling at defense, the paragon levels, and a series of fortuitous equipment drops meant that the run was pretty easy.  I waded into mobs and slew them with abandon as I made my way down the 16 levels to finally face and defeat Diablo.

Level 26 and the pet

Level 26 and the pet

That got me the achievement, the pet, level 26, and a third crusader that I probably won’t ever use again.   The whole thing also felt a bit easy, as with my first run.  So I decided to go up a notch.  Season 9 had just begun, so I figured I ought to do the run with a seasonal character.

Welcome to Season 9

Welcome to Season 9

That would cut off access to paragon levels, gold, extra equipment and such.  I also decided to go with a Barbarian.  While not completely out of my comfort zone, I have not played one for ages, so it would be at least a bit of a change.  I couldn’t just count on the Crusader’s defense to get through the massed of mobs.  I thought about making this a hardcore character… one death and he’s done… but decided that might be too much.  I’d hate to die way down at level 16 and have to start from scratch again.  And finally I decided to do it real old school and never return to town.  No vendors on the run, just going with what I could pick up.

Sigwerd the Barbarian was rolled up.  I set the game to Adventure and the difficulty to Hard and set off for the event.

One of the things with starting out as a level 1 is that you do level up quickly.  This makes getting regular gear drops somewhat critical to progress.  Since the mobs scale with you as you level up, having old gear starts to really weigh against you.  Worst of all is being left with an old weapon, as killing stuff becomes a chore, and all the more so when your defense pretty much depends on killing stuff before it kills you.

And weapon upgrades were in very short supply.  I didn’t get my first weapon upgrade until I was already level 7 and it was taking 10 hits or more with my primary attack to kill random mobs.  Fortunately the game relented literally one room away from the Butcher.  It wasn’t a huge upgrade, but it was better than the no-stats, 3.0 DPS gray starter axe I had been swinging up until then.

Sigwerd versus the Butcher

Sigwerd versus the Butcher

I thought perhaps the game had relented at that point, but I was wrong.  The game seemed keen to keep me on the hair edge of viable gear.  The fight with the Skeleton King was especially taxing as I was several levels up but was still chopping away with the same axe I had against the Butcher.  With the mass of skeletons the Skeleton King has with him… and he summons more the longer the fight goes… the battle went on for several minutes with me kiting him about, clearing his helpers, and running after health globes that the game seemed as tight-fisted with as it did gear drops.  I came away victorious, but it was some work.

By this point I had also noticed a problem with health potions.  They didn’t seem to be working reliably.  If I was in combat and clicking then hit Q for a potion, the timer for the next potion would start, but I wouldn’t get healed.  I had to make sure I wasn’t clicking or hitting any other controls before I hit Q to get that critical heal.

Down I went, level by level, always hungry for a gear update, but the game seemed to want to keep me that way.  I got a very nice orange axe at one point that sustained me for quite a few levels, but eventually fell behind and left me beating on mobs for ages to slay them.

Around the 15th level of the dungeon I got my last weapon upgrade, a 60DPS 2-handed sword.  I didn’t mind laying aside my shield and going with that as I had not seen a buckler upgrade during the whole run so still had the wee level 1 buckler I started out with.  I was level 22 by that point.  And I finally got pants during the big fight to open up the portal to final level of the dungeon.  Up until that point I had gone pantsless.

I had also gotten the whirlwind skill for my Barbaian, a signature skill for dealing with rooms full of foes.  I got that setup on the right mouse button and headed into the final level, knowing that I would be facing rooms full of mobs.  And then I ran straight into the first full room on that level and promptly died.  The skill isn’t all powerful.

Up until that point I had been wondering if I should have gone heroic.  Wouldn’t that have been a pisser, having gotten all the way to the final level only to have to pack it in?

Instead I revived at the previous checkpoint, which was the portal into that level, so I could finish it up.  Having to start back without a full globe of fury meant taking it careful, which I should have done in the first place.   I cleared the first few rooms, unlocked Diablo, cleared off his helpers, then danced with him for a while, chipping away until he was finally defeated.

Diablo down

Diablo down

That finished up the event for me.  There are a couple more achievements left, but I am not sure I want to hang about re-running the whole thing until I slay every single possible named mob that can spawn.  I saw the place, I got the pet, I had a bit of a challenge, I think I might be set.

I am still not feeling the full rush of nostalgic enthusiasm I thought I might for this event.  Putting it in Adventure mode in the game meant you could run it with any character you had, which was convenient.  But it also marked it as just some additional content.  There isn’t any real story around the event like there was back in the day, just the achievements and an in-game goal to slay Diablo.  I am not sure this will be a big drawn as a yearly month-long event unless Blizzard drops in more rewards/achievements.

This also makes me think about any potential plans Blizzard might have for Diablo II.  Some time back there was an indication Blizzard was hiring to convert/create HD versions of Diablo II, Warcraft III, and StarCraft.  That still sounds like the best plan to me for Diablo II.

Too Fast Through Tristram!

Mistakes were made.  Also, there may be some spoilers.

When I got home from work yesterday I got to check out the new anniversary event in Diablo III, the Darkening of Tristram.  The patch had been deployed, the event was live, it was time to log in.  And, upon doing so I was greeted with the announcement.

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary

At the bottom of the announcement was a button that opened up the achievement list for the event, because how else will you know you’ve done the event unless you get the T-shirt?  Yes, I know some of you will object, but I admit I like getting the T-shirt.

New Achievements under General

New Achievements under General

After that I got into my character, got into the Act I area of Tristram and looked around on the map until I found the marker for the event portal.

Event Here!

Event Here!

I immediately went there and started running around… and died.  It had been more than six months since I last played, the game was set to torment level VII, which I think was me pushing things last I played.  I decided that I ought to dial that back a bit.  So I dropped it down to level VI, then V, then down to III because I really couldn’t recall how bit the jump between torment levels was and I wasn’t sure if this event was going to be harder, easier, or the same difficulty curve as everything else.  Paranoia.

At Torment level III I was able to clear my way to the portal to the even easily enough.

The portal, complete with cursor glitch

The portal, complete with cursor glitch

The portal has a pixelated texture to indicate that you will be going back in time.  It also causes some sort of glitch with the cursor when you take a screen shot.  On my screen there was just one fist cursor, but in the screen shot it shows the six variations that make up the animation, all laid out in a row.  I went back and tried that screen shot a couple more times and always got the same result when it was over the pixelated portal to Tristram.

Glitch aside, it was time to go through the portal and see what lay on the other side.

Sudden reduction in graphic quality!

Sudden reduction in graphic quality!

Now we where the rubber meets the road and I was not sure what to expect.

There are a couple of problems with Diablo nostalgia for me.  For openers, it has been nearly 20 years since I first played it and maybe 17 since I last played it in earnest.  So I remember some bits quite clearly.  I recall going to town, piles of excess gold laying about, the Skeleton King and The Butcher, the alternate entrances to the dungeon that allowed you to pick up your quest in progress between sessions so you didn’t have to start back at the repopulated level 1 every time, and that last level with Diablo himself, where you had to clear the level around him in order to unlock his chamber to fight him.

But it is all pretty hazy and a lot of my memories are clearly Diablo II graphics and features impinging on the memories of the original game.  The problem is that, for me, Diablo II was such a good sequel that it overshadowed the original.  The way I never even considered going back to play the original Civilization once Civilization II came out, I never thought to set foot in the original Diablo after Diablo II came out.  One just eclipsed the other and that was that.

So there in old Tristram, I had to sort through mixed memories.  The event itself doesn’t have the story of the original.  It is more like a massive dungeon with that single “Kill the Dark Lord” objective.  You just have to go get him, and so off I went.

Into the Labyrinth!

Into the Labyrinth!

My feelings on the whole thing are bit mixed.

Overall I am happy.  A five year old game got some new content.  All else aside, that is a plus.

While I appreciate the work done on the graphic filter to make things feel more like 1996 than 2016, I am not sure how well that has really paid off.  The problem is that even with fuzzed up visuals, the whole thing is clearly made up of assets from the current game.  You would have to pixelate the visuals into oblivion to hide the fact that you’ve seen all these dungeon tiles and layouts before.

Without wanting to spoil the event, I sort of wish there was a “Diablo III visuals” version of the dungeon.

The pixelation also didn’t help with one memory I had of the original game, which was that of different parts of the labyrinth feeling distinctly different.  The top part was an architectural basement of sorts with lots of skeletons, and then there was the tunnels with the goat men, then magic users then demons.  The blur of everything managed to wipe out some of that feeling of distinctness.  Yes, it did progress from skeletons to goat men and so on, but was so indistinct in color/tone/visuals that they blended together.

And then I added to the problems by dropping the difficulty down to Torment III, which made everything trivially easy to kill with my current gear.  I was tearing through things like no other, to the point that even bosses were like soap bubbles.  I tried to get a screenie of The Butcher, but I clicked first and one-shotted him.

Nice cleaver

Nice cleaver

The experience was good.  I managed to get seven paragon levels running through the whole thing, which I did in one sitting.  That, too, is true enough to the original I suppose.  I remember starting new characters in the evening with friends and running through and killing Diablo before the night was through.

The loot was almost a bit too good.  Lots of stuff dropping everywhere in a game that already drops things everywhere.

Look at this mess...

Look at this mess…

I had to go back to town a few of times to clear my bags.  There were even some good old reminders of loot from days gone by, including the coveted Godly Plate of the Whale that everybody wanted.

This one is legit, I swear!

This one is legit, I swear!

I actually got six of those on the run, no doubt a nod (as is the description at the bottom) to the fact that back in the day somebody had a hack or exploit to obtain them well beyond what Blizzard expected.

Also a plus was the sounds and music, which certainly did their bit to evoke the spirit of the original.

Another item true to the old game was the ability to sort of rush on past things.  Bosses like the Skeleton King and the Butcher were optional in the old days, and if you pressed on every time you found the way down to the next level you might very well miss them.  I managed to miss the Skeleton King on my first run as I was taking every downward option, which got me down to the portal to level 16 in under an hour.

Diablo is somewhere past here... also, cursor glitch again!

Diablo is somewhere past here… also, cursor glitch again!

As with the Butcher, I clicked on Diablo before I managed to get a screen shot, so he was dead before the camera went off.

That was fast

That was fast

If you look at the time stamp at the top, I walked in at 4:19pm and Diablo was dead by 5:09pm, which left me time to go pick up my daughter by 5:30pm.  Such timing.

As I noted above, despite some issue, overall I am happy to have the new content this month.  The speediness of the run was largely my fault.  However, one of the achievements for the event is to take a level 1 character into the event and run them through to slay Diablo.  I will have to find time on the weekend to do that, during which I will give the whole thing a much more thorough examination.

On my list...

On my list…

But now I have had a preview of it, a mission, and I am back playing the game.  A success on that front.

Waiting for the Darkening of Tristram

Am I the only one who logged into the Blizzard launcher on January 2nd (I allowed them the first, a Sunday, off) wondering where the 20th Anniversary event was?

I knew it wasn’t likely to be there, but I was keen to check just in case.  Then the news came yesterday that the 20th Anniversary event update was in the 2.4.3 patch and was going live in Diablo III at midnight.  We would at last be able to play the throw back to the original Diablo that was being put in the Diablo III.

Back when 640x480 was a desktop screen size

Back when 640×480 was a desktop screen size

Of course, on a work/school night, midnight was too late for me… midnight was frankly too late for me on New Year’s Eve… so I will have to wait until after work today to check the event out.

I am actually looking forward to this enough that I even attempted to give the event a whirl while it was on the Diablo III Public Test Realm, only to find that trying load PTR build crashed for me every single time I launched it.  So I have been waiting.

This is, of course, a risky nostalgia venture, attempting to recreate the old game within the new.  It could be quite the event or it could be soundly rejected by fans.  Until I get home though I will have had to content myself with Blizzard’s anniversary retrospective video.

 

Looking Back at 2016 – Highs and Lows

Lord, what did we do to deserve this year?  I’ll just steer away from politics, the world, and celebrity deaths for this if you don’t mind.  Wow, 2016.

Blog2016

Still, it is time for this post, where I look back at the year gone by and look at some aspects over it, a tradition going back to 2010.  Past entries:

This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head.  No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
  • Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
  • Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
  • the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
  • Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
  • Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
  • WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
  • Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
  • Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
  • Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
  • Diablo III is getting some new stuff
  • Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs

Lows

  • If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
  • If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
  • The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
  • Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
  • BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
  • Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
  • WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
  • Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
  • The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
  • Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
  • Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
  • Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
  • The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
  • Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?

Daybreak Game Company

Highs

  • Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
  • DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
  • H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
  • Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
  • Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new

Lows

  • EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
  • Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
  • Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
  • “Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
  • If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again!  This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
  • Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
  • H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
  • If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
  • Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
  • Good-bye Legends of Norrath
  • No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
  • No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
  • With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
  • Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
  • Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
  • DDO still seems to be in good shape

Lows

  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
  • With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
  • As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
  • LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
  • Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
  • Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
  • Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
  • Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?

CCP

Highs

  • They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
  • Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
  • A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
  • Citadels everywhere!
  • Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
  • We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
  • CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
  • Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
  • The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year

Lows

  • DUST 514 went dark
  • Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
  • Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
  • F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
  • Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
  • After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
  • Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
  • Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
  • Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
  • Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
  • Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
  • Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
  • RIP New Eden solo industrialists
  • Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
  • Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?

Nintendo

Highs

  • 20th Anniversary of Pokemon
  • Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
  • Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
  • Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
  • Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch

Lows

  • End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
  • They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
  • Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
  • Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
  • The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.

Other Games

Highs

  • Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
  • Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
  • Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
  • Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
  • Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
  • Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
  • WildStar lives yet!
  • Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
  • No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
  • Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game

Lows

  • The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
  • A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
  • Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
  • ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
  • Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
  • Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
  • Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year?  Camelot Unchained? No!  Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No!  Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet.  Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
  • While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
  • If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
  • Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
  • The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
  • No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
  • Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
  • The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
  • The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
  • Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there

Media

Highs:

  • Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
  • Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
  • Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
  • I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh

Lows:

  • The end of Downton Abbey
  • Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
  • Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
  • Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
  • The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
  • I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
  • So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?

The Blog and Blogging and The Internet

Highs:

  • Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
  • I still enjoy writing
  • I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
  • Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
  • Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
  • Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits

Lows:

  • My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
  • My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
  • I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
  • Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
  • I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
  • Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
  • Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
  • AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
  • Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
  • /r/eve

Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016.  I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.

A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.

Others looking back at 2016: