Category Archives: entertainment

One Week Until Legion and Invasions Go into Overdrive

Next Wednesday many of us will be storming the shores of the Broken Isles to bring war to the Legion.  Invasions in Azeroth will be over, the level 100 population will empty out of the countryside, and maybe Khadgar’s Upgraded Servant will leave us the hell alone if we don’t want to run that boring quest again.  The damn thing was leaping off the ground and into the air as I flew away from Stormwind, desperately trying to draw my attention to the fact that it had a QUEST for me!!!

Seriously, the thing is a navigational menace

The thing is a navigational menace

Seriously, the first week’s event probably spoiled me for any less than epic follow on quests, but the Khadgar Exposition quests have been exceptionally tedious when compared to the initial go.

But until next week, we carry on with what we have been given, so I spoke to the obtrusive servant with Vikund and took the quest that sent me back to Dalaran-over-Karazhan, where a Combine-Legion ship was shooting its fel armaments at the floating city.

Seriously though, this could be from Half-Life 2

Seriously though, this could be from Half-Life 2

The call was the usual summons to meet up with Khadgar.

Just show up and we'll give you some gold

Just show up and we’ll give you some gold

However, this week Khadgar couldn’t be bothered to lead us around, and just sent us out to run a quick mission while he hung out in the Chamber of the Guardian.  He then summoned the guardian, we watched a ceremony run out, some dialog happened, and then I was in a phase of the room which I would guess was the exit phase, and which was packed with people.

Khadgar draws a crowd

Khadgar draws a crowd

I’m not sure if there was something else going on there or if people just went AFK during the ceremony and ended up there.  But when I managed to click on Khadgar again in that mess, he just told me to go help out by fighting invasions.

Great idea Khadgar, don’t mind if I do!  Because in the final stretch to the WoW Legion expansion, Blizzard has all the invasions running all the time.  Which means all six, three on each continent, on two hour timers.

Invasion sites in Azeroth

Invasion sites in Azeroth

I got out my level 99 druid and sent him off to an invasion immediately, where he hit level 100 before the end of the third stage.

Character six hits the level cap

Character six hits the level cap

I didn’t even stick around for the final stage.  That character is done and set for Legion, though I am still considering swapping him over to the Horde side.  I do not need two Alliance druids on the same server.

That was quick, leaving me to wonder which character to send out next.  I was pondering my level 84 Alliance warrior, with the idea of getting yet another level 100 lined up for Legion.  But I decided to try another warrior instead.

As part of my work over the weekend, I rolled up a Tauren warrior on Azuremyst as a possible character on which to use my level 100 boost.  He was sitting at level 12, all suited up in heirloom plate and weapons… I am really happy about Blizzard losing the whole “change armor types at level 40” thing… and looking for something to do.

So I brought him out to Azshara to see how things went at that level.

The downside for him was that, without a flying mount or even a full speed ground mount, chasing the high value boss mobs during stage three of the event wasn’t really viable.  I got him to the closest one, but after that trying to keep up was a non-starter, as the mobs fell before he could get there.

The upside was more than seven levels of experience in one event.

Started at 12, ended at 19... and inches from 20

Started at 12, ended at 19… and inches from 20

That went so well that I immediately flew out to the Crossroads in The Barrens to run the invasion event there.  And when I say “immediately” I mean I trundled slowly on chauffeur chopper mount that Blizz gave us some time back, rolling through Orgrimmar, Durotar, and eventually into The Barrens, where I got to the Crossroads just in time to get in on the end of stage two, and the start of stage three, which meant chasing more bosses around the zone.

Fel Reaver ahoy!

Fel Reaver ahoy!

I actually did pretty well out of that.  The bosses out in the field were arranged in a way that let me get in on a few kills.  However, once that event was done, it was time for a break while I waited for the invasions to recycle for another run.  I wasn’t keen to try and get down to Tanaris or to roam about the Eastern Kingdoms quite yet.  So it was back to Ogrimmar… this time quickly, as I picked up the flight point… to wait.

And then I realized that I needed to train the first riding skill so I could stop using the baby chariot and start using one of my many ground mounts.  So that was a flight back to Mulgore and then back to Orgrimmar, when I set myself up near the rear gate in anticipation of the next event.

When I logged back in later, the Azshara event was up and going, so I jumped right in.  Running through that put me into the 30s.

Already 30

Already 30

Then it was back to The Barrens for the event at the Crossroads, which left me at level 38.

Not a bad night’s work, getting almost seven levels an event.  It also put some money in my warrior’s pocket.  Since he is wearing heirlooms, he doesn’t need most of the reward gear, so can vendor it for more gold than a fresh character at that level is generally likely to see.

Now the question is, how far should I push with this guy.  60 seems viable, with which I think he would then get primary professions boosted to level 100 along with his adventure level, if I recall right.  Or could I/should I push this guy all the way to 100 and use my level 100 boost on another character?

I’m not sure invasions are that much fun.

A Look Back at Half-Life 2

Every time I go read a bit of the web comic Concerned, I get the urge to go play Half-Life 2.

Actually, I really get the urge to go buy Garry’s Mod and try making my own web comic, but I usually suppress that urge pretty quickly, subverting it with the much more viable plan of simply playing Half-Life 2.  Down the web comic path lays madness.

I actually own the game, having purchased it at some Steam sale a few years back that included Half-Life 2, the two additional episodes, the original Half-Life, and a couple other items.

More unplayed Steam games

More unplayed Steam games

The thing is, I never quite get around to playing it.  I installed it at one point, so it has been sitting on my hard drive ready to go for a while.  But it has taken me a while to click “play” on the title.  In part, that is probably because of a bit of lingering resentment about the early days of the title.

That's me being beaten by the metro cop

That’s me being beaten by the metro cop

My resistance to accepting Steam for a long time was in large part based on personal experience, and Half-Life 2 is bound up in that.

But mostly I think it has been a matter of facing a game from 2004.  Not that I don’t play games from 2004 or earlier pretty regularly, but MMOs tend to get updated somewhat over time.  Stand alone, single player games tend to stay fixed in time.  And while I know Half-Life 2 has gotten some upgrades over time, I was still a bit dubious.

And then, last week, I hit a point where Blizz was still tinkering with invasion XP, no fleets were going out in EVE Online, and I had no project going on in Minecraft, so I started poking around in Steam for something to play.  And there was Half-Life 2 and I figured, “What the hell!”

In summary, it is still pretty damn good nearly a dozen years after being released.

While the game is extremely linear… there is no wandering off the path very far… it is still a game that encourages and rewards poking around in every nook and cranny available.  There is often a supply chest or some little note or marker there for the player to discover.

More watermelon for Lamarr

More watermelon for Lamarr

As my intent was more along the lines of a sightseeing mission, I started up a game in easy mode.  I didn’t feel the need to prove how bad I have gotten at shooters over the years, I just wanted to travel, solve the puzzles, drive the airboat, and… okay, shoot things.

Ready to roll out

Ready to roll out

The character models feel their age a bit, though if they are in a metro cop outfit you don’t spend a lot of time checking them out as you’re usually busy shooting them.

Easier to follow on CCTV

Easier to follow them on CCTV

The terrain and objects and occasional spectacle still seem pretty good.

The smoke stack drop

The smoke stack drop

The physics puzzles… well… they all seemed really cool back in the day.  Now they feel a little less thrilling as they tend to involve ramps or balances, which are at the simple end of the simple machines continuum.  Cinder blocks tend to be one of the bigger clues about what you need to do, though I still do like that one where you have to shove a washing machine off a ledge to get your ramp set.  The cinder blocks weren’t enough that time around.

I made it pretty far in a few hours.  Even set at “easy” the game doesn’t let you walk through unchallenged.  I left off at the gate in the wide open area with a chopper defending it that I do not seem to be able to shoot down with the now-armed airboat.

Choppers are a hazard

Choppers are a hazard

So I end up getting strafed or bombed to death… or I hit one of the exploding barrels floating in the water.  I don’t recall how I got past this one back in the day.

Anyway, I’ll have to see how much more of the game I feel like playing.  I am not even out of the canals yet, but I have gotten a good taste of the game.  It still seems to hold up pretty well after all these years… except the loading transitions… those still take longer than I think they should.

Demon Invasion? What, Me Worry?

We are almost done with the second week of the pre-Legion event and it seems like Blizz finally got the invasion event XP mix just about right just in time for the weekend.  The earlier statement about invasion events not being there to help you get characters to level 100 seems to have been replaced with the acceptance that this is something that people want.

So, as long as you are active in the events, there is plenty of sweet, sweet XP out there to be had.  Running invasions with alts was my primary gaming activity over the weekend.

I started off with a warrior I rolled up back in the Cataclysm era to try out the new 1-60 zones like Redridge, that I have been slowly leveling up ever since.  I last left him hanging about at the start of the quest chain in Borean Tundra.

I threw him into the invasions, which seemed to be popping up in three locations in the Eastern Kingdoms, Westfall, Hillsbrad Foothills, and Dun Morogh.

Fun outside Ironforge

Fun outside Ironforge

I was lucky in that somewhere along the line my warrior was grandfathered into the flight point allocation, as he had not been to the latter two locations previously, which meant an additional 15xp points per discovery.

Wearing a set of heirloom plate and having a full blue bar of double XP set, the first couple of invasions were worth more than a level and a half each, despite not having figured out the optimum path through the events yet.

Battling at Dun Morogh

Battling at Dun Morogh

I tinkered around with the various options that each invasion area lends you, which includes some vehicles.

A device of Gnomish origin for sure

A device of Gnomish origin for sure

I eventually found that the best way to boost the experience gained from an invasion event was to follow the pack when it came to stage three, when you are sent out to clear invaders from the zone, and to kill as many bosses as possible.  Fortunately, the pack was easy to spot in Westfall, which became my best XP spot for the event.

Follow the pack to XP!

Follow the pack to XP!

In the other zones, with their more broken terrain, it isn’t always as obvious as to which boss the main pack is headed.  I did okay, but Westfall seemed to be optimal for me.

The gear drops for him were pretty good though, wearing heirlooms, I ended up not using many of them.  It was interesting to see that the item level of invasion gear drops always matched up exactly to the current item level of his heirloom gear, so they seem to both be using the same scale.

I did sail over to Kalimdor once to do events there, but with a warrior who doesn’t have access to all the portals in Pandaria to make for short trips, getting over there was a bit of a chore.  I made the run once and then stuck to the Eastern Kingdoms, though I did hit 80 when I was in Azshara.

In to Cataclysm content

In to Cataclysm content

In the downtime after my warrior had hit the current invasions I pulled out my level 94 druid… not to be confused with my level 100 druid… to run some invasions as well.  Having two druids is a relic of a previous era when swapping spec’s cost money and going from feral to healing required an equipment change.  So I had one druid for cat form and one for healing.

My druid was up to level 98 before the end of Sunday afternoon and was able to do the Legion Broken Isles invasion event, for which he was severely under geared.  Invasions dropped some upgrades, but for the sparring part of the first quest chain, the NPCs were owning him badly.  I had to go scrounge some better gear and buy a better weapon from the auction house, at which point I was able to make the damage check and move on through the event.

I was happy enough to do that, knowing that I would end up with a much improved weapon.  The second event, last week’s “follow Khadgar around as he goes full ‘onion on my belt’ as you try to keep up” challenge, I wasn’t so keen to run again.  However, Khadgar’s Upgraded Servant is on persistent NPC.  It was leaning over my shoulder or chasing me around Stormwind with that great big exclamation point over its head and would not let up.  I last saw it as I was flying off to Westfall yet again, tearing across the city trying desperately to keep up just in case I wanted to accept its quest now dammit.

All in all, I had a good time with the invasion events over the weekend and felt like I made a good deal of progress.  My warrior made it to 84 and my druid is up to 99, though what I am going to do with two level 100 druids remains a question.  One might need to be transferred to the Horde.

My daughter also got out a few of characters and started the climb to 100 with them via the invasion route.

The only real annoyance was the sort of insta-kill attacks that each of the major bosses in the events seemed to posses.  I don’t mind dying, so long as I have a chance to avoid things… circles on the ground, the boss winding up for the big hit, or some such… but there were any number of times when I went from full health and attacking to dead in the snow yet again without any noticeable event in between.

Maybe I'll just stay down for a bit

Maybe I’ll just stay down for a bit

Probably the most ridiculous example of this was a final boss fight in Dun Morogh where the battle got pulled on top of the graveyard and so I kept respawning and dying before I could get clear of the next big insta AOE attack.  I went from fully repaired to paper doll warnings pretty quickly.

Repair your stuff!

Repair your stuff!

Anyway, overall I was happy enough with the events, and dying every once in a while is just a cost of doing business, so to speak.  Now to see what will come with Tuesday’s update as we get into the final week before WoW Legion hits.

If WoW Expansion Were Done Pokemon Style

Ideas that come unbidden in the night when you’ve been thinking about Pokemon and World of Warcraft too much.

What if Blizzard did World of Warcraft expansions the way Nintendo and Game Freak do new Pokemon titles or was simply influenced more by Pokemon than EverQuest?

This is where this ends up...

This is where this ends up…

  • Each expansion would be a complete 1-100 experience, but would require you to start at back as a new player each time.
  • You get to create exactly one avatar per expansion copy.
  • There would be two versions of each expansion, each with rewards not in the other, and the only way to obtain them would be through trading across expansions.
  • Occasionally there would be a single expansion that was just the previous two merged together, slightly altered, and with a few more rewards.
  • Every once in a while the two different versions would have completely different groups to fight, though the story and quest line would be essentially the same.
  • Interaction with quest givers initiated solely by making eye contact.
  • It would be a solo experience, where you created parties for dungeons and raids from the NPCs you captured while battling along the way.
  • Party size is now six.
  • You don’t level up, only the followers in your party do as they fight for you.
  • Your followers can be different classes, which have a rock/paper/scissors dynamic to them.  There is no holy trinity.
  • Draenor garrison-like need to collect all possible followers emphasized in the game.
  • Only mounts: Roller skates and a bicycle.
  • Flight points unlocked only after defeating a dungeon half way into the game.
  • Dance contests!
  • Geography of each expansion loosely based on a real world location.
  • Blizzard offices cleverly hidden in each expansion, allowing you do rage at the devs through your avatar.
  • At some point each expansion would require you to wake up a sleeping ogre that is blocking your progress.
  • Defeating the story antagonists just lets you move on to your real goal; Defeating the final four and then the Azeroth League Champion.
  • We still end up waiting at least two years between expansions

What other Pokemon tropes would likely infect Blizzard were this true?

And would any of this necessarily be a bad thing?

My Wife and Pokemon GO

My wife is not a gamer, and the fact that I am has caused some friction in our relationship from time to time.  I can sit for many hours at my desk playing or writing about video games, activities that neither involve nor interest her.  It can be the “sports widow” syndrome at times, though my games don’t have seasons.

We have adapted somewhat over the years.  I don’t spend as much time on video games as I did in past years and I hope I am a bit less oblivious.  And she shows a peripheral interest in what I and my daughter are playing, though I am not sure my daughter and I being the “gaming club” in our house and talking about them a lot was a big help there.  My wife went to EVE Vegas with me, though she was more about the parties and socializing.  Internet spaceships themselves aren’t of interest.

My wife and I at the party

My wife and I at the party, Noizy Gamer behind us

My wife isn’t totally disinterested in video games.  But her interests are far more casual.  She plays Windows Solitaire and I keep a Solitaire and a Video Poker app on my iPad which she plays some times.

And then came Pokemon GO.

Back in early July, when the game showed up, she downloaded it to her iPhone so I could play it.  And I did create an account and got things rolling, and even picked Team Instinct for the account, mostly because it seemed to be the downtrodden group.

General view of Team Instinct - July 2016

General view of Team Instinct – July 2016

But the app was on my wife’s phone, and she uses her phone a lot.  She is on her third iPhone and it is clearly part of her life and/or lifestyle.  So the idea that I would be spending a lot of time playing Pokemon GO on her iPhone was probably a non-starter.

So she began to play for me.

At first it was rolling by the local Pokestops.  Then catching the occasional Pokemon.  And soon I was getting texts with screen shots of new catches or of the account leveling up.

At the same time our daughter was also playing, but she wasn’t as into it after a couple of weeks.  So while she was out in front in levels, her motion forward had slackened dramatically… at which point my wife’s competitive nature kicked in.

There is a reason we no longer play Scrabble after Thanksgiving dinner, and it has something to do with my wife’s family having very faint understandings of the concepts of being a “good winner” or a “good loser.”

My mother-in-law would sit at the table and trash talk, brag about every play, demand constant audits of the score, abuse the rules with half-assed challenges like “use it in a sentence,” and whine about how this wasn’t fair because she was born in Germany, to the point that I stopped playing to win and started playing to ensure she would lose.  If she was downstream of me I would leave her no good scoring opportunities, and if she wasn’t I would feed whoever was a series of double and triple word scores.

I may have lost more often that I should of, but she never, ever won, and so we were all spared the stream of trash talk that would have come from such an event.

(I am exaggerating a bit on that story, but not by as much as I wish I was.)

Anyway, since my wife will read this, let me say that this sort of competitive behavior was perhaps passed on to her to some slight degree, which drove her to catch up to, and then pass my daughter in Pokemon GO levels… and not quietly, to my daughter’s annoyance.

So the Pokemon GO champion of our house is my wife.

And then I went and got an iPhone last week and she wanted to know pretty quickly if I had installed the game yet.  I hesitated for a couple of days, but eventually installed it… and then made a new account.

My first account is now her account.  She did all the work on it.  So she changed up the avatar to be her rather than me and is still pondering names for the one-time name change option Niantic has given players.

On my account, I hit level 5… largely thanks to the fact that my desk at work is within range of a Pokestop, so a few times a day I look in on it… and went with Team Mystic.  So now my daughter is Team Valor, my wife Team Instinct, and I am Team Mystic.  We now cover all the teams.

Artist's concept of our family group

Artist’s concept of our family group

Now to see how the game will develop.  Right now “catching them all” is a sufficient goal for both my wife and I, but the game lacks so many of the features of the core Pokemon RPGs that I hope more is planned for it going forward beyond simply adding new Pokemon now and again.

What Happens to Pokemon in a World with Pokemon GO?

It has been a big year for the Pokemon Company, the entity founded by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures back in 1998 to manage to suddenly successful Pokemon franchise.  Nintendo is the senior partner in that group, and is the one that owns the trademark on Pokemon, so people generally just refer to Nintendo, but there are actually multiple entities which I will mention in this paragraph and then go back to ignoring as usual.

Anyway, 2016 has been a big year.

To start with, the Pokemon franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary back in February.


As part of that that celebration there have been legendary Pokemon download events every month, often accompanied by additional Pokemon download opportunities, mostly covered at the official Pokemon20 web site, which I have blogged about here.  They even released versions of the original Pokemon games for the Virtual Console on the Nintendo 3DS hardware.

The games that started it all 20 years ago

The games that started it all 20 years ago

In addition to that going on, there are the Pokemon World Championships, the culmination of events around the world, here in San Francisco this weekend.

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay

On top of that, there is new Pokemon game coming out for the 3DS this November, the next in line in the venerable core Pokemon RPG line of games.  You would have a tough time convincing me that a good chunk of Nintendo 3DS sales are not related to the fact that it is the platform where the main line of Pokemon games, from which everything else in the franchise stems, is released.  Not when 1 in 4 3DS owners bought a copy of Pokemon X & Y.

So a new Pokemon game is always a boon.

Sun and Moon coming in November

Sun and Moon are coming!

Pokemon Sun & Moon coming out this November!  And that has meant the usual slow drip of news and updates about the title as the date approaches.

All of which adds up to a pretty big year for Pokemon.  Nintendo has even been pushing some of the other titles in the franchise on the Nintendo Store as party of the anniversary events.

not even close

not even close

There you can find the main RPG titles that are available on the 3DS (however, all the DS titles are no longer available despite the 3DS having support to play them) as well as spin offs like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Pokemon Ranger, and… Pokemon Pinball… okay.

And in the midst of all of this Pokemon frenzy there dropped Pokemon GO.


And since it hit the App Store back on July 6th, you can barely hear any of the over the roar of Pokemon GO hype.

I follow six general gaming news sites in my RSS feed, and Pokemon GO has been a headline item on at least one of them… on occasionally all of them… every single day since it launched.  I think Massively OP, which is an MMO site, had a two week string of headlines about the game, though they got Raph Koster’s blessing when he declared it an MMO I guess.  I was writing about it being a phenomena after the first weekend, and nothing I have seen since would convince me it has been anything less than this summer’s runaway hit game.

Kick's Chicken in Naiperville

It is in our food even!

Just yesterday Guinness announced that Pokemon GO had broken five records:

  1. Most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month,
  2. Most downloaded mobile game in its first month,
  3. Most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month in terms of revenue
  4. Most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month in terms of downloads and revenue
  5. Fastest time to gross $100 million by a mobile game.

And, in that environment of Pokemon GO fever, I started wondering what this meant for the franchise.  With a Pokemon game available on iOS and Android, the potential audience is huge.  I like the 3DS hardware, and it has been a decent seller, moving nearly 60 million units as of June 30th of this year, but Apple has sold that many iPhones in a single quarter on a couple occasions, including the first quarter of 2016.  And that doesn’t even start to count Android sales.  So There are a lot of devices out there that can play Pokemon GO.

But the game people are getting when they download Pokemon GO is, at best, a shadow of the experience that is the mainline Pokemon RPG.  There is the “Gotta Catch ’em All!” aspect to it, and some form of gym battles present in the game.  But there is no trading… a key founding concept for the game… no head to head battles, no breeding, no story, and only some vague goals beyond collecting.

Add in server problems, bugs, security concerns, battery life issues, controversies over features and changes, the sporadic presence of Pokestops and Pokemon, cheating, and the inevitable backlash that shows up when anything becomes popular, and I started to wonder whether or not this would be a good thing for the franchise.

Would Pokemon GO serve as an introduction to the franchise or would people walk away from the whole thing after the somewhat shallow experience that Pokemon GO can provide?

We are finally getting some early indications of what effect Pokemon GO will have.  Several sites are reporting NPD’s July 2016 hardware sales results which indicate that Nintendo 3DS sales have gone up considerably, with the 3DS outselling the XBox One which added a new model to its lineup.  Additionally, Pokemon titles for the platform, specifically Pokemon X & Y and Pokemon Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire also saw a significant spike in sales in July.  (Sources: Game Informer, Perfectly Nintendo)

So the initial reaction to Pokemon GO, as far as the overall Pokemon franchise goes, seems to be good.  Pokemon GO seems to more than just a passing fancy and is actually raising awareness of the whole Pokemon game ecosystem.  We shall see if that holds until November and the launch of Pokemon Sun & Moon.  If it does, those two titles might themselves set a record for the franchise.

Who Has Successfully Changed Horses Midstream?

To start this off, I feel like I first have to address my own point of view on the topic to be covered, so you see where I am coming from.

I actually played right field, but that isn't a metaphor

I actually played right field, but that isn’t a metaphor

I tend to be something of a fatalist in many things, but in video games especially.

For me that means I come to a video game with the view that it is a series of rules and constraints that I have to work within in order to win, progress, succeed, or whatever, and that the idea that the developer ought to change them just to suit me rarely enters my head.  There is more than a bit of the rule following engineer in me.  I take what I am given and try to make it work.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t kvetch about the details of various games.  This blog is a testament to that.  If there is a mechanic that is awkward or horribly inefficient, I will complain about that or suggest improvements.  But that is mostly for myself, to record how I feel about a game at a given moment, and my comments tend to be about tactical issues rather than strategic vision.  I do not expect anybody to be paying attention and I am generally surprised when anything I think might be a good idea actually comes to pass through whatever means. If something changes, I can almost guarantee it had nothing to do with me.

But to suggest that a developer change what is the driving philosophy or core game play elements title to accommodate my tastes would be bizarro world strange.

As an example for illustration, I do not enjoy League of Legends, so I simply do not play the game.  The complete lack of LoL posts here attests to that.  I do enjoy five person PvE dungeons.  Again, plenty of posts to back that up.  But the idea that I should start pestering Riot to make a five person PvE dungeon version of LoL would only occur to me in the context of listing out things I would likely never do.  Despite the fact that their engine could probably handle it, five person dungeons isn’t what LoL is about.  So I don’t post about how they should accommodate my vision here, on their forums, on Reddit, or anyplace else.

And I realize that might just be me, given how often I see people suggest that if only game X had feature/aspect/mini-game Y, then they and thousands to millions of like minded individuals would rush to the game, bringing success.  Many an arm chair developer has a plan to save a given game or even the whole industry based suspiciously on their own tastes in video games.

This all comes to mind because of the persistence of the “walking in stations” idea in EVE Online.  Kirith Kodachi wrote a great post on the topic, a “what if” scenario, where walking in stations becomes a success, which illustrates the whole problem I have with the idea.  The feature essentially requires CCP to develop a new game, distinct from the space focused current game, in order to make walking in stations anything beyond a gimmick.

Whatever you think about it, you cannot deny that walking in stations would require fundamentally different game play than what is the focus of EVE Online today.

However, I don’t want to get into the holy war over whether or not walking in stations would be a good thing though.  And believe me, my own relationship with the idea isn’t as cut and dried as you might think.

Instead, I am looking for examples from other games, especially MMORPGs, where the developer has, after launch, departed from their core philosophy or game play plan, and achieved success beyond what they had previously seen.

When has the idea that more people would play a game if it changed fundamentally actually come to pass?

I can only come up with examples where greater success did not follow.

I think of Trammel and consensual PvP in Ultima Online, or Star Wars Galaxies and the NGE, or that “fine, we’ll give you a PvE progression experience” expansion for Dark Age of Camelot that I cannot remember the name of right now, or the distraction of PvP in EverQuest II.

Which is not to say somebody didn’t like all of those things.  One of the lessons you learn from blogging is that any feature, no matter how bad or annoying it is, will have somebody stand up for it and declare it their favorite thing ever.

But none of these led to greater success.

Even World of Warcraft, which is, as always, the outlier in this, having the budget to add in all sorts of non-core features, still lives and dies on their core PvE content.  Five million people did not drop out of the game last year because of problems with battlegrounds, arena combat, or pet battles, they dropped out because they didn’t like, or too quickly consumed, the overland, dungeon, and raid PvE content.

So plenty of negatives, and I didn’t even start down the path of gaming franchises that remain successful year after year despite offering up nothing substantially different in core game play.  Everything from Pokemon to Civilization to Call of Duty that goes from success to success with only minor variations seems to argue against changing horses midstream.  Find your rut and stick with it forever!

But just because I can’t come up with an example of success in this regard doesn’t mean there haven’t been any.  There are more things in online gaming than are dreamt of in my rather limited philosophy.

Who has done it?  Who has made a success of a fundamental change of game play or philosophy on a live game?  There has to be some example out there, even if it is a special case that worked only because the conditions were just right.  I would prefer an MMO example, but something MMO-ish would suffice.