Category Archives: entertainment

The End of Landmark Foretold

Well, that is part of one of my predictions for 2017 that came to pass as Daybreak announced late yesterday afternoon that their building game Landmark will shut down on February 21, 2017.

LandmarkSteam

I will quote the official announcement as it is on the Landmark site which, according to the FAQ, will be going away with the game.

To the Landmark community,

With heavy hearts, we are writing today to inform you that after much review, we have decided to close Landmark game servers on February 21, 2017. 

Since Landmark first entered Alpha, we have been impressed by the creative talents in this community. You pushed the boundaries of what Landmark could do, and we are grateful for the time and energy you shared through your creations in this game.

While there is still time to enjoy Lumeria and the many worlds you’ve built within Landmark, we wanted to let you know what you will be seeing happen between now and February. Beginning today, Player Studio items will no longer be available for listing or for purchase in the Landmark Marketplace. Landmark will also no longer be available for purchase. All items in the Marketplace with a Daybreak Cash price will have their price reduced to 1 DBC.

The game servers, as well as the accompanying forums and social media channels, will be closed at 4:00PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

We want to thank each and every one of you for your creative contributions to Landmark.

Daybreak Game Company

There is also a FAQ which covers the same points.  The only potentially interesting item is the bit about the code, and I could have guessed the answer provided.

What happens to all the code/data from Landmark? Can someone open an emulator server for Landmark?

Daybreak Game Company will retain all of the code and data from Landmark. Daybreak Game Company will not license or authorize the operation of a Landmark emulator or a fan-operated Landmark server.

Landmark itself was the child a difficult set of circumstances.  Initially announced as a “down the list” bullet point as part of the reboot of the EverQuest Next project, it was just supposed to be a tool to allow players to help the then SOE team build EQN.  Everybody was much more interested in the whole Story Bricks connection, the emergent AI story, the sandbox nature of the game, the destructible environment, and the graphical style of EverQuest Next.

But then EverQuest Next Landmark, as it was initially known, started to gain a life of its own.  In what felt to me like something of a cash grab (successful by all accounts), with maybe a side goal of extracting some of the Station Cash that players had been hoarding, Landmark launched into what I called real estate speculation.  While some were enthusiastic about the idea…

… sorry Keen, you’re just the poster child for enthusiasm…

…others cast a more jaundiced eye on the whole thing.

Ars Technica Reports...

Ars Technica Reports…

The game was shaping up into a higher resolution Minecraft where you had to claim small plots of land and put up with neighbors.  Not an ideal scenario in my opinion, but if it helped SOE build EverQuest Next, a lot of people were willing to pitch in and pay money up front for a game we were told was eventually going to be free to play.

About six months after the big SOE Live announcement, the game shed the EverQuest Next prefix and became simply Landmark.  Early access started and there was some enthusiasm.  I ended up getting a couple of seven day free trial invites, but there wasn’t enough there for me to consider paying ever $20 to play the game, or even the $6.79 price that was available during the Steam Summer Sale in July of that year.  Rather, that price cut, the slow pace of development, and the usual SOE lack of news was making me wonder where the game was headed.

Time ambled on, as it tends to.  As 2014 dragged along SOE got busy cutting games, knocking out Wizardry Online, Vanguard, Free Realms, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures. SOE Live came and went with some demos (with faked AI) but no real news.  And then, as we got into 2015 the big news dropped, that SOE had been sold to the private equity firm of Columbus Nova.  That explained the cuts and probably the lack of news, but EverQuest Next and Landmark were still on the list of games.

The newly formed Daybreak Game Company told us everything would be fine, with Smed touting their new “indie” status, which would allow them all sorts of freedom to do things… like develop for the XBox.  So far that “indie” freedom has yielded a DC Universe Online port.

As the five year mark from the initial EverQuest Next announcement passed, I began to wonder if it would ever be a thing.  Six months later, EverQuest Next was officially cancelled.  But Landmark yet lived, and Daybreak was quick to announced that it would ship “soon,” which was later revised to “before summer.”  It wasn’t going to be free any more.  It would be buy to play, with a cost of $9.99, but if you spent more on an early access package, you were still covered.  If you just had one of those access codes from a buddy who put down $99 for a Trailblazer pack though, you still needed to pony up the $9.99.

Landmark officially launched on June 10, 2016, beating the first day of summer by more than a week, after which it sort of disappeared into obscurity as the small group of players devoted to the game happily toiled away… until yesterday.

And now the last day for it will be February 21… giving it a post-launch life of 8 months and 11 days… after which the last remaining piece of EverQuest Next will disappear.  The final notation in the now six year long tale.  I will save the summing up of my posts and such for the last day.  That will give me a bit of time to reflect for a final summing up of a story six and a half years in the making.

I am going to have to think about revising that post about SOE and its MMORPG history.  Out of 22 titles I listed out, just six now survive. (Not sure what the eventual relationship will be with DDO and LOTRO.)

Meanwhile, others out there are reacting to the news:

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.

 

Steam Winter Sale 2016 Results

Another Steam Winter Sale has come and gone.  I think it was “Winter” this year, and not “Holiday,” as it has occasionally been in past years.  I didn’t take a screen shot of the banner.  Whatever, you know what I mean.

The usual array of things happened.  There was opening day pricing comedy.  There was an event in which to participate, in this case the first ever Steam awards.  There were cards to earn by voting and by reviewing queues and badges to craft when you collected enough cards.  And, of course, stuff was on sale, with price marked down anywhere from a milquetoast 10% (looking at you Civilization VI) to a riveting 75% and beyond.

I will take those topics in order.

Pricing comedy this year, as every year, happened just as the sale launched.  This year’s twist was things appearing in the wrong pricing category as opposed to the usual absurdly low or even negative pricing that has happened in past sales.  That was all fixed pretty quickly, but not quickly enough to keep me from getting a couple of amusing screen shots back when the sale launched.

The event, The Steam Awards, was an attempt at…something.  The categories were presented before the sale and people were asked to nominate titles for them.  Then the top nominees were presented, one a day… except for the last day of voting when we got three… for people to vote on.  For each vote you got an event card.

The problem with the whole thing is that, in allowing community nominations and voting, I am not sure they can replay this as an event again next year… unless they radically change the categories.  Fans of certain games will persist in being fans and will nominate and vote for the same thing every year if you let them.  Anyway, the winners were:

  • Villain Most in Need of a Hug – Portal 2
  • I Thought This Game Was Cool Before It Won an Award – Euro Truck Simulator 2
  • Test of Time –  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Just 5 More Minutes – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Whoooaaaaaaa, dude! – Grand Theft Auto V
  • Game Within a Game – Grand Theft Auto V
  • I’m Not Crying, There’s Something in My Eye – The Walking Dead
  • Best Use of a Farm Animal – Goat Simulator
  • Boom Boom – Doom
  • Love/Hate Relationship – Dark Souls III
  • Sit Back and Relax – Euro Truck Simulator 2
  • Better With Friends – Left 4 Dead 2

You can see descriptions of the categories and the other titles nominated at the official Steam award page.  As you can see, there are some dupes in winners and some titles a that are a bit long in the tooth.  You expect that for the Test of Time category, but maybe not for so many picks.  I would have to say that the most fitting winner is probably Goat Simulator, while the biggest travesty is that a Civilization title didn’t win the Just 5 More Minutes category.  But then, I don’t play CS:GO.

On the card front, I collect many cards, voting and running my two queues every day.  I actually managed to craft one badge but that was it.  Going through the queues I did add a couple of more titles to my wish list, so op success for Steam on that, though I am note sure they needed to send me an email about every single item on my wish list that was on sale.

Then, finally, there were games on sale… and unlike the last couple of events, I did actually buy a few items this time around.  Here is what I picked up:

Dirt3 Complete Edition  – $2.99

dirt3completeedition

Probably the best value of the sale for me.  An older title, it looks good and plays well on my system.  While it clearly believes you should have a game pad to play, I managed to make to with the keyboard controls.  In casual mode you can do the tour and steer while the game limits your speed to what will keep you on the track, so you can pretend you’re instantly good at the game… just don’t turn off some of those helpers or you’ll find out how bad you really are.

You get to drive lots of different cars, including retro models (70s, 80s, and 90s) like my old friend the Lancia Delta.  I like the rally courses a lot.  Not too keen on the gymkhana drifting and tricks aspect that are a mandatory part of the tour mode.

It also has a decent replay mode that lets you watch your race again from various angles and will allow you to upload the video to YouTube directly should you so desire.  I have yet to so desire.

Atari Vault – $7.99

atarivault

And impulse buy.  I actually have an old copy of the Atari classics that probably dates from 2000 or so that still sort-of works when I have a burning desire to play Adventure or remind myself just how bad some of the Atari 2600 games really were.  But I figured I wouldn’t be amiss getting an updated version.

Train Valley – $3.39

trainvalley

Purchased on something of a whim, this did not turn out to be quite what I expected.  There was a promise of sandbox play and I had dreams of large rail empires… I mean, look at all that track I have laid in Minecraft.  But the game itself seems limited to one screen of area on which you are allowed to play, so your layouts cannot get too sprawling.  Meanwhile, the sandbox mode is more in the vein of a developers sandbox in which to experiment as opposed to what you might think of as a sandbox in the MMO world.

Simple track layout

Simple track layout

Still, it is a fun little game in its own right and I spent a few hours playing it so far… and as I made it through various challenges I did manage to get more than my fair share of head-on rail collisions.

Prison Architect – $7.49

prisonarch

I did not buy this for myself but for my daughter who, upon learning of the Steam sale, put a few titles up on her wish list and then came over and mentioned this to me.  So I bought her this, and she actually played the hell out of it over the holiday break from school.  It looks pretty good and is one of those systemic process models where feeback loops (positive or negative) quickly make themselves apparent.  So I watched over her shoulder as she built cells, suppressed riots, and tried to figure out why the inmates inexplicably refused to the dining hall.  This has been on my wishlist and I might pick it up for myself the next time it goes on sale.

Stardew Valley – $9.99

stardewvalley

Another one for my daughter, whose wish list is limited by the fact that she has an iMac.  I was actually a bit surprised to find this title was available for MacOS.  I’ve heard lots of good things about it and it made the Steam Top 100 for 2016, a list based on sales revenue, which isn’t bad for a game with a $15 base price.  My daughter started playing it and got into it right away, though she was still feeling the draw of Prison Architect, so went back to that.  But she enthused enough about it that I bought a copy for myself before the end of the sale.  I have yet to launch it, but it is now in my library.

So that was it for the Steam sale.  I was going to buy Doom, which was 75% off, then totally forgot to on the last day and found it full price when I looked back to do it.  Probably for the best.

I did actually buy a few things this time around, but didn’t splurge.  I tried to keep it to just a few items so that I would play them rather than simply collect them.

Opening the New War at F4R2-Q

A new war for a new year, and its first major battle hit yesterday with as many as 4,000 pilots in local as much of null sec declared sides in the war between TEST, Circle-of-Two, and their allies and the Stainwagon Coalition, whose composition I noted in a war preview post last week, and its allies, which includes the Imperium.

One of those fights - Local at 21:16 UTC Jan. 1, 2017

One of those fights – Local at 21:16 UTC Jan. 1, 2017

The location was the system of F4R2-Q in the Catch region where TEST and CO2 had each placed a Fortizar citadel to act as staging points for their invasion of the region.

On the Imperium side there was a pre-battle State of the Goonion where The Mittani spoke of standing by those who had stood by us during the Casino War and opposing those who proved faithless when the going got tough.

I was already in Asher’s just formed Machariel fleet before the address concluded, joining the logi contingent in a Guardian.  The fleet quickly filled up and we ended up with too much logi, so some of them were sent off to other fleets, but I stuck around preferring to fly with Asher and Arrendis and more than a few fellow Reavers.

This was clearly going to be a big op.  As our subcap fleet undocked and moved to where we would get bridged, there were a lot of capital ships hanging on our staging Fortizar.

Cap Fleet still not fully undocked

Cap Fleet still not fully undocked

We hung out waiting for out bridge for a bit, with the usual calls for people who were not in range of the titan or who had accidentally clicked in space and started wandering off.  Coms were busy as we were in the mode where multiple fleets share the same coms channel, so chatter had to be heavily restricted.

Tethered and Waiting for the bridge

Tethered and Waiting for the bridge

I did get a bit cocky though and logged in my alt and got him setup in a pointing Vigil.  I did not join the fleet, but made my way along the gate route to the destination system where I warped out to one of our staging towers where fleets were staging and went into a 150km orbit to just watch from above things.  TEST and CO2 did not have the luxury of towers in the system as, in a repeat of the battle of 6VDT-H (another 4K pilot battle), they let us sneak in and put towers up on all the moons in the system.  They were depending on their Fortizars for safe points.

And then we warped in and the battle began.

What does one say about a battle where the server has hit 10% time dilation and still cannot keep up, so people get disconnected, parts of the UI stop working, where no action is reliable, where ships get stuck in your overview and appear there long after they have gone?

Wilhelm got disconnected four times during the battle.  But things were moving so slowly that I never had to worry about warping back to the fleet.  Even during the peak, when it took me 20 minutes to log back in and load grid, I found myself still on anchor, still capping up my partners in the cap chain, all as though I had never left.  The main problem was once when one of my cap buddies dumped out of the chain at the same time and I had to get back in fleet, get the watch list up, target a new buddy, and start capping him.  That series of actions took 15 minutes.  And then the old buddy got back in and I was another five minutes getting things sorted back to the way they were.

On the other hand, when time is moving slow and your fleet is clearly going to be sitting on grid exchanging alpha strikes, which kill a ship in a single volley leaving nothing to repair, you can find time to do other things.  I managed to go take a shower, make lunch, take down the Christmas lights on the house, and eat dinner while watching a TV show.  I just had to check my position at every set of commercials.

When our fleet started taking a few losses, I put my alt in and had him paint targets as Asher called for it.  But then he got disconnected, so I let him be for a while, choosing to focus on logi.  We did save a few people… more than a few… when attempts at alpha strikes were done badly and ended up as ragged volleys that applied damage over what seemed like a long stretch of time.  We kept Asher alive a few times as opposing fleets locked him up in an attempt to headshot him.

A while later, when things had hit a routine as we sat near the CO2 Fortizar I logged my alt back in.  However, he had been some place bad while I was away, having had his armor peeled away well into half structure, though his shields were back to full.  As he auto-warped onto grid again he landed in the midst of a TEST fleet and the ship wasn’t long for the world.  I did managed to paint and shoot a Flycatcher and a Sabre as that Vigil went out in a blaze of glory.

Painters on, missiles firing

Painters on, missiles firing

I left him there in his pod as a vantage point for screen shots before eventually pointing him at the gate home where he was picked off by Solar Fleet camp on the gate that was happily taking out anybody trying to leave.  I watched a couple of Oneiros logi cruisers get popped before it was my turn.

That leads us to who took sides with whom.  I am waiting for a full accounting… or at least a battle report that will generate accurately… but it looked like Provi Bloc, led by CVA, came out in support of Stainwagon and we made them temp blue for the fight.  Meanwhile, the Drone Region Federation, the “other” Russians that don’t get along with the Stainwagon Russians came out to join TEST and CO2, which saw us fighting people we had teamed up with in the past, like Solar Fleet, and former enemies like the Dronewalkers and Legion of xXDeathXx allied.

And then there was NCDot who came on down just to shoot targets of opportunity on both sides of the fight.  Have to respect that.

The fight went on and on as reports of the two Fortizars had them inching slowly to their doom.  Eventually the CO2 Fortizar exploded at 03:11 UTC and the fight shifted to focus around the TEST Fortizar, which had been erroneously reported as dead at 23:30, but which didn’t actually die until 04:14.

Somewhere along the way I managed to get a combat drone out and on each of the Fortizars in order to secure myself a spot on the kill mail.  I also was able to get in on a few of the opposing dreadnoughts at the end when the enemy had essentially given up shooting us and was trying to extract what they could from the field.  When the TEST Fortizar went up there was a short period of mopping up as tidi finally rose above 10%.

As the system emptied out, the game sped up, which was almost disorienting.  Things that had been essentially moving in slow motion for hours were suddenly running at full speed.  And then in a euphoric fit, Asher said he would make us ten participation links, one for each hour the fleet was out, something he no doubt immediately regretted as then he had to go make the damn things.  I would have been happy with a few less and a quicker trip home.

However, we did have to cover capitals as the went back to staging.  Fortunately we were only a gate and a jump from home, so it wasn’t a long haul.  We caught the bridge and covered a gate for the supers, then docked back up for the night.  And just in time too, as the new season of Sherlock was set to start on PBS just 11 minutes after I logged out.  But it had been a long day in space.

Fleet time - 10 hours 41 minutes

Fleet time – 10 hours 49 minutes

That leaves the result of the battle.

We won the objective.  TEST and CO2 lost their Fortizars and will continue to stage from NPC null sec space for now.  While they are pushing this off as no big deal, just a matter of a couple of gates, when your plan is an invasion and you are repulsed, you have lost.

Then there is the ISK war.  On Reddit, which is largely the sphere of TEST, our foes are claiming a stunning victory, claiming to have killed as much as 600 billion ISK in ships over the course of the battle.  They are oddly quiet about their own losses however.  They are likely less, so they have probably won the ISK war. How much less remains in question until things settle down and a battle report can be generated.  I cannot reliably fetch my own profile on zKillboard, much less a battle report.  All we have right now is ship losses.

DOTLAN report on ships destroyed

DOTLAN report on ships destroyed

But the question arises as to who can afford losses and who can’t.

TEST and CO2 just lost all of their space after a couple months of war in Tribute.  They are currently living in NPC null sec and do not have any territory from which to extract wealth.

I do not know the state of Stainwagon, though they have been hanging out in their space for a long time, so it should be safe to assume they are not poor.

Then there is the Imperium, which has been working to restore it coffers since the end of summer in Delve.  Look at the November economic report and note which region has the largest amount of mining going on. (And again in December.)  We lost 600 billion in ISK worth of ships in our own system less than a month ago and were still happy to go to war.  So I do not think the losses will dissuade us from our cause.

Also this is just the first major battle of the war.  Both sides can afford to dismiss what happened and claim it as a victory.  But which side is going to be able to sustain the fights, the losses, the day long events spent in 10% tidi?  That question has yet to be answered.

So the war is on.

Also, I am totally set for participation links for the month, with 11 in already.

Here is coverage of the battle on other sites, which I will update as more show up:

And then some screen shots from my 10 hours in space yesterday:

2017 – Predictions for Another New Year

Has 2016 stopped looking our way yet?  Yes?  Good.

Glad to be done with that, because a new year is like a new roll of the dice right?  Completely independent of the last year/roll?  Aren’t they?

My daughter even drew me a brand new pic for a brand new year.

kidpixtigerredraw2017

That is her re-draw of a picture she did in 2009 to celebrate getting her first mount in World of Warcraft.  Her talent has grown over the years.

Anyway, here we are again at the arbitrary point in time where we declare a “new” year and start yet another roam around the star we call the sun.  And with that, I will carry on my own minor tradition of greeting the new year by attempting to foresee what may come to pass.

Previous runs at this sort of thing:

Given past low scores I persist in making predictions.  So here is my list for 2017.  All predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit possible.  And, just a reminder, these are predictions and not wishes.  I am not rooting for many of these things to come to pass, it is rather that I fear they will.  A list of my actual wishes would look different and probably be even less likely to happen.  Such is life.

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

10 – And Access for All LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

18 – Forsaken AvatarShroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

19 – Not ShippingCamelot Unchained, Crowfall, Pantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

So those are my guesses at the new year.  At ten points each, that is a possible of 200 total, with an extra ten extra credit points for the wild guess of the year.  I will be back in eleven and a half months to score that, and if I do better than 40% it will be yet another Festivus miracle.

Others forecasting events of 2017:

 

December in Review

The Site

I was going to write a happy note about WordPress.com and their new stats page, which I have studiously avoided since it came out as its layout and information seemed to me to be a step down from the previous version.  I will admit though that it make things easier to see in the scope of a calendar year or a month.  It had that going for it.

And then on the winter solstice WP.com killed the previous version of the stats page and now forces users to go to the new one.  Dammit.  Among the things missing with the new page are the two page view charts I use for my anniversary posts.

Also, the new stats page is broken for me for approximately one third of the day.  I think this is due to my blog running on UTC… which was the only choice back when I started it… and my local time being UTC -8.  I never bothered to swap the blog time to match my local time, but WP.com seems to know my local time and simply stops showing me stats between 4pm local and midnight local.  Nice job there WP.com!

The Stats are a Lie

The Stats are a Lie

Fortunately, one of the early versions of the stats page… not my favorite, but one that at least has the right data… is still accessible.  Also, the mobile app shows the right stats regardless of time.

Oddly, WP.com hasn’t done their “year in review” option for blogs yet.  Usually that is up right after Christmas.  They appear to have given up on that for individual blogs and now have a year in review page for the whole WP.com family.

And speaking of stats and years, if somebody could click on that random post link on the side bar or some similar action about 2,500 times, the blog would totally have a nice round number for page views in 2016.  Just do it before 23:59 UTC.

One Year Ago

Thanks to The Force Awakens coming out, George Lucas was in the news and rationalizing his “Han didn’t shoot first” change.  I wasn’t buying it.  There were certainly other things he could have changed.

It was December, so I had to go over the usual posts, scoring predictions, looking back at the highs and lows of the year gone past, looking forward to what I might play 2016, and something about the inevitable Steam holiday sale.  I also made a chart to show what MMOs I was playing in 2015 because everybody else was doing it.  I totally forgot to make that chart again this year.

There was the Operation: Frostline expansion in EVE Online.

In New Eden I got blow up trying to slip a Caracal out of Fountain.  It happens.  On the other hand, I did get my first kill mark on another solo op.  I also hit 150 million skill points, an achievement soon to be made trivial by skill injectors.

The much reviled Fountain War Kickstarter was finally cancelled, as it was clearly not going to get anywhere close to its $150K target.  But was that going to bank the flames of the brightly burning Goon hate? (hint: no)

The recently rebranded Imperium was taking its plans to low sec, either to generate content or display its arrogance depending on who was describing it.  We were also waging a war in Cloud Ring.

Turbine finally got their head screwed on right when it came to insta-levels in Lord of the Rings Online.  I was stomping around in the Mirkwood expansion trying to see in the dark.

In Minecraft I was building a prismarine outpost along the great northern road.  Aaron and I also killed the End Dragon.

On the EverQuest front, the Phinigel “true box” server opened, a retro progression server that was supposed to keep people from multi-boxing groups.

I summed up five years of Raptr tracking my game play with my top 20 played games.  There was LEGO’s somewhat nonsensical online name policy.  And I was playing Monument Valley on the iPad.

Five Years Ago

There was the usual looking back at the Highs and Lows of 2011.  And, hand-in-hand with that, there was the look forward at games I might play in 2012.

One of those games was Diablo III and another Torchlight II, while Path of Exile represented a dark horse third. They were all vying for the mantle of successor to Diablo II.  So I tried to define the essence of Diablo II.

I also had some demands for 2011 and had to look at how that worked out.

I was back in EVE Online and I began my journey into null sec appropriately, by killing myself.  Then I saw titans, lit cynos, and got blown up.

But hey, a ship blows up every six seconds in EVE Online.

There was a war on, and it was announced we were going to be driven from Deklein.  And there was something about ganking tourism and three flavors of ravens.  Also, pretty new nebulae.

Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over for EVE Online.

There was the end of Star Wars Galaxies, though people were saying it had been dead for years.

Star Wars: The Old Republic went live, completing the changing of the Star Wars MMO guard, for all the lack of actual change that brought about.

EverQuest II and its free to play twin, EverQuest II Extended, were merged into a single fighting force of extraordinary magnitude or something.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux went a little nuts talking about his Ultimate RPG, his great fondness for EA, and the failure of Tabula Rasa and Ultima 8.  He seemed to try to be getting EA to join with him by talking to the press… and not to EA.  And then it was the Mayans.

Closer to planet Earth, the instance group was in Rift running the Realm of the Fae.

Toril MUD was still alive and had just added nine more zones to the game.

Playboy Manager the MMO.  Never ended up being a thing.

And I proved my laser tag prowess against a bunch of little girls.

Ten Years Ago

The short-lived Massive Magazine, dedicated to our chosen niche video game genre, put out its first issue.  I bought a copy.

I told a Christmas story from 1977 about video games.

I followed up on my initial Stellar Emperor post with one about how I won the game.

My daughter and I were chasing Rudolph across the Frostfell zone in EverQuest II.

Digg starting listing podcasts and there was a call to help Digg some of the MMO related podcasts. These days I am surprised when I see that Digg is still a thing.

The Commonlands in EverQuest got a make over. The two zones also got combined into a single zone.

I compared the Butcherblock chessboard in EQ and EQ2. I was also running around Runnyeye with Gaff.

I correctly predicted the venue for that year’s EQ2 expansion, Kunark, which I will never let anybody forget.  I was also wondering about SOE’s trajectory given the changes that came in with Echoes of Faydwer and The Serpent’s Spine.

And in World of Warcraft the instance group did Gnomeregan and started in on Scarlet Monestary.  I also noted that gold spammers were using in-game mail in WoW.

I also had five features I wanted WoW to steal from EQ2.  I think we got one of them in the form of the WoW Armory.  But no, housing was not on the list.

Derek Smart came up as a topic for the first time on the site.

Finally, in a bit of EVE Online history I didn’t write about at the time, though I was vaguely aware that it had happened, the first titan built, an Avatar named “Steve,” owned by Ascendant Frontier, became the first titan destroyed when it was lost to Band of Brothers in C9N-CC on December 11, 2006. The pilot, CYVOK, logged out with aggression, was probed down, and the titan was destroyed.

The Wreck of Steve

The Wreck of Steve… also, 2006 UI

There is a memorial wreck in the system to mark the event.

And, finally, just to make this section even longer, the top ten best selling games on the PC in 2006:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. The Sims 2: Open for Business
  3. The Sims 2
  4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  5. Star Wars: Empire at War
  6. Age of Empires III
  7. Civilization IV
  8. The Sims 2: Nightlife
  9. Guild Wars Factions
  10. Zoo Tycoon 2

That was back when Sims ruled the list.  I had forgotten that Guild Wars sold as well as it did too.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Claim Your Daily Yoiul Gifts in EVE Online!
  2. What Happens When They Buy EVE Online?
  3. A New Broom at Daybreak?
  4. Top Five Problems with EVE Online
  5. New Eden For Sale?
  6. A Standing Stone Gathers No Momentum
  7. Make My Alpha Clone
  8. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  9. Losing 600 Billion ISK on Your Own Cyno Beacon
  10. WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches
  11. In Which I Ramble About Being All Things to All People
  12. The Steam Winter Sale 2016 Begins

Search Terms of the Month

is warhammer return of reckoning safe?
[It better not be!]

stellaris is everything that civilization
[should be? hates? rejects? eats for lunch?]

eve online sex
[If there is anything EVE prevents, it is sex]

sto female elf
[Now you’re trying to cross the streams again]

eq dwarf hate purple armor
[Dwarf should buy some dye]

flying mount business model
[Sell them for money?]

EVE Online

It was all sorts of explosions in New Eden at the start of the month, but with the holidays and family and commitments, I wasn’t really able to set aside much time for internet spaceships.  I only logged on in the latter half of the month to do some Planetary Interaction stuff and poke around a bit.

EverQuest II

As with New Eden, I started off the month strong in Norrath, but then that tapered off as the holidays hit.  Only so much time in the day.  I am still up for further exploration of the new-ish content.

Minecraft

I actually spend a lot of time in our world as the month progressed.  With a big project lined up, it was easy to drop in, do a bit of work, and log back out as I had the time.  The road has been moving southward, though there are times when I look at the progress I have made relative to the work left to be done and I wonder if I have bit off more than I can chew.  And once I get that next bridge done I have another jungle to blast through.  Time for more TNT.

Pokemon Go

I even slowed down some on Pokemon Go as it started to rain in our corner of California.  It is an outdoor sort of game, so my daily walk around the work campus (which has 6 Pokestops) tailed off as water fell from the sky.  I did manage to catch a couple of Santa Hat Pikachu, but Ditto continues to elude me.  And I did a last minute lucky egg for double XP and evolved myself to level 25 last night.  Also, I hatched a Magby, which is number 240 in the Pokedex, which indicates that we’re getting new Pokemon with the new year.

All alone at the bottom of the list

All alone at the bottom of the list

End of month stats:

  • Level: 25 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 106 (+7) caught, 134 (+5) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Ditto
  • Current buddy: Kadabra

Pokemon Sun & Moon

Again, I seemed to have put down the Pokemon Sun for the last week or so as the holidays blew through.  I made it through the third island and the interlude afterwards, but now need to pick up the story, get to the final island, and get Nebby to stay in the damn bag.

Steam

I actually bought a few items during the Steam sale, and am eyeing at least one more, so there will no doubt be a post-sale posting to discuss that.  I will say that at $2.99, Dirt 3 offers some pretty decent driving fun.

World of Warcraft

I let my account there lapse, and will probably set my daughter’s to lapse as well, as she hasn’t been logging in either.  After a busy summer and fall in Azeroth it feels like time to let that simmer while we do other things.

Coming Up

2017, and the sincere hope that it ends up being better than 2016.  Probably not going to happen, but one can always hope.

Tomorrow is the first of the year and will feature my usual predictions post.

In New Eden war is coming and the Imperium is deploying to join in.  I have to find a convoy out there so I can join in.

EverQuest II has a double XP weekend going through the new year, so I feel like I should take some advantage of that.

I want to finish Pokemon Sun then go back and work on the Pokedex.  I have been moving slow to fill up as much of it as possible, but it hasn’t been a determined effort as yet.

And then there is that list of potential games for 2017… though a lot of them need to finish development first.