Category Archives: EverQuest II

2018 – Predictions for a New Year

Welcome to the new year… not the same as the old year we hope, but how often do we get that wish granted in a way we don’t later regret?

As has become the tradition here over the years, I have laid out a list of predictions for the upcoming year. 11th time’s a charm or something.  A few have some grounding in reality, more are speculation, and the rest are just wild theories I thought sounded plausible when spoken in a calm, neutral tone.

Past runs at this whole prediction thing:

Despite having done my worst job at foreseeing the future last year, I continue on unabated.

The scoring is the same as every year, with each question worth 10 points total unless otherwise noted, with partial credit being possible since my predictions tend to meander and cover multiple points.

1 – Blizzard will ship the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft on August 28th of this year.  10 points if I am right, minus 2 points for each week I am off for a partial credit calculation.

2 – WoW Classic – We will have a lot of details by the end of the year and you’ll be able to sign up for closed beta, but there won’t be a lot of emphasis on it to the disappointment of many.  But Blizzard is canny and won’t want to distract from the Battle for Azeroth launch.  Expect a major WoW Classic panel at BlizzCon with lots of details of things we can expect to try in 2019.

3 – With plans for a real WoW Classic unambiguously in motion, expect Blizzard to serve notice on any emulator hosting enough players to run the Deadmines that legal action will commence if they do not shut down and promise to stay that way.  That was cute and all when Blizz said it couldn’t be done, but with actual money on the line Blizz will be more like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

4 – Heroes of the Storm will continue to follow the Diablo III toward the dormant part of the Blizzard franchise locker room. More changes won’t revitalize it, but it will make enough money for Blizz to keep making new heroes through 2018.

5 – Shut down list – The following titles will close their doors, at least in North America,  2 Points each:

  • Runes of Magic (Best case, merge with the European server)
  • WildStar (Going to be right one of these years)
  • GuildWars (NCsoft will be all about mobile and clearing out old stuff)
  • Defiance (The companion TV show has been cancelled already…)
  • Granado Espada (Was kind of surprised to hear it was still a thing)

6 – Won’t ship list – The following titles won’t ship, go live, leave early access, progress beyond alpha, or otherwise leave the criticism deflection zone and actually face the live market, 2 points each:

  • Star Citizen
  • Crowfall
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Pantheon
  • CCP Project Nova

7 – Shroud of the Avatar will make the leap to live status, will leave early access and such, and be fully available for sale without caveat or restriction… and sales won’t take off because most everybody who was interested has already bought in.  Instead it will need an active, constantly updated, and heavily promoted cash shop to keep going.  Govern yourself accordingly.

8 – No legal changes to lootboxes, pay to win, or pseudo gambling.  This is a Gevlon inspired prediction, where he said:

Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.

I’m taking the opposite position.  I’ll leave out the matchmaker part, mostly because that seems nonsensical to predict… not to mention he was wrong about it with League of Legends… and stick with just the “random or powerful” part of that.  If I can buy a random lootbox come December 1st of 2018 with the promise of a useful, non-cosmetic item, that will be 10 points for me.

9 – Nintendo and GameFreak will announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for the 3DS.  Come on, you know how badly we want this!  Dooooo eeeeet!

10 – In a retro focused year, Nintendo will also announce Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the 3DS Virtual Console.

11 – The Nintendo Switch will get its own Virtual Console store in 2018, and one of the early test items will be versions of the above mentioned Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire in order to test the waters. We will get that announcement before we hear anything about a new, current generation core Pokemon RPG on the Switch.

12 – Pokemon Go will finally get a head to head battle mode along with a friends list, though it will be segregated by platform, so iOS and Android shall not mix.  No trading of Pokemon however and the incentives to battle, aside from pride of winning, will be kept minuscule out of fears of abuse.

13 – Microsoft/Mojang will announce end of updates/new features for Minecraft –  Java Edition in favor of ongoing support for the unified edition that works across mobile, console, and Windows 10 which, coincidentally, is also the edition where they make money selling skins and such.  Basically, maintenance mode and a push to get people to go where the money is.

14 – Daybreak will finally announce a new product, a small-ish group/co-op RPG thing that will feel like something of a new coat of paint on Just Survive, but will be fantasy and based in Norrath because that is the only IP they have that has some draw and lacks a licensing fee.

15 – PlanetSide 2 and Just Survive will clearly be in maintenance mode by the end of the year, with staff being pulled off to work on the above new title.  The problem will be distinguishing maintenance mode from whatever mode they are in now.  Daybreak will just have to tell us.

16 – EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual autumnal expansions.  The EverQuest team will follow the lead of their younger sibling and return to a Planes of Power theme.

17 – On the EverQuest II side of the house the focus will be a surprising return to a desert theme along the lines of Desert of Flames, flying freaking carpets and all.

18 – The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China will fall apart when PlayerUnknown’s Battleground makes it there first and sews up the battle royale market.  Best case, H1Z1 will launch and fold in a few months, worst case it won’t even get the chance.

19 – EVE Fanfest 2018 in Iceland will be a smash, celebrating as it will the 15th birthday of the launch of EVE Online.  However, one of the announcements will be that there will be no EVE Vegas going forward and that their plans for Four Fan Fests around the world in 2019 will be scrapped as will Fan Fest 2019, though the latter will be because they’re remodeling the Harpa.  I am not adopting the Massively OP outlook that EVE Online itself is mordibund because most of the community team got the axe, but without them who else is going to do these events?

20 – EVE Online itself will continue to move forward more slowly than planned.  The end of player owned starbases and null sec stations won’t come to pass until after the traditional CCP July/August vacation season.  Focus before then will be tuning Alphas some more, The Agency, and special events.

21 – After going up in 2017, the PCU will begin to trend down again, with the average over the next 12 months dipping down to 30K.  Not drastic, but it will keep the “EVE is dying” fan club active and have CCP looking around for short term changes to boost the player base.

22 – EVE Fanfest 2018 will see a revised vision statement about future plans for EVE Online.  Gone will be talk of player built gates and new space.  There is already too much space in New Eden for the current player base.  Instead the new vision will seek to revitalize NPC null sec regions like Venal and the Great Wildlands with a much more aggressive NPC population defending those systems rather than just letting players pass.  Details will be high level, but CCP will hint that this is a test run for plans they are considering for Jove space as some sort of high end, raid-like experiment.

23 – In EVE Online the CSM 13 elections will see a bump in non-null sec representation, with four seats going to such candidates.  The return of Mike Azariah will help get out the non-null vote.  The six null-sec seats will be two Imperium (Aryth & Innominate), one Brave, one TEST, one PL/PH/NCDot, and one GotG.

24 – Project Aurora, CCPs mobile game made in cooperation with… um… whoever that was at EVE Vegas… will ship in the second half of the year and… will do better than Dust 514.  It will do okay, people will download it and play it, it will get a core following and make some money, but it won’t be covering the bills or paying for an expanded community team.

25 – We won’t hear much about the alleged new project that CCP recently posted job listings about, aside from the fact that they have partnered with somebody else to do the heavy lifting. A year from now EVE Online will still be all CCP really has, but people will still be yelling at CCP for a) spending money on anything besides EVE Online and b) gambling the whole company’s future on just EVE Online.

26 – No 64-bit client for EVE Online in 2018.  The captain’s quarters wasn’t all that was holding them back, it was just the easiest to dispose of.

27 – Standing Stone is running out of content for Lord of the Rings Online.  Between Mordor and the Grey Havens there is really only a couple of weddings, the walk home, the scourging of the Shire, and trying to clean up the mess.  No expansions, no be changes to the landscape, just a few updates with some of the more militant mopping up tasks in areas of Middle-earth they have already mapped out.  We won’t be walking Frodo to the Grey Havens in 2018, but it will be on the horizon.

Double Extra Credit Bonus Prediction: CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

So that is 27 entries for a total possible of 270 points, plus the bonus prediction, a throw away I am going to demand 20 points for should it come to pass.  Now to wait and see what happens between now and December of 2018.

Others doing some New Year’s predicting or wishing:

Looking Back at 2017 – Highs and Lows

We are here again at the point of the year where I take a moment to look back at the state of things and wonder how we managed to get things as messed up as they appear to be.

This post follows the usual random stream of consciousness, “oh yeah, that happened” level of effort with no attempt to link out to anything.  I just spew out bullet points.  Past efforts, for comparison or whatever, are available:

So what happened in 2017 that stuck with me:

Blizzard

Highs

  • World of Warcraft team managed to keep delivering new content with the Legion expansion, which seems like it will stem the usual max exodus that comes with the regular second summer content drought.
  • Money money money money… WoW still brings in so much money it has avoided any real F2P lootbox taint so far.
  • New expansion, Battle for Azeroth, announced at BlizzCon.
  • Holy fuck, WoW Classic announced at BlizzCon!!1! one one !
  • Diablo III got the necromancer and that odd Diablo special event.
  • Overwatch is still go-go-go.
  • More Hearthstone card packs to sell.
  • StarCraft Remaster!
  • StarCraft II base game now free.
  • Heroes of the Storm got some sort of revamp… and then another one.

Lows

  • WoW subscription numbers are still top secret and their other metrics are BS; SuperData Research can seem more informative than Activision Blizzard quarterly reports.
  • We haven’t actually hit the second summer of Legion yet; things could still go badly.
  • The renewed Horde vs. Alliance aspect of Battle for Azeroth isn’t a universally inspiring as, say, the Lich King.
  • Blizzard is just now staffing up the WoW Classic team, so the ship date is probably still far away, like 2020.
  • League of Legends still makes more money than WoW and Riot doesn’t have to design huge zones or raids, they just have to sell some skins, boosts, and the occasional OP champion.
  • Diablo III is very much on the back burner now.
  • Still no Diablo II or Warcraft III remasters.
  • StarCraft II feels like it is also falling by the wayside; making it free and putting the remastered StarCraft on the Battle.net launcher feels like the successor never topped the original.
  • How long until Hearthstone card packs hit the level of absurdity?  I suppose if Magic: The Gathering is any indication, the answer is “never.”  But for me that point has already come and gone.
  • Did the Heroes of the Storm updates make any difference?  Is Heroes of the Storm even going to be a thing come BlizzCon 2018?
  • I hate to get all “what have you done for us lately,” but you got anything new planned Blizz?

Daybreak

Highs

  • Still holds a high enough spot in my heart to get its own category in this post despite my not playing any of their games right now.
  • Continued the Norrath development cycle another year, with EverQuest and EverQuest II each getting a new expansion.
  • Planes of Prophecy in EQII got some good reviews by the locals and continues the successful nostalgia plan at Daybreak, it being a call back to the monumental 2002 Planes of Power expansion in EQ.
  • Somebody must be buying the $140 versions of those expansions if they keep offering them.
  • Ongoing Norrathian nostalgia train as post EQ and EQII got new expansion locked progression servers.
  • DC Universe Online remains strong on consoles.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill was the king of battle royale games on Steam for a while.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill is going to China via Tencent, Riot’s parent company.
  • Just Survive is supposed to get some attention and updates.
  • Still a rumor of a new game coming from Daybreak, maybe even a Norrath game.

Lows

  • The EQII fan base remains restive, especially in the forums.  Daybreak inherited a lot of anger debt from SOE.
  • How many special servers can Daybreak roll out before they hit diminishing returns?
  • How many time can EQ go back to Kunark before that well dries up?
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground pretty much dwarfed H1Z1 – King of the Kill on Steam… and then so did Fortnite.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill renamed back to just H1Z1 because the word “kill” kills sales, or so they say.
  • In China H1Z1 will apparently be King of Survival. Bite the wax tadpole!
  • Just Survive seemed aptly named given how long it was neglected.  But at least it did survive.
  • Landmark, gone in a blink, a lesson in early access.  There is nothing special about “going live” when you’ve been charging people to play all along.
  • Rumors don’t pay the bills and any new game will likely go straight on to Steam as unfinished “early access” and suffer the same fate.

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Free from WB and their bottom line expectations, they are focused on their two titles.
  • Continuing to develop and improve both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Launched the Mordor expansion so, after a decade, the end of the War of the Rings is in sight.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online got some updates as well.

Lows

  • Company is clearly tied to milking the final acts of both DDO and LOTRO; they will never create a new title.
  • Since they didn’t get Asheron’s Call, that went away.
  • Still not really sure who owns them; WB doesn’t just give assets away.
  • Still not clear on relationship with Daybreak and who is benefiting from it.
  • Not sure the avatar graphical update was worth the investment; every gripe I had about the old avatars still exist.
  • From Frodo leaving Bag End to the destruction of the ring took about six months in the books (September 23, 3018 TA to March 25, 3019 TA).
  • The end of the War of the Rings means the end of the game, unless we’re going to get a quest to go with Sam to the Grey Havens and then help him run for mayor.
  • The Mordor expansion… just not that appealing… and the expensive versions of the expansion seemed even more over-priced for what one got than even Daybreak’s offerings.

CCP

Highs

  • Consistent updates and big feature expansions are still a thing for EVE Online.
  • A renewed focus on EVE Online late in the year.
  • Promise of a 64-bit client, which should reduce client crashes in big fleet fights… at least crashes from exceeding the 32-bit limit on memory allocation.
  • Can still get headlines out of player conflicts in null sec.
  • Andrew Groen has a podcast going into more detail about null sec history.
  • A lot of community outreach by CCP, with players streaming on their Twitch channel and such.
  • An expansion of Alpha Clone abilities.
  • The company seemed to be a leader in VR titles with Valkyrie, Gunjack, and the new Sparc.
  • Valkyrie now available for non-VR players with the Warzone expansion
  • Project Nova and Project Aurora are going forward with partnered studios doing much of the heavy lifting.
  • /r/eve on Reddit… not as toxic as it once was.

Lows

  • Literally dammed if they focus on EVE Online and dammed if they do not.
  • The cost of focus on EVE Online was layoffs.
  • Somehow, laying off most of the EVE Online community team was “focusing” on EVE Online.
  • This year saw the least number of Dev Blogs published in the history of the game, and at this point they get a dozen gimmes in the form of the Monthly Economic Report.
  • EVE Online remains the only viable post-Hættuspil game for the company.
  • EVE Online also remains firmly in the post “Jesus Feature” era; not much being added to the game that would bring back old players.  Updates in 2018 were mostly iterative.
  • The captain’s quarters are gone.  Some part of me did want that to work out, but CCP just doesn’t have the breadth to do that and keep internet spaceships viable at the same time.
  • Music with updates seems to be a thing of the past, which is sad because EVE Online music is something I actually listen to regularly.
  • Null sec headlines this summer quickly turned to bad player behavior thanks to GigX making real world threats, thus reaffirming that New Eden is a horrible place for horrible people.
  • Apparently nothing outside of null sec and the occasional scam makes for a headline or a story worth telling.
  • Andrew Groen gave up focusing on EVE Online after only a few episodes.
  • The whole Alpha Clone thing opened the door for creeping microtransactions and the eventual shit-death of the universe.
  • Some of our community remains shit.
  • While VR is growing as a segment, it is still very small.
  • Making Valkyrie available without VR doesn’t inspire confidence in the VR market
  • Valkyrie with VR was visually interesting, taking that away makes it feel flat.
  • Need to been an octopus to play Valkyrie well with keyboard an mouse; really requires a game pad… by which I mean an XBox 360 controller specifically, unless you want to configure everything by trial and error.
  • And speaking of things that do not inspire confidence in VR, I hope you really like Gunjack, Sparc, and EVE: Valkyrie exactly the way they are now, because development for the products has been shelved and most of the staff laid off.
  • What are the odds that an EVE Online based shooter or mobile app will be a success no matter who is doing the coding?
  • Ha, ha, ha… I just remembered when they were talking about an EVE Online TV show.
  • /r/eve on Reddit being better than before is a very low bar and hardly worth bragging about.

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch is selling well.  It will pass total Wii U sales numbers soon.
  • Video games on the Switch sell well even with reduced visual fidelity
  • Seemed to figure out its NES Classic issue so SNES Classics are much easier to come by
  • Might actually re-release the NES Classic next year.
  • New Pokemon games in the form of Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.
  • Old Pokemon games in the form of Pokemon Gold & Silver… and Pokemon Crystal soon.
  • Yet more Metroid of some sort.
  • More mobile apps.  Lots of people downloaded Super Mario Jump!

Lows

  • For all its success, I cannot see a reason to buy a Switch.  And it isn’t anything like Wii level popularity.
  • End of the Wii Store is coming… well, in 2019, but still… alright, I was surprised it was still even open.
  • Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon were not a big change over Pokemon Sun & Moon.
  • No Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remake… yet.
  • After Pokemon Go other Nintendo mobile apps have failed to see anything close to that level of popularity or financial success.

Other Games

Highs

  • Unified Minecraft clients so you can share servers with your friend on different platforms
  • Fortnite shows up as an sharp looking co-op survival game.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground takes the Battle Royale idea and runs with it to massive success, leaving H1Z1: King of the Kill in the dust.
  • Star Citizen hasn’t imploded yet and even seems to have made some progress.
  • Word of an Age of Empires remaster to go with my Age of Kings remaster.
  • Steam, still a purveyor of the occasional rare gems, always a sale of some sort just around the corner.
  • Rimworld ate up a lot of my gaming hours over the summer
  • I played a lot of MMOs over the course of 2017.
  • Lots of MMOs still out there surviving many years in.
  • Toril MUD is coming up on 25 years of operation in one form or another!
  • EA going too far with Star Wars Battlefront II microtransactions brought a lot of attention to what is going on with that sort of thing.

Lows

  • Original Minecraft, now called the “Java edition,” was not part of the unification plan.
  • PUBG devs got really pissy when Fortnite decided that it too would become a battle royale game.
  • Have you tried to decipher Fortnite’s purchasing options?  I went to their site and gave up after looking at that.  Also, if you bought in for co-op survival, sorry, battle royale is now the thing.
  • Star Citizen is still a lot a vision and very little reality as fan boys celebrate getting access to an Alpha version only a few months late while a real viable game isn’t even a speck on the horizon yet.
  • Speaking of Star Citizen, giving everybody access to the public test server doesn’t count towards “shippping” the long promised Alpha 3.0 release.  That just says it isn’t ready yet.
  • Eventually we will hit remaster saturation… or start having to remaster the remasters as tech progresses.
  • Steam is still clogged with a huge mass of absolute shit that makes finding gems a near impossible chore.
  • I’m glad I bought No Man’s Sky on sale, as it really didn’t grab me at all. Slowest load times ever.
  • I played several MMOs for less than a month each this year before landing back in WoW, so same as it ever was.
  • I went on a zone (raid) with a group in TorilMUD and my ability to parse scrolling text is not what it used to be.  I was totally lost.
  • Server merges for games like Runes of Magic and SWTOR show the decline.
  • Club Penguin thrown over by Disney for a mobile app.  After “land war in Asia” one of the classic blunders is to force your installed base to change platforms and re-start from scratch.
  • Marvel Heroes suffered a sudden, if not totally unexpected demise, leading to questions about refunds for people who recently made in-game purchases.
  • Are there any Funcom MMOs that are not in maintenance mode?
  • Civilization VI just didn’t inspire me, but at least I bought it on sale.
  • EA managed to go so far on the microtransaction greed front as to attract the attention of various governmental organizations.  That could end very badly for all of us.  Way to shit the bed for everybody there EA!
  • Trion, apparently missing the whole EA fiasco, decided to sell a $100 lockbox in Rift with a random “premium” mount, some of which are available in-game for much much less.  Then attempted to deflect criticism via derision and sarcasm.  At least they saw the light after a few hours of being pounded.
  • Games I backed on Kickstarter continue to fail to ship, with Mineserver leading the way in the ratio of promise to actual delivery date failure metric.
  • Early access, Kickstarter campaigns, and beta have all become pretty much synonymous with getting the money up front and delivering shit as the industry does its usual gyration where somebody succeeds on good faith and then others take the most superficial lessons from that and pile on simply looking to make money before delivering.
  • Fewer high quality video games showing up as the expense to make them continues to rise while older games hang on through DLC and other monetization plans.  How long ago did GTA V ship?
  • As I write this I cannot think of a new video game title to which I am looking forward to seeing launch.

Media

Highs

  • Blade Runner 2049 really looked, sounded, and “felt” excellent.
  • Dunkirk was beautiful and engaging to watch.
  • Lots of blockbuster superhero movies, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi for pete’s sake!
  • Fantasy Movie League has been fun.
  • Finally watched Breaking Bad.
  • Stranger Things 2 gave fans of the first series something new to binge on and was strong enough that a third season has been green lit.
  • Comcast put Netflix and YouTube apps in their cable box so I can now easily switch to either service and watch them on the TV.
  • Amazon Prime video remains worthwhile.
  • The beloved celebrity death train that was 2016 seemed to have subsided somewhat.

Lows

  • Box office confirmation that Blade Runner was a cult classic and not a mainstream success in any way.
  • I saw Dunkirk in IMax and it was so loud I think it damaged my hearing.  Also, I refuse to believe in Spitfires that can glide forever.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me feeling dissatisfied.  We’ve also hit a point in the franchise where you can neither like or dislike a film, or any aspect of the film, without somebody declaring your opinion flat out wrong because you’re either too big of a nerd or not big enough or a nerd.  That’s not how this works.
  • I am not very much into the superhero things really.  Can we get some better science fictions movies… that aren’t necessarily Star Wars of Star Trek?
  • Fantasy Movie League can seem really random in results unless you are REALLY into keeping up on details and projections.  I fail at that more often that I succeed.  My ability to care is limited and sometimes I just want to roll the dice.
  • Cannot get my wife to buy into watching The Walking Dead.
  • Stranger Things 2 lacked the punch, got off track, and was a lot more interested in itself than the first series.
  • If I couldn’t figure out where Stranger Things 2 was going to go, where in the hell will Stranger Things 3 end up?  How much can Hawkins take?
  • You don’t want to see my Comcast bill.  And I have to have them because there are literally no other choices in my area.
  • And in this era where I am paying so much to Comcast, HBO, Netflix, and Amazon for streaming, the best and most cost effective way to see a new release at home is still getting disks in the mail via the old Netflix delivery service.  All hail the postal service I guess.
  • It is a good thing the video has value because Amazon Prime shipping… let’s just say I wouldn’t order anything breakable from Amazon these days.
  • I watched YouTube’s 2017 Rewind video and… boy do I feel old.  I got fidget spinners, the eclipse, and maybe that planking is dead?
  • I might be willing to sacrifice a few more celebrities if it would keep the president from provoking North Korea on Twitter.  Maybe we can get some deal on all the ones suddenly accused of sexual misconduct?

The Blog, internet, and other things

Highs

  • The blog, it still lives!
  • I managed to just about keep up the pace, posting more than 300 times.
  • People still show up here, read posts, and occasionally leave comments.
  • I still actually enjoy writing.
  • There is still a pretty active MMO blogging community out there.
  • There is even something of an MMO press still.
  • Net neutrality was good while it lasted.

Lows

  • More blogs I have known have fallen by the wayside or disappeared.
  • Reddit, Twitter, and Twitch are a far more common outlet for gamers than blogs and podcasts these days.
  • The alleged MMO press can’t really stick to MMOs most days without stretching the definition to mean simply “online multiplayer.”
  • Massively OP continues to demonstrate that they have some sort of institutional axe to grind when it comes to EVE Online and Daybreak.
  • My rate of posting, while still beyond my “every weekday” goal, continues to slacken.
  • People showing up and leaving comments is, likewise, falling off.
  • Do I really play anything besides EVE Online and WoW?  So what will I write about?
  • My typos are starting to become more common and more egregious… it now compares with Apple’s auto-correct in absurdity some days… to the point that I am starting to wonder if I have some sort of neurological disease.   Stapling machine.
  • I am starting to enjoy what I have written more than what I am writing, so that the looking back section of the month in review posts have started to expand considerably.  Blog founded largely on nostalgia likes nostalgia!
  • WordPress.com is getting more aggressive in monetizing free blogs, injecting more ads and pushing their subscription plans constantly.
  • For all of WP.com’s ballyhoo’d features I still have to keep a Rube Goldberg-esque series of technologies in harmony to have a dynamic blog roll in my side bar.
  • Patreon managed to screw a lot of small content creators by announcing (then withdrawing) a horrible cash grab that was badly disguised as an improvement.

Well, that is all I had from 2017 stuck in my brain.  The time left in the year is easily measured in hours at this point.  On to a new year.

Was anybody else looking back at the old year?

Planes of Prophecy Expansion for EverQuest II

It is that time of year, the expansion season for the Norrath franchise at Daybreak, and today the first of the pair to launch is EverQuest II which is going live with the Planes of Prophecy expansion today.

Planes of Prophecy

As down as some people are on Daybreak (looking at you Massively OP) I still see a victory in every additional expansion they manage to ship for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  Even though I don’t play either any more, and really can’t bring myself to stick to either when I try, they still both occupy a special place in the pantheon of MMORPGs for me.

Anyway, the fourteenth EQII expansion takes us to the elemental planes again, as the title indicates.  I guess that counts as something of a nod to nostalgia as it even has the same acronym as the famed/infamous 2002 Planes of Power expansion for EverQuest.

The feature list reads as such lists tend to, with more of just about everything including levels, quests, zones, raids, and so on.

  • New Zones including
    • Plane of Magic
    • Plane of Valor
    • Plane of Innovation
    • Plane of Disease
    • Bastion of Thunder
    • Solusek Ro’s Tower
    • Brackish Vaults
  • New Heroic Dungeons
  • New Event Heroic Dungeons
  • New Solo Dungeons
  • New Duo Dungeons
  • New Raid Dungeons
  • New Large Overland
  • New Hub Zone “Coliseum of Valor”; provides access to dungeons, raids, and public quests
  • Alt-Friendly Keyring System: If you unlock a new heroic or raid zone on your main, your alt will also gain access to it.
  • New Signature Quest Line
  • New Public Quests
  • New Timed Key Quests
  • New Collection Quests
  • New “Soulbound” Weapons: Soulbound weapons will be able to level up and become even more powerful!
  • New Weapon Type: Crossbows, a ranged weapon usable by all
  • Adventure Level Cap Raised to 110
  • All Ascension Classes Level Cap Increased to 15
  • Guild Level Cap Increased to 250
  • New Factions
  • New Achievements
  • New Items
  • Tradeskill Level Cap Raised to 110
  • New Adornments for Crafters to Make
  • New Tinkering Recipes
  • Mercenary Level Cap Increased to 10
  • More Mercenary Gear Slots: Six new slots for hands, legs, feet, and 3 additional accolades

Lots and lots of “new” and “more” on that list, enough to keep people busy for another year… or at least until the spring game update.

A few items jump out at me from the list.  I am curious as to how this Coliseum of Valor will work, or what it actually is.  Is this the EQII version of the Plane of Knowledge?

Then there are crossbows because… well… I bet they look cool.  Still, that seems like something that wasn’t really missed for the last 13 years, so why bring them in now?

And then there are the new Soulbound weapons, which on the surface sound a lot like Artifact weapons from WoW Legion or Legendary weapons from LOTRO.

Which is to say it could be a good idea, but it could also be a bad one.

I actually ended up liking the Artifact weapons in WoW Legion even though, for example, every retribution pally gets a copy of Ashbringer.  That you can unlock special looks for each artifact weapon helped on that score.

The downside is that artifact weapons will cease to be a thing come the Battle for Azeroth expansion, which will leave an awkward 10 levels towards the end of the level curve where you have to get and upgrade a special weapon that you’ll likely throw away before you’ve had a change to fully upgrade it.

As for LOTRO and legendary weapons… ugh… that seemed like a good idea back in Mines of Moria, but it quickly got old for me there and Turbine’s, and then Standing Stone’s, continued use of the awkward mechanic is on the long list of things that keep me from going back to play the game.

I haven’t followed the updates for the expansion, so I am not sure what path Daybreak plans to follow here, but I am wary none the less.  And what do these new Soulbound weapons mean for Mythic weapons, yet another category I am told exists.  I am clearly out of my depth here.

Anyway, you get all of that when you buy the standard edition of the expansion along with a level 100 character boost.

But, of course, the expansion comes in three flavors, the same as before, so I don’t even have to crop up a new graphic for the pricing and can just roll with what I did in 2015.

Premium packages available for premium prices

For the Collectors Edition you also get a trade skill level 100 boost and a 5 ascension level boost along with an array of other items, and with the $140 Premium Edition you can add on a 10 ascension level boost as well as even more… um… stuff.

You can get all the details from the expansion order page.

Sadly, if you’re reading this and have not ordered yet it is likely you missed out on the Clockwork Calamity illusion pre-order bonus item, some aspects of which Bhagpuss has demonstrated in a video.

Bhagpuss also has some words about the expansion in his post today which are probably better than my own as he pays more attention to EQII than I can manage.

That is it, another year and another EverQuest II expansion.

Addendum: Even Daybreak says the expansion is live now.  Hit level 101 before December 12th and get special painting for you house.

EverQuest II Becomes a Teenager

Part of me feels a need to mark these sorts of anniversaries.  Thirteen is significant in that is the age at which one passes into the tumultuous teen years, hormones all in a rage and stuck in between being…. and wanting to be… both a child and an adult.

I don’t have a stock EverQuest II graphic

EverQuest, the progenitor, went Free to Play on its thirteenth birthday, striking out to remake itself in a new mold like many a teen.

But MMORPGs are not people, and thirteen isn’t really the start of the teens for games the genre.  MMO titles crow up fast and adulthood can be reached in just weeks or months.  If anything, thirteen is well into middle-age, when routines have been establish, destiny pretty much set, and you have a stable of acquaintances who’ve already made up their mind about you long ago.  EverQuest going free to play at thirteen was not an act of teen rebellion but a bowing to reality.

Now EverQuest II is thirteen, as WoW will be in a couple of weeks.  I don’t know that there will be anything truly special about this turning of the calendar for either game.  But I am in a nostalgic mood.  It is autumn, I am back playing WoW and I have been poking my nose into TorilMUD again, having gotten ZMud up and running once more. (Expect more MUD posts.)

As part of all of that I was digging around and came across a Microsoft Word document.  It was a summary of EverQuest II from a person who had been in the beta and sent to a member of our Shades of Twilight guild on TorilMUD to convince them to come and play EverQuest II.  The document was passed on to Gaff who passed it on to me.  It is the answer to the question, “Why did you run off to play EverQuest II?” for our guild.

We ended up in a mixed group of migrating EverQuest players from a guild and our TorilMUD guild coming together to form Knights of the Cataclysm on the Crushbone server back on November 14, 2004.

Our day one guild on Crushbone

Crushbone had just been stood up, a second round server to hold the influx of players coming to the new game.  We got there largely due to the document I am including after the cut.  I do not know the original author’s name nor am I posting with their permission.  I am justifying this as a bit of history that describes a lot of the things that were in place in EverQuest II at launch.

Many, many words after the cut.  Real life names redacted.

Continue reading

Friday Bullet Points for the End of September

Another one of those round up posts to quickly cover some things I thought about working up posts around, but which never quite materialized.

CCP Closes the Gate

CCP announced that as of Wednesday the EVE Gate portal on the EVE Online site has been shut down.

You shall not log in!

The EVE Gate, for those who do not know… which is probably most people reading this… was a portal that allowed players to log in and access their in-game email and calendar.  It should not be confused with the in-game EVE Gate of lore, which is how humans first arrived in New Eden.

I’m not sure how big of a deal this really is.  I think I used it twice over the years.  I don’t get much in-game email really, as my corp, alliance, and coalition have other preferred communications methods.

Riverini returned to EN24 to write a post about the demise of EVE Gate.  As CCP notes, you can use their phone app or, if you want, you can use a third party app like Neocom.  I find the latter is much more useful overall, though it won’t let you send mail.

CCP is NOT Turning Japanese

Earlier this year CCP announced that they were cancelling their deal with Nexon for Japanese localization.  NEXON was a mixed bag for EVE in Japan, so CCP decided to carry on with a single Japanese speaking employee.  Sad for the Japanese community, but at least CCP was trying to carry on with support.

I want to hear Falcon read this in Vegas

However, things have taken a further turn as CCP has asked a lone Japanese speaking ISD member to stop translating patch notes and posting them to the forums.  The person in question was doing this on their own time, but CCP felt it was confusing as it was not officially sanctioned and there was some disagreement over the translations as converting EVE Online lore and mechanics from English to Japanese is problematic at the best of times.  The tale of this, with some translation examples, is in a Reddit thread.

Free Brittania!

Ultima Online has been celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, which I haven’t covered at all since I never played it.  I think Lord British and I parted ways at about Ultima V.

Welcome indeed

The game is still alive and rolling and trying to keep pace with the changes in the industry under Broadsword’s stewardship.  Over at Massively OP it was mentioned that, along those lines, Broadsword was looking into some sort of “free” option.  As the FAQ on the UO site indicates, free will mean giving up some options that I am sure any serious player would not want to do without.  The option is called the “Endless Journey” as is supposed to arrive in Spring 2018.

Expansions Coming to Norrath, But Not for Free

Both the EverQuest and EverQuest II sites have made it clear that we’ll be seeing the usual yearly expansions again for 2017.

For EverQuest it will be the Rings of Scale, while EverQuest II will be going old school again with the Planes of Prophecy.

We don’t know much beyond the names yet, but the usual warm up events have been kicking off and last year’s expansions are now 50% off for those late to the party.

One of the usual aspects of this phase is the addition of some past expansion to the free to play access level of the game.  Usually you can buy the latest and the previous expansion and everything before that is open for everybody.  But no longer.  As Massively OP reported (a pity Feldon isn’t around for this, he’d have done a nice full story on this), when asked when the soon to be in third place Terrors of Thalumbra expansion might be made free, the official response was:

We will not be adding anything further to the F2P line-up.

Harsh words, but perhaps the flip side of something Daybreak has said before.  The Planet Side 2 team opined in the past that there is a point of diminishing returns when piling on things for subscribers.  Now we’re seeing EverQuest II declining to remove something from the paid column.

I have not seen word as to whether the EverQuest expansion The Broken Mirror will face a similar path in not moving to the free zone, but I expect that will also be the case.

And that is it for items on my list.  I’m sure I will hate myself a year from now when I try to put these into my “One Year Ago” summary.

EQ2 Wire to Shut Down after Nine Years

In what I can only call a blow to the extended EverQuest II community, Feldon of the site EQ2 Wire has decided to call it quits.

The site, which has been in operation for just over nine years, has been my go-to for news and updates about EverQuest II.  Feldon has been something of a crutch for me, helping me keep track of a game I care about but haven’t played in any serious way in at least five years.

Unfortunately, Feldon has also moved away from the game.  In his post announcing the end of his coverage, he pointed to that, his deteriorating relationship with Daybreak, and the fact that he has many other things going on in his life as factors that led to his decision.

It is sad to hear he his giving up his role in the EQII community.  I have often repeated that I wish there was a Feldon for EverQuest and Rift and a few other MMOs out there.  But it can be a lot of work and his efforts have not always been appreciated by SOE and Daybreak, so I can only thank his for all his has done and wish him well in whatever he chooses to pursue.

I do hope he will keep the site up for now, if only out of selfish reasons… I don’t need another raft of dead links here, as I have linked out to EQ2 Wire often.

He has stated that he will continue to maintain the EQ2U Players site for now as it still gets a significant amount of traffic from player look ups.

When fan sites like this depart, it points out both the strength and weakness of online gaming communities.  On the one hand, the efforts of a single player can touch a wide swathe of the community.  But our tendency to depend on such sites is exposed when they depart and we feel the hole they have left in our world.

And so it goes.  Good luck Feldon and thank you for all you’ve done!

Daybreak 30 Months In

30 months seems like a nice round number for a review.

I was thinking about Daybreak over the weekend.  It has been about two and a half years now since they ceased to be SOE and began living the “indie” lifestyle as Daybreak.  Freed from the shackles of their PlayStation overlords there was the promise of being able to do new things… mostly on XBox.

First though, they had to clean house.  That started with staff cuts.  They cut games, Dragon’s Prophet, PlanetSide, and Legends of Norrath, though they had already cut some games as SOE to get ready for the deal.  Then they killed off the long suffering EverQuest Next project and released Landmark, only to close it down less than a year later.  That left them with a tidy array of games.

Daybreak Lineup – Fall 2017

DC Universe Online

Profitable on PlayStation, DCUO was the beneficiary of the whole “we can develop for XBox!” plan, getting an XBox One client last year along with the promise of being able to play on servers with Windows players.  I can’t recall if that ever happened.  The game does get regular content updates and likely continues to be profitable.

EverQuest and EverQuest II

The foundation of the company.  I remain of the opinion I expressed on a podcast a year and and a half ago, that these two titles are in the strongest place they have been in a long time.  Both games get yearly content expansion and regular updates and Daybreak has continued to successfully play the nostalgia card with both titles, rolling out fresh servers focused on old content.  Those are consistently the most popular servers though even I, a big fan of the idea, wonder how long these titles can live largely on that sort of thing.

H1Z1 – King of the Kill

The surprise break-out battle royale aspect of the H1Z1 saga, it still hasn’t managed to exit Early Access despite Daybreak’s parent company considering the game launched 30 months ago.  And there is a question as to how long its reign of success will last now that PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is now the darling of battle royale titles and Twitch streamers.  You cannot live on selling $5 in-game hoodies when a new game is stealing your audience.

Yeah, who owns Battle Royale now?

Having to differentiate yourself from your new competitor… which has sold 10 million units already… is never a good sign.  Meanwhile, the promised ports to PlayStation and XBox have never materialized.

Just Survive

The aptly named twin of King of the Kill and once the main focus of the plan.  Then the battle royale idea proved more popular, the game was split into two titles, with Just Survive mostly neglected for the next year and a half.  The biggest announcement during that time was that Daybreak was removing the “H1Z1” prefix from the title.  That came with the promise of a big revamp, but I don’t know if that will be enough to undue the damage from the time of neglect, which has left a recent legacy of “mostly negative” reviews for the game.

PlanetSide 2

The successor to PlanetSide and Smed’s favored child, it is hard to gauge how well it is doing in the post-Smed era.  It continues to get balance changes and updates.  On the other hand, almost two years back the Daybreak was saying that the title was having problems on the revenue generation front.  When you’re giving it away for free and not charging to play the core of the game, people will take advantage of that, a business model that remains the same today.  Has this gotten any better?

Something New?

The above is just the way things go with titles that are on the market and have to survive over time.  Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.

What differentiates a going concern from a company just riding out its end days and milking its current titles is ongoing development of new games.  And I haven’t seen any of that from Daybreak.  Moving one five year old title to XBox was nice, but hardly a substitute for new work.

All six titles in the Daybreak lineup come from the SOE era.  H1Z1 might have gone into early access shortly after the Daybreak deal, but it was announced and work was in progress well before then.

The only thing new under the sun for Daybreak has been a deal with Standing Stone Games to handle some aspect of LOTRO and DDO operations.  But that is hardly a substitute for new work, especially since SSG is a company clearly riding out its own end game scenario.  No matter how much money Daybreak is getting from that deal, it clearly has an expiration date.

So is this what the Daybreak experience is going to be?  A long ride into the sunset shepherding an ever dwindling stable to titles onward until the last one drops?