Category Archives: EverQuest

Three Problems MMORPGs are Never Going to Solve

Three things that fans of the genre complain about all the time, and even the developers acknowledge as issued now and then, which are just never going to be “solved” in any acceptable way.

Levels

World of Warcraft has been getting some heat for this one of late, both because the level scaling in Battle for Azeroth practically punishes you for leveling up and because they gave us access to a whole bunch of allied races which, if you want to play them, you have to level up. (Or pay for a race change for a current character, or pay for a level boost I guess.)

The moment hits at last

The problem is that levels are an easy solution to issues like gating content and giving characters a sense of progression, the latter being critical for an MMORPG.  The alternatives, like skill based systems, just don’t cover things as well or as obviously.

In fact, levels are so sublime that even systems that ostensibly do not have levels end up effectively having levels.  Take EVE Online, once an outlier with its skill learning system.  Your skills level up, even when you are offline, something viewed as a boon.  Skills gated content, in that you needed the skills to use various ships and equipment.   But skills continued on at the same pace, offline or on, with no way to speed them up, which many people found frustrating.  Flying a titan, for example, was just going to take you a couple of years.

And then skill injectors came along and suddenly the in-game currency, ISK, always something of a success measure, effectively became levels.  With enough ISK you can unlock all the content.  65 skill injectors gets you a titan pilot.  With enough ISK you can “win” EVE Online almost immediately.

They had all the skills… and lots of ISK… before they were banned

Meanwhile, back in level based gamed like WoW and EverQuest, the developers found ways to add another layer of levels.  Item levels gates content in Azeroth and stand as the thing for players to obsess about, while over in Norrath a whole vast and complex Alternate Advancement tree exists to absorb your experience once you’ve hit level cap, if not before.

The main problem with levels is that they reach a point of absurdity if you’re not careful and act as a deterrent to new players.  It doesn’t matter how easy the climb to level cap is… and it is arguably worse if it is too easy… if a new player sees they are level one and the cap is a three digit number.  And once you’ve arrive at that point there is no easy way out.  A level squish is madness, but so is carrying on as before.

But getting to a point where too many levels is a problem is generally a sign that you’ve succeeded so far, so how do you quit them once they’ve built your empire?

Grind

It is fun to listen to somebody complain about grind one day then wax poetically about the good old days of experience groups in EverQuest.  It helps settle in your mind that grind has no realistic definition.

Grind is basically something you don’t like doing at that moment.  The problem is that what is grind for one person is fun for another and the same person may enjoy something one day and feel like it is grind the next.

Some days just reading the quest tracker feels like a grind

I cannot name an MMORPG where things do not eventually feel like a grind if you do them often enough.

In EVE Online missions are one of the basic PvE activities and people complain about them being grindy and boring all the time.  People are always asking CCP to add more missions or to make them more interesting.  However, CCP said at some point last year that there are over 4,000 missions in the game, so it feels like the “adding more” check box has been checked repeatedly.  And when CCP adds missions that are more interesting, like burner missions, people complain that they are too hard if they get blown up or that they are a grind once the player solves the mission and getting blown up is removed as a risk.

So CCP added abyssal deadspace missions, which have a random element to them, which appealed to some people, but which drove the risk averse away.

Somebody… maybe Scott Jennings… wrote once that there is a fine line to making a quest or event interesting.  It cannot be too easy, lest it feel like no gain at all, but it also cannot be too difficult, or it will drive people away who fail at it.  A quest has to be both easy enough to knock off and hard enough to feel like you’ve accomplished something, otherwise it can feel like a grind.  And even a mission or quest that is perfectly tuned for your skill and level can feel like a grind if you’re not in the mood or you’ve done it many times before.

Grind is just the dark side of advancement/progression, and advancement is the reward drip that keeps us going.  Basically, if you want some form of progression you’re probably going to feel like you’re grinding at some point.

Which isn’t to say that some quests… or some game designs… don’t just suck.  But you can find grind in your most favorite game ever if you hang around long enough.

Login Problems at Launch

Unlike the first two, this is one that a game company probably could fix.  They just won’t.

Just last week at the WoW Classic stress test

If you’ve played a popular MMORPG you’ve probably run into login and server queues at launch or when expansions land or when updates hit or when they launch a special server or at some other time.

Just keep waiting, just keep waiting…

You want to log in and play but so do a lot of other people, so the login server is struggling and the game server if full and you’ve been put in a line outside and given a number that may or may not dynamically update as time passes.

Even LOTRO had a queue for Legendary

This makes people angry.  Very angry at times.  You’ve paid to play this game.  You want to play this game.  And here it is, peak game playing time for you and you are being prevented from playing the game.

Back in March, during the 20 year EverQuest anniversary, I saw somebody on Twitter raging about Daybreak having had two decades to fix they game and that it was completely unacceptable that they should have to wait in a queue.  Daybreak had failed completely.

Leaving aside the whole “20 year old game launches a new server and is popular enough to attract a queue,” the team at Daybreak has actually spent quite a bit of time working on its server capacity.  The servers hold more people.  They now have the ability to spawn multiple versions of zones to alleviate crowding.  They even have a server queue, which wasn’t a thing… or even a thing they felt they needed… until a couple of years back.  Daybreak, relative to its size, has actually done considerable work on this front.

Likewise, last week… and the week before… Blizzard held WoW Classic beta stress tests to simulate the loading that the WoW Classic servers will likely see when the launch in August.  Blizzard has a whole new layering system for the launch of WoW Classic that one hopes will keep down the total number of servers… or half the people you know will end up on different servers… while keeping the crowding and queuing problem from getting out of control.

And yet I expect that there will be queues, even horrendous queues, at the launch of WoW Classic.  I expect the first night to be a rush to get in.  People will want to get started, do server firsts, and whatever else.  It will be a spectacle, and people who play the live game will try to log in, even if they don’t plan on playing.

There will be queues, we should expect it, and Blizzard shouldn’t spend a bunch of time or money trying to fix that.

Why?

Because it is a temporary problem.  We have seen it in the past.  LOTRO Legendary, EverQuest progression servers, any give WoW expansion launch, the queues are minimal in a few days and gone in a couple of weeks.  It just isn’t worth the investment for such a transitory issue.

Yes, there are always those few WoW servers that have a queue six months after an expansion launches.  But that is a different problem.  When there is a long list of low population servers available Blizzard should be offering free transfers for people to move.  That is the fix.  Use the capacity that already exists.

I am sure there are other things that won’t get fixed… I had “old content” scratched in my notes for this, but forgot what I was going to say… but these three, we will be complaining about them for years to come because they won’t ever go away.

Daybreak Rumor Review

Just over a year ago I wrote about a series of Daybreak rumors that had been posted to Reddit by an alleged disgruntled former employee who had just been laid off.  The original Reddit post has since been scrubbed.  No doubt somebody was reminded about their NDA, an action which I think actually adds more credence to the whole thing.

The eye follows you as you move about the room! Or it will with the next update.

Anyway, as I said then, we could not measure the veracity of the claims, so all we could do is watch and see what came to pass.  Forward looking rumors based on plans of the moment have an expiration date and, generally, the further time moves along the less likely they are to match reality.

Fortunately a year ago I had the foresight to record these rumors before they were disappeared.  Back then I ordered them by how much each particular rumor meant to me, which put EverQuest things at the top and H1Z1 at the bottom.  This time around I am going to sort them into baskets based on accuracy.   So let’s take a look at what happened over the past year.

Came to Pass

These are the items that I think arguably happened.  Maybe not exactly as stated, but close enough to count.

Just Survive is on its last legs. Several ideas for increasing profits have been floated around but at this point it looks like a sunset is most likely.

I don’t think this was much of a surprise.  I believe I had predicted this for 2018.  There was some talk about maybe finding a way to keep it going, but in the end it was shut down.

Planetside 3 is in early development. Other teams will be siphoned into this project next year. This will be a team based battle royal game that combines the building aspect of Fortnite with territory acquisition.

While it is called PlanetSide Arena and not PlanetSide 3, I think that otherwise came to pass.  They may have been calling it PlanetSide 3 internally at that point.  Lord knows I’ve been through product name changes late in development cycles, which is why you don’t create file names with the product name in them.

Maybe Sort Of

These are the items that seemed to have come to pass, but the details given were off by enough that maybe something changed, or maybe the person predicting had incomplete or out of date information.

H1Z1 will get a smaller map as well as a remake of “Z1”. The PS4 port is looking good. After that new skins will continue to be released but most of the team will be moved over to Planetside 3.

I am pretty sure this came to pass.  As with the previous mention, PlanetSide 3 became PlanetSide ArenaH1Z1 also clearly got its Z1 remake as well, except on the PlayStation 4, where it remains H1Z1.  However failing to mention NantWorks and NantG Mobile, essentially another company taking over development, at least lowers the accuracy score for this one a bit.  And certainly anybody left at Daybreak working on the PC version of H1Z1 ended up on other projects.  That the NantG Mobile thing failed with Z1 is beside the point.

Planetside 2 was supposed to be getting new character models and animations in May. A new map and an aircraft carrier are planned for the end of the year.

I am pretty sure this came to pass for the most part.  PlanetSide 2 got new stuff.  I just don’t care enough to go figure out if this is exactly what happened.

Seems Wrong

These are items that I believe straight up did not come to pass.  Whether they were never planned or circumstances changed I cannot tell, but a year down the road they just seem at odds with reality.

Everquest will have one last expansion. The 20th anniversary will introduce a series of nostalgic raids that tie into complex quests. These quests can be done in order to grant alternate characters powerful scaling weapons.

This was at the top of the “matters to me” list.  EverQuest being put in maintenance mode would have been a blow.  And perhaps that was the plan over a year ago.  However, with the EverQuest 20th anniversary and statements from Holly Longdale, any plans along those lines appear to have been overthrown.  It looks like we will be getting expansions and updates and special servers to farm nostalgia for some time to come according to her.

Everquest 2 will also have one last expansion and eventually a similar series of send-off weapon quests and raids.

As with EverQuest, it seems like this has not come to pass.  If nothing else we already have confirmation of another expansion for EverQuest II.  There was enough ambiguity in the whole thing that I did wonder at the time if the person meant the expansion for this year would be the last, but since we will have two expansions announced since this tidbit dropped I am going to call it wrong for now.

Of course, we did not get as much warm and fuzzy from Holly about EverQuest II as we did EverQuestEverQuest II just doesn’t have the same sense of history or nearly the same large fan base to be farmed for nostalgia dollars.  But I think it is good for now, and maybe Holly will talk up what I have referred to as the “Prince Charles” of MMORPGs (ever in the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth that is EverQuest) when its fifteen year anniversary hits later this year.

I Just Do Not Know

And then we have we have the item about which we cannot say much.

Everquest 3 has been back in development for a year and is being rebuilt from the ground up. It aims to compete with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and to be the first fantasy MMORPG to put an emphasis on team battle royal PvP.

I have heard rumors of various incarnations of a new Norrath game since they put a bullet in EverQuest Next.  It was supposed to be a small co-op RPG at one point.  At others it was going to be just an updated EverQuest.  Making a Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen competitor seems plausible I suppose, though that seems like Daybreak really setting its sites low in the market.

The whole “emphasis on team battle royal PvP” seems like an abomination to me, but I guess in a world where Fortnite is king of course they want to put battle royale in all the things.  Of course, this was back when they thought they could revive H1Z1 by renaming it Z1 Battle Royale and before they pushed off the launch of PlanetSide Arena by six months or so.  So perhaps “more battle royale” has all the impact of “more cowbell” in San Diego at this point.

And then there is Holly Longdale, who seems to represent the faction that won the ideological war over what EverQuest franchise should be.  As part of the 20th anniversary she had some words about EverQuest Next and any possible new EverQuest game.

So there we go.  A bit of it was spot on.  Some of it was close.  And a few were off the reservation or unknowable.  Not an unexpected set of results.  Actually pretty decent so far as predictions go, at least when compared to my own.  And, as I noted, what was posted on Reddit may have reflected the plans as the person last heard them which may have changed over time as plans do.

April in Review

The Site

As is usually the case, my post on April 1st about what Blizzard was up to for April Fools was the traffic peak of the month, and likely the traffic peak for the year, largely driven by Google throwing me a bone and showing me in the search results for related terms.  You can see my Google search stats below.

April 1st is always a spike

That is an enviable click through rate as I understand it.

April second saw an increased level of activity as well as people continued to check in on what Blizzard was up to.  But after that traffic slowed back down to the usual reality of 2019, which is about 500 page views a day.

Even April 1st was down, ringing in at roughly one fifth of the amount of traffic I got on the best April Fools, which was back in 2013.  But I was getting a lot more traffic back in 2013, averaging about 1,500 page views a day.  I am coming to the point of view, looking at old traffic and search terms, that writing about Pokemon was the secret to traffic.  Writing about WoW isn’t bad, and all the better if you have a rant about the game as shaking your angry fist at Blizzard still gets people stirred up, but Azeroth can’t really hold a candle to Pokemon.

Hell, even with April Fools the month of April barely had more page views than March, even accounting for one less day.  Maybe writing about EverQuest trumps WoW as well.  There is certainly a lot less competition on that front.

One Year Ago

April Fools at Blizzard was mostly about World of Warcraft.

Having unlocked the four allied races available with the Battle for Azeroth pre-order, I was set to take a break from Azeroth until the per-expansion events started.  The August 14th launch date had been announced.

Ultima Online‘s Publish 99 introduced a free to play option.

Speaking of things Lord British has touched, I also played some Shroud of the Avatar and then tried to figure out who it was really targeting.  That I uninstalled it later probably meant I wasn’t on that list.  I have not gone back to it since.

Pokemon Go got field research as a new activity.

On Rift Prime I was in Stonefield.  There was also a problem with claiming mounts.

There were two Kickstarter campaigns of note, one for Empires of EVE Vol. II and the other for the CIA agent training card game.  I backed them both.

For EVE Online Fanfest was on in Iceland, where the keynote announced the coming Into the Abyss expansion and the Triglavian menace.  There was a lot of other news and tidbits out of the event, which I tried to sum up on the following Monday.  CCP also got recognized by Guinness for the Million Dollar Battle.

Actually in game, we were busy up in Fade and Pure Blind, such that I am going to just list out all those posts as bullet points:

Good times in space.

But, in the end, the most bizarre moment of the month was probably when Daybreak, asked if Russian sanctions might affect them, went straight to declaring that they have never been owned by Columbus Nova, despite having told us they were for owned by them since the acquisition from Sony.  Then they went on to try and gaslight the internet (always a recipe for success) including editing their own Wikipedia page to remove all mention of Columbus Nova, then issued more statements, and then had a round of layoffs, all of which just succeeded in bringing more attention to their absurd situation, to the point that I had to write a summary post just to keep track what the hell was going on.

All of which could have been avoided if Daybreak had just said, “No, sanctions will not affect us.”  A warning to PR professionals everywhere.

That kind of took the air out of the announcement that the Angarr server on EverQuest had reached the Planes of Power expansion.

Five Years Ago

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 was up via emulation on the internet archive.

The Elder Scrolls Online launched, hitting its planned April 4th date.  I did not play.

I was diving in to Pokemon X & Y, having returned to Pokemon at last.

The strategy group played a game of Civilization V that ended with a win via nuclear terror.

The Kickstarter campaign for the book A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online kicked off.  We were also watching Pantheon: Rise of the Something was splutter along after failing its Kickstarter campaign.

In EVE Online proper there was Burn Jita 3, which seemed like less of a thing the third time out.  There was a video.  Then there was the CSM9 vote.  At least there were only 36 candidates on the ballot.

In null sec we were shooting Black Legion things, because that is what we did in the CFC.  I was just happy to be using lasers, those skills having been trained up amongst my 120 million skill points.  There were also some posts about being space famous and an attempt at in-game blackmail.

But on the broader CCP front, World of Darkness was officially cancelled.

On the iPad I was playing Hearthstone and QuizUp… for about a week.

Turbine announced that Beornings were coming to Lord of the Rings Online.

SOE gave me a key for seven days of Landmark, so I went and tried it out.  SOE also announced H1Z1 and began their love affair with Reddit and got their new All Access plan running.  While on the old school front, Dave Georgeson said SOE never plans to shut down EverQuest.

Warlords of Draenor was still a long ways away.  But Blizzard was doing well on other fronts.  The instance group finished up Zul’gurub.  And there was the usual April Fools stuff.

Ten Years Ago

Dave Arneson passed away.  He was, with Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, that so-influential gaming system that has shaped how we view fantasy swords and sorcery games for over 30 years now.  There would be no World of Warcraft as it is today without Dungeons & Dragons.

We also saw the launch of SOE’s Free Realms, which stuttered a bit on day one.  Soon though they had millions of people signed up for the game, but since it was free to play, not a common thing at the time, that was no indication of revenue.  My daughter tried to sign up four times, so that was at least four out of the millions.  SOE was advertising the game heavily on Cartoon Network.  But FR did not run on MacOS, and my daughter was running on an iMac at the time.  I knew she has signed up because her email used to get routed to me.

In EVE Online I was mulling over the Apocrypha expansion and configuring up a Cerebus to try out as a mission runner.  I was also doing invention to make tech II missiles, which meant data cores and research agents and such, and pondering the idea that maybe using your skills should increase your skill points or something.

As usual, there was much ado about World of Warcraft.

I was sniggering like a pre-teen about Cornhole.  Also, there was something about Honest Scrap that was a meme, back when memes weren’t just pop culture references.

I was looking back on two years of the Wii and the games we played on it.

On the TV we were apparently watching Castle and Dollhouse.

And then there were new comers as we brought home two wee kittens.

Fifteen Years Ago

City of Heroes launched in the US.  Closed down by NCsoft in 2012, the game has been much in the news this month past month regarding emulators and such.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2019 is Pretty Much No Fools
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  4. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  5. April Fools at Blizzard 2018 is Mostly Just World of Warcraft
  6. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  7. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  8. WoW Dance Battle System!
  9. Visiting the Katia Sae Monument
  10. Brisc Ban Nightmare Scenario
  11. A Handy Guide to Criticizing Games You Do Not Like
  12. Brisc Rubal Exonerated

Search Terms of the Month

does tetris get faster
[Ladies and gentleman, somebody who has never played Tetris!]

is fortnite popular still
[Fortnite is popular still]

orcs gay game pc download
[Not willing to play a gay orc online game?]

“everquest 3”
[You are well advised to put that in quotes]

what did brisc rubal do
[Won in the end]

лего хогвартс
[Google says that is Russian for “LEGO Hogwarts”]

Game Time from ManicTime

There are a lot fewer games on the list this month.  March had ten games on the list, while April has just four.  And I didn’t leave any off just because they had a tiny percentage.  I appear to have played just these four on my computer.

  • World of Warcraft 72.52%
  • EVE Online 15.21%
  • Minecraft 9.78%
  • EverQuest 2.49%

The total hours played was down a bit, but not by much.  I just played a lot of WoW in April.

EVE Online

The low key conflict in the east against Pandemic Horde, NCDot, and the rental areas of both carries on.  I did not spend as much time on ops as I did last month… some nights you cannot just jump in not knowing if an op will last 30 minutes or 3 hours… but I did get in and play.  I got my PAP links and on a couple of kill mails to prove I am still alive.

And, of course, there was the whole CSM13 drama where Brisc Rubal and two other players were banned in a very public way only to have CCP roll back the whole thing based on further investigation.  This was all apparently because somebody thought it was odd that somebody else was selling their Molok titan and felt the need to report it.

EverQuest

After the big 20th anniversary Norrath nostalgia binge that was March, EverQuest fell a bit by the wayside.  I logged in a few times, as the anniversary experience bonus carried on into April a bit, and was revived for Easter weekend, but otherwise there wasn’t much to report there.  I suspect EQ will not make the list for May.

Minecraft

This came up because we got the Village and Pillage update which added a bunch of new stuff to the game.  My daughter helped hype this up a bit in our house, as a group of her friends have a server.  That got me going on figuring out the new stuff and exploring yet again.

Pokemon Go

We had a reasonably good month of Pokemon Go at our house.  My wife and I being on the same team now helps.  Thanks to the luck of simply being at the right place at the right time we even managed to participate in a few level 5 raids.  That was exciting.  However, I wasn’t aware how hard actually catching the legendary Pokemon after those raids can be.  I threw a stream of Golden Razz Berries to try and help, but did not catch a single one.  Ah well.

Level: 36 (+0)
Pokedex status: 410 (+9) caught, 441 (+10) seen
Pokemon I want: Meltan, but I still have to catch a damn Aerodactyl to get one
Current buddy: Luxio

World of Warcraft

I guess if you wanted to summarize my April play time, you could just say I played WoW.  I got in with Darkmoon Faire, then hit the pet battle bonus week, and then there was the WoW 8.2 Rise of Azshara preview that got me on board to unlock flying and there we go.  Also, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was big on pet battles.  I did potter around a bit with at least one allied race alt.  My Highmountain Tauren is now in his low 30s.  But he started at level 20 and the prospect of getting him up to level 120 currently fills me with boredom.

Coming Up

EVE Online will turn 16, so there will be the usual gifts and giveaways and such.  There was also some speculation that we might get the named expansion in May, but now that seems like it might come in June.

Around mid-month we should get the Q1 2019 quarterly results for Activision Blizzard.  We shall see if it brings good news, and if good news means laying more people off.

In WoW we will probably hear more about the Rise of Azshara update.  I suspect they will have the achievement unlock requirements for flying set.  But the speculation is that it won’t release until June or even July.

I will carry on some with pet battles… on a new alt… and getting my rep up to exalted on my main.  Maybe I will actually bring an alt into BFA.  Probably my hunter.

LOTRO… I sort of fell off the wagon when it came to LOTRO.  I got into the Mines of Moria on the legendary server and actually made my way through the first couple of areas.  Then all those other games I played in March sprang up, so I never made it back.  I think I missed the 12 year anniversary in April.  Oh well.  Maybe I will make in back in May.

NantWorks Hands H1Z1 Back to Daybreak After Failing to Revive the Game

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy.

-Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

A little over six months have passed since it was announced that Daybreak and NantWorks were forming a joint venture, NantG Mobile, in order to create mobile games based on the Daybreak H1Z1 and EverQuest franchises.

Also on the list was taking over the PC version of H1Z1, then rebranded Z1 Battle Royale, with what sounded like an eye towards restoring the title to its former glory.

It was unclear from the outside who really owned what in the matryoshka doll-like structure of the companies, and the details that have leaked… as when it came out that Jace Hall, who quickly became the face of the renamed title, was basically a volunteer when he stepped down… haven’t help much.

This past week word started to leak that something was amiss as a rumor of layoffs started to circulate.  Then Massively OP reported that NantWorks, via NantG Mobile, had posted an announcement on Steam that they were giving up on Z1 Battle Royale.

In the past few months, NantG Mobile has been working feverishly on rebranding Z1 Battle Royale and reverting the game back to its glory days. We’ve since made countless changes to Z1BR in an effort to recapture the moments that once made the game vastly popular and truly unique and special to many of you.

Despite the team’s determination and commitment to revive Z1BR’s player base with our recent Season 3 launch update, we soon realized that the road is still paved with many challenges that preclude us from long-term success, including the confusion it caused by having both NantG Mobile and Daybreak managing the same game under two separate brands.

Based on these events and the current state of the game, NantG Mobile will focus on its core mission of developing mobile games moving forward, and we have refocused our team toward this vision.

We have also decided to hand back the Z1BR torch to Daybreak Games, so that both Z1BR and H1Z1 will be under one publishing umbrella once again. Daybreak Games has agreed to keep the servers up for players and continue live maintenance on the game.

During this time period, we don’t foresee any issues of this affecting your experience with Z1BR, as we work with Daybreak on ensuring that the transition process runs as smoothly as possible without any disruption to the game’s service.

On behalf of NantG Mobile and everyone on the Z1BR team, thank you for all your countless cheers during our entire journey toward “The Return of the King.” We would never have made it this far without your passion, support and invaluable feedback.

The sunny side upshot is that the game is not going away, it is just going back to Daybreak.

Reality, however, isn’t so bright and shiny.  Looking at the Steam charts for the game, Z1 Battle Royale did manage to boost the active player base somewhat last month, hitting a peak around in early March before tapering off again.

2018/2019 Peak Concurrent Players

However, that number is far shy of the game’s overall peak back in 2017, making it look more like a dead cat bounce than a resurgence of any meaning.

H1Z1 whatever at its height on Steam

The slide down from that peak corresponds to the emergence of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the scene, which pretty much destroyed the then still-in-early-access H1Z1.  Since then Fortnite and Apex Legends have jumped into the battle royale market, chopping off the Daybreak end run plan to finally launch H1Z1, only as free to play.

So now Z1 Battle Royale goes back to Daybreak, rejoining the PlayStation 4 version of the game that remained with the company, chugging along happily under the original title, leaving plenty of questions.

And not just “Are they going to need a bigger shirt now?”

The obvious one is what happens to Z1 Battle Royale now?  Is Daybreak going to pick it back up and run with it?

It seems unlikely to me that Daybreak would rush resources in another attempt to revive the game given that it has another battle royale title, PlanetSide Arena, in the works and slated to launch on PC and PS4 this summer.  Doing anything for Z1 Battle Royale at this point, even spending time to rebrand it back to H1Z1, might seem like throwing good money after bad and diverting resources from a better opportunity.  That announcement on Steam only promises that Daybreak will keep the servers up.

I think there is little question that the late Just Survive won’t be revived due to this turn of events.

And then there is the question as to what happens now with NantG Mobile, once billed as a joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak.  The announcement says that NantG Mobile will focus on mobile titles.  Does that mean we might still see Z1 Battle Royale Pocket Edition or EverQuest Immortal available on our phones at some future date as previously promised/suggested/threatened?  Again, the statement on Steam is notable for its lack of details.  Refocusing on mobile games could be different from doing so in conjunction with Daybreak.

In the end it seems like the clock is running down on H1Z1.  Reviving it in the face of the current competition and its own legacy seems a unlikely path to success for a small company like Daybreak.  I suspect that it will hang around on life support while the company readies PlanetSide Arena.

If PlanetSide Arena takes off, expect another Friday, 4pm Pacific Time announcement, this time declaring that H1Z1 is being sunsetted.  And if PlanetSide Arena misfires at launch and fails to find an audience… well, there will be more to worry about at Daybreak than the fate of one more title past its prime.

For a brief time H1Z1 made it mark, certainly repaying the effort the company put into it.  But where one finds success like that competition is very likely to follow.

Faster Selo Server, Faster!

Daybreak continues to explore just what “fast” or “casual” or whatever means in terms of a progression server as they announced a boost in experience gain on the Selo server that launched with the 20th anniversary.

Selo moves even faster

From the forum post by Holly Longdale:

We have been watching and evaluating community concerns by playing on Selo before and after the experience bonus in order to gauge pacing. Given we envisioned this as our fastest progression server, we do want to keep the feel of the 50% bonus players have had as part of the Selo experience for the past three weeks. With the 50% bonus, Selo feels in line with how we presented the intent of the server.

As of noon PDT on Friday (today), the 50% bonus is permanent. After the update on the 17th, the server’s base rates will be updated in code so that future XP bonus days will affect the new, increased XP rates making them truly ridiculous (by EQ standards!).

We’ll continue to evaluate the experience rate – and other rates – as we move forward to make sure it delivers on our vision of Selo without breaking continuity and progression.

I suppose it isn’t so much of a boost as it is a return to what thee experience rate was for the balance of March, when there was a 50% experience boost game-wide.  Players on the Selo server apparently got used to that boosted rate and have been asking for it back in the forums.

I am not sure where that places the experience curve relative to the live servers, since they said it was going to be slower than live initially, but this should allow people to keep up with the speedy unlock schedule detailed in the FAQ for the server.

This does not apply to the other progression servers that Daybreak launched back on March 16.

Covering the EverQuest Anniversary

I was interested to see what sort of coverage the EverQuest 20th anniversary would get.

20 Years Ago last month…

At one time EverQuest was a relatively big deal, bordering on being part of the broader culture.  But its cultural peak was brief, small, and a long time ago.  Now it is practically ancient history as a whole generation of kids have been born and grown into adults since it launched.

Where I was surprised was how the level of coverage seemed to be a bit turned on its head relative to the proximity to the topic a publication was.

That wasn’t wholly true.  PC Gamer did a series of great articles about the game, its history, and its state of play these days.

The had an interview with EverQuest Executive Producer Holly Longdale in that first link that unearthed the following gems of information about the game via quotes:

  • “We have more players now than we did in 2015 and our revenue has gone up.”
  • “I’m not allowed tell you exactly how many people have come through the game over the years, but it’s enough to sustain us.”
  • “So we just have an agreement in place that they [Project 1999] don’t launch stuff around the same time we do.”
  • “Our biggest customer service request is people asking what email they used for their EverQuest account 15 years ago, because they want to log back in and play with their old characters again.”
  • “Every three years we do a level increase, and we have changed the way some things work.”
  • A new expansion, The Burning Lands, was released in December last year, and another is on the way.
  • “But fundamentally, we don’t want to change the game. It’s like when we did the New Game Experience for Star Wars Galaxies and everyone quit.”

On the flip side though there was GameSpot, whose cultural relevance peak mirrors that of EverQuest, who just posted the anniversary trailer… early… without much comment and moved on, while Eurogamer, who is often in the forefront of video game reporting, declined to even mention the anniversary.

Then there was Variety, an unexpected source of any information that isn’t strictly a press release, which uncovered perhaps the biggest scoop about EverQuest Next we’d heard in five years, not to mention shining a bit of light on the factional strife that seemed to be going on behind the scenes… a conflict the traditionalists, with Holly Longdale at their head, looks to have won for now.

Adding on that was a post over a Gamasutra, which wasn’t strictly news coverage, by EverQuest team member Luke Sigmund.  But it did lend further insight into the team there while also throwing out a bit of information about why corpse runs stopped being a thing.  Yes, what you believe was part of the equation, but there was also a technical limitation to it as well that made it desirable to do away with this punishing mechanic.  (You do still lose experience on death though, and can still lose levels, something TorilMUD, the template for EverQuest, got rid of a few years ago.)

There was an article up at Rock Paper Shotgun that elaborated on some of the topics already covered, including more detail on the relationship with Project 1999 for example.

Finally, coming in a bit late was an article over at Polygon which started off down the same path as some of the above, about how EverQuest was pretty much set on mining their installed base rather than trying to seek new fans.  But there was a nugget dropped in the statement that one third of the games profits come from “nostalgia” players, which I would read as those interested in the progression server thing that EverQuest has been so good with.

And that was followed by a statement about the current servers they are using, which have four times the capacity of the originals.  This led to some back of the envelope calculation by Bhagpuss in some email notes we exchanged that led to a possibility that peak concurrent players across all servers, given some assumptions such as when server status shows “full” that a given server is at 50% capacity, might be as high as 60K players some days.  That could explain the initial statement on which I based a post a while back trying to compare how many people play EverQuest versus EVE Online.  And since we know concurrent players peak in the low 30K range in New Eden, perhaps that was the basis of the original premise.

All of which made for some interesting reading last month.  Every anniversary brings out some trivia about the game, bits of nostalgia or some form of infographic.  But this year it feels like we learned a few interesting facts about the state of the game and the team that runs it.

March in Review

The Site

As I mentioned at the end of a mid-month entry, I passed the 5,000 post mark.

Where I stand today… still not popular on Tumblr

I hit 1,000 posts more than ten years ago, a little more than two years into the life of the blog.  As I noted in my anniversary post last year, my style has gone from many short posts to fewer, much longer posts over time, so I guess that lines up.

There are about 3.8 million words spread over all of those posts, making a 750 word post the average for the site.  Given how many 200 word posts I’ve done over the years, like when I post a video on the weekend with just a few comments, that means I have some behemoths out there offsetting those.

One Year Ago

Project: Gorgon made it to Steam.

Shroud of the Avatar left early access.

EverQuest turned nineteen and launched a new server.

In EVE Online the player run Burn Jita event was back for 2018.  Many ships were destroyed and I took a bunch of screen shots and tried to count the cost.

Up in Pure Blind we killed some dreads and I got a kill mark on my guardian.

CCP let out more details about the road to CSM13.  There was a pretty short interval in which to register your candidacy.

The March Update for EVE Online dropped the jump fatigue cap to four hours and introduced The Hunt event.

There was an INN editorial about the metaphorical masks we wear in EVE Online.  I asked if we donned the masks on purpose or if our masks were shaped by the game itself.  I was also blog warring with SynCaine over the idea of instanced null sec battles.  It would break the game in my view.

Rift Prime went live and I spend a good chunk of time playing that.  I was in the guild The Fishing Defiants with Liore and some of the cats she used to herd.  The daily gifts and the chat could be overwhelming.

I played through Freemarch pretty quickly and moved to the east end of Stonefield.  Trion was tinkering with the experience curve, but they gave us some informational tidbits about the server.

And a Kickstarter campaign for the World of Warcraft Diary looked doomed from the outset.  But the author vowed to regroup and return.

Five Years Ago

I was thinking about the word “free” and how it really brings up negative connotations.  Basically, “free” is usually a scam, so why should we expect “Free to Play” games to viewed as anything else?

My other blog, EVE Online Pictures, qualified for inclusion as an EVE Online fan site.  Free account!  Or it was.  CCP is killing the fan site program.

Meanwhile CCP lost money through “derecognizing” an asset which would turn out to be the demise of World of Darkness as a project for them.  CCP was also taking a stab at cosmetic options for ships.

I picked my 15 most influential video games, and got some other people to pick theirs as well.

WalMart was going to get into the used video game market.  Did that ever go anywhere?  I don’t shop at Wally World.

Something called MyDream wanted to be a Minecraft killer or some such.

It was the end of the line for Free Realms and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures as SOE chief John Smedley vowed never to make kids games again.  While over in EverQuest the 15 year anniversary included the introduction of instant level 85 characters.  I gave that a try and got lost immediately.

Facebook bought Occulus Rift.  Meanwhile, Sony announced Project Morpheus which later became PlayStation VR.

Brad McQuaid was a month past his unsuccessful Pantheon Kickstarter and I was wondering what the plan was.

In a set of short items, I also noted that EverQuest Next Landmark became simply Landmark, two of the founders of Runic games left the studio to try their luck elsewhere, while King, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, went public and became one of the most shorted stocks on the market!  They were mentioned on the Planet Money podcast about shorting.  Of course, Blizzard ended up buying them, so I wonder how those shorts played out in the end?

The ongoing “Blizzard isn’t giving you…” series continued. while Diablo III: Reaper of Souls went live, an event which included the end of the auction house.  I had gone back to the game to try some of the changes.

Also on the Blizzard front Hearthstone launched. They did manage to find a hook to get me to play Hearthstone… or at least a couple rounds of it.  Five years later I would be surprised to find I have played more than 50 rounds of the game.

I was also musing about WoW and when the expansion would launch and the stat squish and guild levels and pseudo-server merges and my insta-90 choice and Warlords of Draenor being $50… which was at least better than it being $60.  While, actually in the game the instance group took on Zul’Aman.

We formed something I ended up calling the “strategy group,” if only to distinguish it from the “instance group” which started out playing some Age of Empires II.

And I wrote another installment of my ongoing TorilMUD series, this time about the Faerie Forest.

Ten Years Ago

In March 2009 we were excited about Pokemon Platinum around our house, although we weren’t really finished with Pokemon Diamond yet.

I spent a day up at GDC in San Francisco.

In WoW we finished up a short hiatus and started back in at the SteamVault.  My daughter was tearing up Warsong Gulch.  Meanwhile, the Lich King seemed to have laid a curse on my new video card.  Nothing I did ever seemed to change this issue, though it did seem to go away eventually.

In EVE Online, the Apocrypha expansion came out, and with it the classic graphics were swept away.  Adam though, was making his own adventures in New Eden.  Oh, and I bought a freighter.

Mythic was trying to tempt me back into Warhammer Online with 10 days free.

Somebody tried to put together a list of the Ten Most Important MMORPGs.  Like all such list, this one started the comments rolling.

It was launch day and I was already complaining about Runes of Magic… well, about the patcher in any case.

finished up what was then the last book of the Wheel of Time series.  The last Robert Jordan authored one.

The EverQuest 10th anniversary just wasn’t evoking the level of nostalgia in me that I thought it would.

And we had to say goodbye to an old friend and family member.  The picture my daughter drew is still up on the wall.  A decade later it still draws the occasional sad word later in the evenings when people are tired and a bit more emotionally fragile.

Fifteen Years Ago

Battlefield Vietnam, the follow up title to Battlefield 1942 and its expansions, hit the shelves.  This was probably the last shooter I played online regularly.  It never got a stellar mod like the Desert Combat, though it did have the Sweden vs. Norway mod that was… unique.  I also recall one of the maps had an issue that killed your frame rate if you entered a particular area.

Twenty Years Ago

Some game called EverQuest launched.  Heard of it?

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  2. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  5. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  6. Celebrating Katia Sae
  7. The Myrmidon Experiment
  8. Quote of the Day – No Porn
  9. What is a Niche MMORPG?
  10. Burn Jita back for 2019
  11. The EVE Online March Update Brings Restrictions for Alpha Clones
  12. Steam Policy Plays Out as Expected

Search Terms of the Month

sum baer iz durid
[Tehm whos bare durids, can B 4 tank?]

next eq2 expansion
[November]

is eqii dying?
[We’re all dying]

meaning of nazgun
[It should have the u-circumflex and be pronounced ‘Naz-Goon’]

feral bear porn
[There is something wrong with you]

Game Time from ManicTime

Month three of tracking game time is showing a trend of making these month in review posts even longer.  Just what everybody wanted.  Knowing exactly what I played means comments on more titles every month, and this month was especially confused with conflicting bouts of nostalgia competing with one another.  So the March list is the longest so far.

  • EverQuest 31.25%
  • World of Warcraft 15.87%
  • Lord of the Rings Online 12.94%
  • Path of Exile 10.60%
  • EVE Online 9.06%
  • Minecraft 5.73%
  • Diablo 5.72%
  • MS Solitaire 4.09%
  • RimWorld 2.45%
  • EverQuest II 2.27%

Diablo

Released on GoG.com as something of a surprise… was there any indication it was coming or did it just arrive one day… classic Diablo was something I had to buy.  I wasn’t sure I was going to play much of it, and certainly opening up this 1996 title reminded me how far we have come in gaming.  But there is a certain uncomplicated charm to it, and I ended up playing much more than I thought I might.  I have made it down to level 13 and am clearing that, though I had to take a break as the consta-clicking nature of it was making my hand hurt.  Click and hold for repeat attacks on a mob was clearly a feature we needed.

EVE Online

Operations in the east of null sec continue.  There was a bit of a swap or partners as Black Legion joined up with Fraternity.  Meanwhile, Pandemic Horde got a bit more serious about pushing back on our ops and we had some fights come to us in our staging.  Nothing huge or dramatic, though the month did end on a nice kill.  There were a couple of fights I might have written about had I not been swamped by topics already this past month.

EverQuest

Nostalgia fever.  I knew I would jump in for a bit for the 20th anniversary, but I wouldn’t have bet that EverQuest would top my play time chart.  All that travel time to the Scarlet Desert certainly added up.

EverQuest II

I did not spend much time at all in new Norrath.  I basically logged in to get the special gift they were giving out for the EverQuest 20th anniversary.  It was a painting for your home. which I hung up in mine.  Then I noticed how crowded with stuff my basic Halas apartment had become, so I started looking into upgrades.  I actually bought a larger Halas house, and now I need to get all my stuff setup there.  Moving is always hard.

Lord of the Rings Online

The Mines of Moria expansion opened up on the Legendary server and I started in on that.  That meant fiddling around in Eregion for a while before heading underground.  Once you’re in Moria there is no swift travel horse route back to Rivendell or Bree.  Probably a good thing.  I have consulted enough with Elrond.  Plus it is embarrassing to go back there and see Aragon standing around when he allegedly got into Moria ahead of you.

Microsoft Solitaire

I clicked on this during a fleet op where we were waiting on a black ops waiting to hot drop on a target.  It is something to fiddle with while waiting on things in fleets.  Basically, this time would have been counted towards EVE Online if I had just stayed in that window.  But who does that?

Minecraft

I wanted to listen to an audio book, but I cannot just sit and listen.  I have to be doing something while I listen.  That’s just me.  Usually I am driving.  But sitting at home and wanting to knock out the last couple hours of an audio book usually means playing a game, one that doesn’t have a lot of text to process, since that is single threaded in my brain.  Minecraft is about perfect for that.  I didn’t have a grand plan.  I just explored a bit and upgraded a couple of bases, digging mines and building infrastructure.

Path of Exile

I started off pretty strong on this when the Synthesis season dropped.  I made it into Act II and into the mid-20s level-wise.  Then Mines of Moria opened up in LOTRO and the EverQuest anniversary hit and Wintergrasp was back in World of Warcraft and that was about that.  It was just superseded by events.

Pokemon Go

The change to Team Instinct has made playing with my wife better/easier/more fun now that we’re on the same side.  We go battle over a gym in a part near us with another couple we know who is on Team Valor.  Neither side is above throwing berries remotely just to make those fights annoying.  We’re horrible people.

Also, made it to level 36.  Now to do the 2 million point climb to 37.  I need more friends.

Level: 36 (+1)
Pokedex status: 401 (+13) caught, 431 (+16) seen
Pokemon I want: Meltan, but I still have a several tasks to go in order to get there
Current buddy: Togetic

RimWorld

I started out the month playing this.  I thought it might dominate the month, being another game that you can sit and look at and tinker with pretty easily while you listen to a podcast or audio book.  However I fell out with it fairly quickly as other games showed up.

World of Warcraft

I binged on renewed and revamped Wintergrasp when it was the pick of the week for battlegrounds.  Most of my play time was probably during that week.  But I still long in every other day or so to pick up some world quests and do a few pet battles.

Coming Up

Tomorrow is April Fools.  Let’s see if we can get through it without being either a complete fool or a total wet blanket.

Google Plus will be  gone from public use come April 2.  Farewell to my three followers there.

I saw a mention that we might hear something soon about CSM elections for EVE Online, but nothing concrete.  I would have thought we would have heard something by now, as traditionally CCP starts talking about that around February.  But with the world tour schedule and CCP Guard having left, the CCP team might be a bit busy at the moment.

In game, the Imperium is not going to join in on the war in the east… unless you count SIGs and squads.  Then we are totally in on whatever happens.

In LOTRO I’ll likely carry on into Moria.  I’m over the threshold and hidden from sunlight already.

We’ll have to see if I carry on with EverQuest after the 20th anniversary month wraps up today.