Category Archives: EverQuest

EverQuest Progression Servers – How Slow Can You Go?

About a month back I posted about Daybreak putting up a poll about the next round of progression servers.  The options for that in-game poll were:

  • Existing Rules
  • Slower Progression
  • Locked Progression
  • Seasonal Challenge

You can read the details about each option in my previous post on the subject, but the results are in and posted on the EverQuest forums.  Slower progression won.

Slower progression isn’t a bad choice I suppose.  That is what I voted for.

Progression Server Polling...

Progression Server Polling…

What was the right choice depends upon your point of view, and there are any number of factions interested in the next server.

The raiders, who tend to drive the whole progression server thing, will probably be okay with slower, depending on how much slower things end up.  But if you had your hearts set on a classic server, one that stops progressing at some point, then you are probably not happy with the result.

Personally, I fall into the “everything after Ruins of Kunark is crap” camp, so my motivation is to have any future progression server spend as much time as possible on the base game and Kunark.

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

And yet I am not all that interested in a locked server stuck in Kunark for all eternity.  I like the progression idea, that the server moves forward and unlocks content, and that the game changes and evolves.

I am not sure that such a server needs to pass through all twenty-one expansions.  There comes a point when the server is close enough to live that it makes little difference and it might as well be rolled into a live server.  Where that point is would no doubt make for a lively debate.

Anyway, with the first poll out of the way, there is now a second in-game poll up.  This time the choice is about how much slower should the expansion unlocks should be.

The original progression servers, The Combine and The Sleeper, which rolled out back in 2006, were driven forward entirely by unlocking raid content.  There were no brakes on the system and, while I do not have a timeline for those servers, I recall the response by many non-raiders as being “too damn fast.”

The still active Fippy Darkpaw server was put up as a “time locked” voting server, where by there was a minimum amount of time that had to pass after raid content was finished before an unlock vote for the next expansion could take place.  That slowed things down some.  Here are the unlock durations I recorded for the “important” expansions.

  • Ruins of Kunark:        3.75  months
  • Scars of Velious:       2.75  months
  • Shadows of Luclin:      2.75  months
  • Planes of Power:        2.75  months
  • Legacy of Ykesha:       1 month after PoP
  • LDoN:                   1 month after PoP
  • Gates of Discord:       4 months after PoP

So the server unlocked Ruins of Kunark in just under four months, because there was a special delay, after which each expansion unlocked in just under three months.  The exceptions were Gates of Discord, which failed three unlock votes, and Underfoot, which failed at least one, and then Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath, which are considered mini-expansions and so get unlocked on a set timer after Planes of Power.

(All of the Fippy Darkpaw unlocks I managed to record are available here.)

The vote underway now is to decide how quickly to unlock expansions.  It has three choices, which I will list out from fastest to slowest.

Add 50%

This option would add a 50% boost the the minimum unlock time that we had for Fippy Darkpaw, so the unlock schedule would look like this:

  • Ruins of Kunark:        4.5  months
  • Scars of Velious:       4.5  months
  • Shadows of Luclin:      4.5  months
  • Planes of Power:        4.5  months
  • Legacy of Ykesha:       3 weeks after PoP
  • LDoN:                   3 weeks after PoP
  • Gates of Discord:       3 months after PoP, then every three months

I think somebody forgot we were given extra time before Ruins of Kunark, though they did remember that LoY and LDoN were both unlocked two weeks late due to technical glitches.  Still, that does give the base game and RoK a longer run than they had before.  Estimated total time to run through the expansions is five and a half years.

Maximum Nostalgia

The second proposed rule set would put a six month gap between server unlocks up until Gates of Discord, after which expansions would unlock every three months… because who cares about that shit.

  • Ruins of Kunark:        6  months
  • Scars of Velious:       6  months
  • Shadows of Luclin:      6  months
  • Planes of Power:        6  months
  • Legacy of Ykesha:       2 weeks after PoP
  • LDoN:                   4 weeks after PoP
  • Gates of Discord:       3 months after PoP

So the time until each expansion could be unlocked would be fairly flat, with the server spending more that two years getting through Planes of Power, with the whole slate of expansions taking six and a half years to work through.

Half Speed

This is the most radical of the three proposals.  This would run the progression server forward at half the pace of the actual, real world release schedule of the expansions.  So the run up through Gates of Discord would look like this:

  • Ruins of Kunark:        6.75  months
  • Scars of Velious:       3.75  months
  • Shadows of Luclin:      6     months
  • Planes of Power:        5.5   months
  • Legacy of Ykesha:       4 weeks after PoP
  • LDoN:                   10 weeks after PoP
  • Gates of Discord:       7.75 months (after PoP)

After Gates of Discord the schedule calms down a bit, with expansions hitting about every three months through the “two a year” era and then every six months after Secrets of Faydwer.  At this pace it would take eight years to get through, since EverQuest is just celebrating its sweet sixteen.

What to Pick?

Give those three choices, I am inclined to go and vote for the Half Speed server, as it gives us the longest run from the base game to Ruins of Kunark, though the Maximum Nostalgia option isn’t completely off the table, as it would give us a full year of just base plus RoK, thus not selling that huge expansion short.

In addition to the three server types to choose from, there is a second vote up about whether or not expansion unlocks should be put to a vote every time… and thus possibly delaying releases… or if things should just unlock on a schedule.  I am in favor of the latter.  I would rather have expansion releases on the calendar so that the raiders, who will be part of the progression server community, can plan their activities.  One of the problems for them on Fippy Darkpaw has been knowing when to call everybody back to the game to move on. (Though most of the time that has been SOE screwing up the unlock for whatever reasons as opposed to unlocks being voted down.)  The raiders are not there for the same reasons I am, but I don’t think that should give me license to screw them over on a server that has been billed as progression from the start.

Anyway, I am happy to see that the progression server idea is moving forward though, like Bhagpuss, I have to admit that planning something that could take as long as eight years to get through might be an act of extreme optimism for Daybreak at this point.

Will there still be an EverQuest… or a Daybreak Game Company… in 2023?

Sweet Sixteen for Norrath

It was sixteen years ago today that I picked up a copy of EverQuest at Fry’s on my way home to work, only to get completely hooked on the game almost immediately.

EverQuestHere it is, many years, many changes, and twenty one expansions down the road and thinking about that first evening of discovery still strikes a chord within me.

I haven’t played the game by any definition of the word for over a year now, but I still might at some future date, if Daybreak takes a run at another round of progression servers.

So, without much to say, I’ll point you at Bhagpuss who is reliving some EverQuest moments in Neverwinter, thanks to Tipa’s hard work.

Of course, if you are still actively playing EverQuest, there are a whole series of events going on for the anniversary.

Progression Servers and Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We came up short as a group in Azeroth this past weekend.  Life will get in the way and the whole group has gotten older over the last eight years we have played.  But three of us, Potshot, Ula, and myself were online.  We got on Skype together as we went about doing some garrison things and quests and what not.  Blizzard has made “soloing in a group” work a bit better over the years, but sometimes it still feels like the optimum open world group size is one.

Potshot and Ula were off on a quest chain to unlock a garrison upgrade while I was running around Azeroth visiting elders for the Lunar Festival.  I was sparked into late action on that when I read that 40 tokens from elders will buy you a 60 to 90 heirloom armor upgrade as part of the whole new heirloom system that came in with patch 6.1.

Blizzard has found a way to get me to do holiday events again, gotta give them that.

Anyway, as we were off on our tasks, we started talking about the possibilities of the EverQuest progression server that may (or may not) be showing up at some future date.

Potshot and I are pretty much on board for it… same as it ever was.  We will be there for the dawn of whatever new server they put together.  We also sold Ula on the idea for the moment of going back in time to a world of simple graphics, bad linoleum textures, and limited skills and spells.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

Depending on when (and if) Daybreak gets this going, a progression server excursion might make a nice break from Azeroth for a bit.  I would call it a hiatus, but I think we would need to play more to qualify for the term.

On conversation meandered about on the idea of EverQuest nostalgia and then I started to compare old EverQuest to EverQuest II, which in many ways seems to be almost the antithesis of EverQuest, at least when comparing the early versions of both.

Vinkund's hot bars

At what point in EQ did you need 3 full hotbars?

Of course that made its way around in my mind to what an EverQuest II progression server would be like.  How do you take what there is out there today, the game having just hit the 10 year mark back in November, and recreate the 2004 experience?

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 - Nov. 14, 2004

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 – Nov. 14, 2004

Even the EverQuest II team, during their recent “Don’t go, we’re still alive!” live stream the other day spoke of a desire to do something like a progression server for EverQuest II, if they could figure out how.

And therein lies the rub.

I must assume that the EverQuest II team is stuck with the same restrictions that the EverQuest team faces when doing progression servers, which means working with the current client and server and zones and just playing with some of the flags and settings in the background.

In this EverQuest has a clear advantage in that SOE hasn’t spent a ton of time going back and revamping old zones.  Yes, they redid Freeport and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, for which they will spend time in purgatory I am sure, but a lot of the old zones are still the same ugly ass stuff we thought was the bees knees back in 1999.  This is why I always roll on the Qeynos side of Norrath.

Qeynos... at night!

Qeynos… at night!

SOE added a lot of stuff to EverQuest, including a starting tutorial and some new starter zones, but they left a lot of the old stuff intact.  Camping bandits in West Karana in 2011 was very much like camping them in 1999.

We're hunting bandits

We’re hunting bandits

EverQuest was ever looking forward to the next expansion, the next round of content, then next increase in the level cap, the next pack of AA skills.  It isn’t like it launched perfectly.  There were many problems, some of which took years to fix.  But the team seemed to have their eyes constantly on the horizon as they chased a crazy two expansions a year dream, which ran unbroken for a five year stretch of time, from Legacy of Ykesha to Secrets of Faydwer.  Success allowed that.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II has spent a lot of its first decade trying to fix, change, or simply forget about what the game was like at launch.   There have been a lot of revamps of game mechanics, as there have been with EverQuest.

But the EverQuest II team has also spent a lot of time going back to the original content to change and update things.  Qeynos and Freeport have been changed and revamped and updated to the point that it is difficult to compare the 2004 versions with the what is there now.  There is no Isle of Refuge on which to start anymore… unless you want to run around your own version… and I am not even sure you can still get to the swamp where that first screen shot above was taken.

And zones that made a huge impact on me back in the day, like the Thundering Steppes or Nektulos Forest, have been changed so much over the years that they hardly feel like the same places.

Taunting centaurs

Remember when centaurs were all group encounters?

Given all of the changes that have rolled back over the original game over the years, I am not sure that much of 2004 can be really recreated given the limitations that the EverQuest II team will face.  They are not going to be allowed to roll a special client or a special version of the server software, which leaves us with what?

I suppose there would be some interest, some value, some fun to be had in simply rolling up a fresh EverQuest II server that required Station Access or SOE All Access or Daybreak to Dusk Access or whatever the all-in-one only subscription option will be called some day, starting with just the original zones, and then not allowing transfers or level 90 character boosts.  Maybe they could tinker with the experience table or toughen up the mobs a bit.  It could be a hardcore or challenge server maybe.  But I bet it would be tough to justify keeping the cash shop limited, especially if it turned out that the people who jumped on that server were subscribers already.  Siphoning your most dedicated players off to their own isolated server can’t be viewed as a win in accounting.

So where does that leave us?  Back with the status quo?

Of course, it is also reasonable to ask about how much nostalgia there is for the early days of EverQuest II.  In many ways 2004 in Norrath feels like a survivors tale of horrible ideas we’re all pretty much glad we no longer have to deal with.  Is any significant population of players really longing to go back to early days of the game?

There is an EverQuest II emulator project out there, but it doesn’t seem to generate anywhere close to the amount of interest that classic EverQuest or World of Warcraft or even Star Wars Galaxies server emulation does.

The cliche response is always that you can’t go home again, but in this case, do we even want to?

Progression Server Progress in EverQuest

Color me surprised.  I mentioned EverQuest and progression servers at the top of the week, then left that behind, expecting to hear no more about it for many months, thinking on the Galactic Student Council and the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign and the WoW 6.1 patch and other more current items.  Plenty of time for these things before EverQuest news shows up again.  There isn’t even a community team left to put our EverQuest news, is there?

And then I saw this tweet from Holly “Windstalking” Longdale, now executive producer of both EverQuest and EverQuest II, last night.

Wait, what?

Sure enough, the link to the EverQuest forums resolves to an actual post talking about proposed progression server models.  That is like moving at light speed for the organization formerly known as SOE.

The forum post explores four potential progression server models they might pursue, and I am going to copy the text for each wholesale here because you just KNOW that this company change is going to end up with another revamp of the forums and the inevitable loss of old posts.

The proposed models are:

1. Existing rules – A restart of what we have on Fippy Darkpaw

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

2. Slower progression – Fippy taking it easy

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a three-plus month countdown timer starts.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

3. Locked progression – Fippy that won’t progress to live, possible classic server

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • OPTION: When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Dev determines the unlocked progression based on the player completion rates.
  • At a specific point, determined by Dev, votes are no longer available and progression is complete.

4. Seasonal Challenge Server – Constantly refreshing Fippy

  • The server starts with only original EverQuest zones active, or with content enabled through a later expansion. Players start at level 1.
  • OPTION: When players kill a set of predefined targets, a vote begins within a week. Each vote lasts two weeks. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Alternatively, Dev may choose to unlock content when progression targets are complete.
  • Players have a set period of time (one season) to complete as much content as they can. The player(s) who get the farthest will receive recognition and a prize (to be determined later).
  • Once the season is complete, the server is reset and the challenge begins anew!

Of those four, I would be happy enough to see any of the first three, as they contain what I consider the key element of fun/interest for me, which is everybody starting together at level one in the old content.  Honestly, once the game gets past Ruins of Kunark, my interest starts to fade, so slowing things down a bit or not holding out until the bitter end of the last expansion before syncing up with the live servers makes sense to me.

Not that the fourth option doesn’t sound interesting.  That might be the old school raider progression vehicle of choice, with a constant stream of raiding goals and prizes and what not.  I just wonder how that will play out given how raiders behave every single time there are contested open world raids.  Because once the GMs have to get involved and make a schedule (or start their own fight club) somebody else is controlling the flow.  Don’t try to tell me it will be different THIS time, because it won’t.

Not that I would even be able to get into the raiding bit.  And I must admit that a server that basically pwipes at intervals and starts everybody back at level 1 again has a certain appeal.  Some of my best times on TorilMUD were at pwipes.  That would essentially replay what I consider the best part of the whole thing over and over, like some demented shared Norrathian version of the movie Groundhog Day.

The problem is that I do get attached to my characters.  I like to see them progress.  And even when they don’t get very far, I like that they at least made SOME progress and got to KEEP that progress in anticipation of my return.  For me it starts to get into the “death or rebirth?” discussion, and having that happen at regular, and presumably short, might end up wearing me down.  Or it might let me jump on the ride when it starts up again.  I am not sure.

Anyway, as mentioned in the forum post, there is a poll up in EverQuest currently that allows you to vote on which of the formats you might prefer.  I actually got out the EverQuest client and pushed the button for one of the options.

Progression Server Polling...

Progression Server Polling…

The poll itself had some trouble recording my vote because… well… EverQuest polling is like that.  See the forum thread related to any Fippy Darkpaw expansion unlock vote, there is always a few people who are not able to vote because the client is just not feeling it at that moment.

Of course this might all be for naught, at least if the discussion in the general channel on the Vox server is any sort of barometer of player sentiment.  After I voted I watched a stream of vitriol about the whole progression server idea flow past in text form.  I would politely sum up the general sentiment I saw as, “Progression servers just steal players and developer resources from the real game and nobody wants to go play the 1999 version anyway because it was horrible.”

Meanwhile, all is not peaches and cream in the progression server sub forum either, where vocal members of the various factions that haunt that section are calling for any number of impractical or unlikely suggestions that have piled up over the years.

We shall see how this plays out.  This could mean that DGC might roll out some new form of progression server in time to take up the slack of the summer hiatus.  Or the whole thing might just fall down a well, never to be heard from again.

What kind of progression server would you like to see?  Or is that even your thing?

Also, if you want to see the progression of the Fippy Darkpaw server up through July of last year, when the vote to unlock the Underfoot expansion failed, you can find it all summed up here.

Addendum: Keen, who is also interested in the whole EverQuest progression server thing, has his own post up on the same topic.

A Vision of Norrath at Daybreak

…because the Everquest franchise is our lifeblood and we treat it with the respect it deserves.

EQN has the largest development team at SOE. It is going to be more than ok.

John Smedley, on Twitter (one and two), post layoff.

The web sites are all still flavored “Sony Online Entertainment,” and I haven’t even seen an official logo yet for Daybreak Games Company, but the wheels of the Columbus Nova Prime acquisition continue to grind forward.

The week before last we had the “straight from the acquisition playbook” layoffs when DGC shed those it saw as redundant, low performers, or possible trouble makers when it came to their plans.  None of those who were let go had anything bad to say about DGC, but a good severance package can have that effect.  I don’t know if Columbus Nova Prime when full EA in the fine print, telling people they would want their money back if they said anything negative about Daybreak, but I wouldn’t count that out.  Not that I expected negativity.  The first day there is generally too much shock and dealing with the business at hand, and later, if you’ve left friends behind, you don’t want to shit all over them.

With that settled for the moment, DGC had to turn around and reassure the customer base, and especially those customers who are invested in the company and who are paying the bills for just about everything, which is the Norrath fan base.  Smed himself seems to spend all his time and energy on everything besides Norrath.  I think he may have said more about EVE Online in the last few years than he has about straight up, old school, made the whole company possible, EverQuest.

H1Z1 isn’t making any money yet, Dragon’s Prophet seems dubious as a cash cow, PlanetSide 2 is finally carrying its own weight, and DC Universe Online appears to be doing well on the PlayStation, but I wonder how much of that money flows back to SOE and how much stays behind to bolster PlayStation Plus revenues.

So, from the outside, it feels like Norrath is still paying the bills.  Michael Zenke came back from talking with Smed some years back with the impression that EverQuest was so cheap to operate on a day-to-day basis that it might literally hold out until the last subscriber walks away.  Throwing away the cash cow, or letting it starve, seems like a bad play.  And when the layoffs seemed to be focused primarily around people working on Norrath related projects, some of the vocal members of the fan base were clearly running scared and talking about swearing off any form of EverQuest before the place ended up a stagnant backwater.  So something had to be done.

That something was live streams.

I will say right now that I hate live streams for developer updates.  They are fine for a special announcement or some such… SOE Live or BlizzCon level events are okay… but as a method for delivering more mundane updates or plans, I really don’t like them.  They involve too much personality and not enough detail and you end up with half-considered statements that people will glom onto, like Tom Chilton saying that he felt Warlords of Draenor was further along back at BlizzCon in 2013 than Mists of Pandaria was when it was announced at BlizzCon.  That practically became “Draenor by February!” in some corners.   Plus, I must admit, I am old and grumpy and actively resent a developer group making me sit and watch something for an half an hour to glean maybe five minutes worth of actual details if I am lucky.

So I skipped what I could on that front and have depended on the MMO focused gaming media to deliver tidbits about what transpired.

Most of the coverage was about EverQuest Next, as that is the future of Norrath on which any number of former, but never again, EverQuest and EverQuest II players have pinned their hopes on.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

Still looking at this picture of EverQuest Next vision…

On the interesting side of things, there is apparently some hedging as to whether or not EverQuest Next will be free to play, or at least free to play in the current SOE model.  I suspect that might be wishful thinking, because unless Daybreak really has something new and different that can command a box price or a mandatory subscription, they might do themselves more harm than good going that route.  And my confidence in Daybreak being able to recognize a good idea from a bad one, given their track record, is pretty low.  But I couldn’t tell you if, in the long term, F2P has been the salvation that has been claimed on the Norrath front.

Then there is EverQuest Next on consoles.  Given what Smed has been preaching since the acquisition has been announced, that feels more likely an outcome than not.  The question then becomes one of balance… as in how many PC players will stop playing the game when they find a clunky UI designed to be used with a gamepad?  There is going to have to be a lot of XBox and PlayStation interest to counteract shitting all over the main fanbase if we end up with a DCUO interface.

And then there is the question of what EverQuest Next will be now that Daybreak has cut its ties with Storybricks.

I refuse to go full Tobold here and declare that this move means that EverQuest Next is likely to be a boring old WoW clone.  On the break with Storybricks, Senior Producer Terry Michaels said,

We made the decision that it was in the best interest of the game to take that work in-house. They did a lot of work for us and we’ll be utilizing that. It’s not like that work is lost.

So I am not sure you can make the logic-defying leap and declare that EverQuest Next is going to be completely 2007 or whatever in makeup because of this change, at least not without a supporting argument along the lines of “SOE is lying to us again” or some evidence that they are, indeed, trashing all the code related to Storybricks’ involvement.  Of course, bringing all of that work in-house isn’t likely to make EverQuest Next appear in the “near future” as was recently mentioned.

Anyway, that is the meat of what I saw over the weekend, which really wasn’t all that much, as the game is still out in the future.  I am sure I missed some details on the EverQuest Next front, I’m just not sure they matter until the game is an actual thing on Steam access at a minimum.

I had to go to a more a dedicated site, the ever alert EQ2 Wire, to find out what was going on when it came to news from the EverQuest II stream.  That appeared to be much more focused on simply reassuring the fan base that EverQuest II was still a going concern.

This treasure... you cannot have it

Is there still treasure in post-cataclysm Norrath?

The core of that seemed to be that updates and events and what not would continue on as before along with an acknowledgement around some pathological desire in the fan base to have a duck mount.

Then there was the EverQuest stream, which as far as I can tell, no MMO news site even bothered to dig into, so I had to actually go listen to that video once it was up on YouTube. (I put the video in the background because people sitting around talking wasn’t exactly adding to the flow of information.)

There the talk started off with some of the diminished team introducing themselves, and a statement that Holly Longdale was taking over as executive producer, putting her in charge of both EQ and EQII.  There was mention of new updates coming up in the next couple of months, including a new loot system and some vague statements about this year’s expansion, so I suppose that isn’t totally out the window, along with some minor talk about what they want to add to the game going forward, including making the UI better.

The biggest part of that whole stream for me was the mention of continuing to do things that work well with EverQuest, including progression servers.  There wasn’t anything concrete about how they want to do them going forward or what form they would take, but they were definitely on record that they want to do them again, which is great.  I thought we had kissed that idea good-bye forever once free to play hit everywhere.

Timeline stuck in time

So many expansions to unlock

For a game that has such nostalgia value for so many people, the whole progression server idea has always been a winner, delivering a lot of bang for the buck for bother players and the company.  There are a lot of players who will jump on board, even if it is subscription only, to have a “Day one, everybody level 1, lets go camp bandits!” experience.  It would just be nice if Daybreak could actually really run with the idea and promote it and keep people interested.  My past experience has been that progression servers get attention for about five minutes on the front page and then never get mentioned again, while in the forums, the most common company presence is SOE-MOD-04, the harbinger of locked threads.  The Fippy Darkpaw progression server just passed the four year mark last week and I still can only find updates about it when Daybreak screws something up.

Anyway, those are my notes from the weekend on the Norrathian front at Daybreak. (I will also say that the new company name is just the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to post titles.)

A few other blogs are writing a bit about these topics as well, including:

And the beat goes on.

The 2015 List – A New Year Brings New Predictions

Hey, it’s 2015!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

And as happens with the change of the calendar around here, it is time for some forward looking silliness that I can evaluate at some point 11 months or more down the road, giving me something of a framework for what really happened versus what I predicted.  There is, at this point, a history of this, which you can find at the links below.

Since I squandered my free time before the new year playing video games rather than writing about them, this will be an even more hasty, pulled from my posterior end list than usual.

Predictions

For scoring purposes, predictions are worth 10 points each unless otherwise noted and partial credit is possible.  Remember, I am taking a stab at what might happen, not listing out what I want to happen.  The latter would be a very different list indeed.

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.
  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.
  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.
  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.
  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.
  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.
  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games, EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.
  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.
  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.
  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.
  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.
  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)
  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.
  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.
  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.
  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.
  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way of EverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.
  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.
  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.
  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

No Shows in 2015

A quick list of titles I do not think will ship in 2015, with “ship” being defined as no longer in beta or otherwise restricted or branded as being in development.  These are worth 5 points each and are pretty much pass/fail.  Things either go live or they do not.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

That gives me a total of 200 points in the first category and 35 points in the second for a total of 235 points.  We’ll see how I did in about a year.

Other Predictions

Elsewhere in the blogesphere others are making their own predictions, which are probably more rational than my own.  I will link those I find below:

Looking Back at 2014 – Highs and Lows

As the month of December bleeds out before our very eyes and the new year looms, it becomes time for certain standard posts to appear.  Looking back at the year gone by, revision 5.

Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:

Payment Model Wars

Not much new to add since last year, so you can go back and read that.  I still don’t like where free to play inevitably leads games, but in a market where free is now the norm, you have to be extra special to warrant a subscription.

Turbine

Highs

  • They still seem to be a going concern.
  • They have had updates out for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Lord of the Rings Online is still a great way to get a feel for Middle-earth.  I like to go back and just visit places.
  • They aren’t actually killing off Asheron’s Call or Asheron’s Call 2. There is a promise to keep the servers up and running and some effort to allow players to run their own servers.  And, hey, it’s free.
  • They have a new game waiting in the wings… somewhere.
  • WB Games management exhales carbon dioxide, which helps plants grow.

Lows

  • More layoffs.
  • No expansion for LOTRO.
  • All I do is visit and look.  The last big change to classes pretty much made me give up on going back to play.
  • How is that “PvP and Raiders make up less than 10%…” stance working out?
  • Asheron’s Call series is in some state that is probably less than maintenance mode.  No income generally means no attention unless something is literally on fire.
  • The “run your own server” option sounds like a hollow promise at best.  How much effort do you think they will expend on this while struggling with other projects and laying people off?
  • Is Infinite Crisis a thing yet or not?  It isn’t going to save the company sitting in closed beta or whatever.
  • Management’s main function at this point might merely be contributing to global warming.

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs

  • Leaner, more focused organization
  • A new game, H1Z1 in the pipe
  • Fixed a bit of confusion by splitting out Landmark as its own title without the EverQuest name attached.
  • Ongoing support and new expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II
  • EverQuest II ten year anniversary!  Isle of Refuge prestige house!
  • Closed the exp loophole in Dungeon Maker in EQII.
  • Station Cash is strong enough again that they could actually sell a bit at a discount for a holiday sale.  People actually complained because they couldn’t buy Station Cash up to the set limit of 30K per day during the sale.
  • Didn’t get brought down by the latest Sony hacking incidents… well, except for the PlayStation titles.
  • I think people have finally stopped accosting Smed in the street about the NGE.

Lows

  • The organization got leaner and more focused by killing off four titles, Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, Vanguard, and Wizardry Online.  As many as three of those will be missed, and all four will get Smed accosted where ever he goes.  Okay, maybe not Wizardry Online.
  • Apparent revolving door, flavor of the whatever, Asian import MMO plan.  Out with Wizardry Online, in with Dragon’s Prophet.
  • Landmark is still a work in progress with no real end in sight.  Worked for Notch and Minecraft because he got some good, tangible stuff in early.  Not so much with Landmark even with the latest code drop.
  • EverQuest Next is still a blur on the horizon.  Is it getting closer or not?  My gut is starting to feel like another EverQuest title might be too much to hang on that lore in any case.
  • SOE now has two titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, with level caps that started at 50 and now are into triple digits.  Not sure if that is bad, but it makes you go “whoa!”
  • SOE’s History of EverQuest II – 10th Anniversary Documentary was completely lacking in substance.
  • So what is the Dungeon Maker good for now?  Can I go in there and play with SOEmote?
  • Never got my promo code for Station Cash, despite signing up well in advance of the date, a problem a lot of people had.
  • With people buying up gobs of Station Cash with up to a 3x bonus, will that flood the market again?
  • Still no idea what people could possibly spend 30K of Station Cash on, much less the 90K somebody must have tried to buy over the three days of the sale.  Seriously, is there some special tab that is not visible in my version of the Station Cash store?

CCP

Highs

  • The change in development strategy for EVE Online has really invigorated the game for the installed base.  Fixing shit and making the game better is a win.
  • Some good PR moments have brought a lot of new players to the game.
  • CCP is focusing more on their core competencies.
  • EVE Valkyrie gets people excited whenever they see it.
  • DUST 514 is still a thing… right?

Lows

  • A lot of the cool things CCP is doing for EVE Online are good, short term wins, but are they the kind of things that keep people invested and subscribed?
  • What happens when the low hanging fruit is consumed?
  • CCP admits that bringing new players to the game isn’t even the battle, as 90% of those who subscribe cancel before their subscription period runs out, and that doesn’t even get to the number of people who don’t subscribe.  The conversion rate for the trial accounts was what then? 1%?  Less?
  • Better not mess up on any of these changes to EVE Online, because it is all that is paying the bills right now.  One slip up and SOE will buy them and… do I even want to think about that?  I mean sure, Smed was in the CFC… but in SMA.
  • For all the changes to the game this past year, we just need AAA to take some sov again and all the usual suspects will be back on the map again.
  • Not enough hats in New Eden.  We need some decent hats.
  • Yeah, EVE Valkyrie sounds cool, and looks cool, but will VR headsets make us vomit after 30 minutes or go insane after extended use?  There are some doubts on that front.
  • I barely know if DUST 514 is still a thing.  I have yet to bomb anybody from orbit, and I feel poorer for it.

Blizzard

Highs

  • As usual, laughing all the way to the bank pushing wheel barrows full of cash.
  • WoW subscriptions way up with Warlords of Draenor and a solid change of focus.  Orcs make the best bad guys.
  • New plan for global domination means having one winning product in each important gaming genre.
  • Glad they fixed Diablo III by removing the auction house and fixing itemization.  The “real money” aspect was a side issue, the auction house itself and the original itemization, which felt like it was designed to push you to the auction house, were the problems with the game.  I went back and played through the game again.
  • Some rumbling that Heroes of the Storm is actually good and might do to MOBAs what Hearthstone did for collectible card games.
  • Overwatch looks like money in the bank at this point.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void might actually see the light of day in 2015.

Lows

  • The balance sheet might as well read “WoW and the five dwarves,” because Azeroth is the big breadwinner.  Blizzard without WoW is just a very successful studio, not an obscenely successful one.  They have to keep WoW going or change their lifestyle.
  • Some moon-eyed dreamers out there are going to hang on to the idea of the now-cancelled Titan project and moan about how it could have changed things despite it never having been a thing.
  • Rough start going into Warlords of Draenor.  Everybody says being too popular is the problem to have, but it is still a problem.
  • WoW subscriptions still below the 12 million peak going into Cataclysm.  No new class or race means no real drive to create new alts while insta-90 means those alts that get made are quickly at the level cap.
  • The low water mark for WoW subscribers was this summer, during the great content drought of 2014, and it isn’t clear that Blizz learned a lesson from that.  They say they did, but will they live up to that.
  • Five expansions in, occasionally hit by the realization that this is two years of busy work that will be washed away by the next $50 box.
  • And after playing through Diablo III again I didn’t buy the expansion and pretty much put it away.  It is still there if we get a group together, but soloing through a couple times was enough.
  • Is Heroes of the Storm live-ish yet?  I’m not sure you can change the world in closed beta.
  • Really not sure what Hearthstone did for collectible cards games, now that I think about it.
  • Anybody who thinks Blizz has learned any lessons about timeliness is kidding themselves.  They ship when they are good and ready… which is a luxury they enjoy… but if you think another WoW expansion is coming in less than two years, think again.  I think the best we can hope for is that they won’t dole out the add-on content for the game as quickly.

Other MMO Devs

Highs

  • Trion rolls out an expansion for Rift and brought out ArcheAge which boasts a feature set that gets a lot of people very excited.
  • Two big titles came out in 2014, The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic got an expansion and a level cap increase.
  • ArenaNet plays its living story hand to the fullest in GuildWars 2.
  • Jagex is trying hard to not be just the RuneScape studio.
  • Funcom gets a property that looks like a potential gold mine, LEGO Minifigures Online.  They surely learned from the failure of LEGO Universe.
  • Chris Roberts continued to bring in the cash for Star Citizen.  They are past the $66 million dollar mark at this point.  Op success!
  • Some other Kickstarters I backed made some progress.  Camelot Unchained’s promise date is still a year out, and while Shroud of the Avatar is behind their original schedule, you can get in the game and do things.
  • Project: Gorgon, despite a name that really isn’t helping things, and despite failing the second Kickstarter, is still progressing and could very well be one of the prime examples of what a niche MMO title can be.

Lows

  • Trion botches the ArcheAge launch to the point of alienating some of their most ardent fans.  The game went from being worth a four hour queue to not being worth logging on at all for a lot of people I follow.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online has spent months working on bugs and will likely be at least a year late in shipping the console version, while WildStar is facing an uncertain future after subs dropped off a cliff, since they were published by NCsoft, whose motto is “kill the weak.”
  • Despite claims that SW:TOR is a cash cow, EA is officially saying it isn’t meeting expectations.  Not sure that bodes well for the future.
  • GuildWars 2 may have lots of fans, but the revenue chart seems to indicate that they will need another box to sell to keep NCsoft happy.
  • Jagex stumbles again with Transformers Universe shutting down before leaving open beta.  So they’re still just the RuneScape company, at least when it comes to revenue.
  • LEGO Minifigures Online is not meeting revenue expectations according to Funcom.  But then, I barely knew that it launched and I thought I was paying attention.
  • The original Star Citizen promised launch date has come and gone and we have a hangar module and a mini space sim module.  Meanwhile, the new go date for the real game is out in 2016.  More space bonsai needed to raise money.
  • Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  Awkward name, asked for too much money, the follow-on plan was just “give me money, no strings attached!” all while having too many goals.  I have doubts we’ll ever see a finished project.  It is sort of the anti-Project: Gorgon.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Nintendo scores a big win with Maro Kart 8, a game that actually moved some Wii U units.
  • The 3DS line continues to be a bright spot on the Nintendo balance sheet.  It is still selling well, updated units are coming, and it is getting some decent titles.  I am very happy with my 3DS XL, it is a quality unit and worthy of the high standard set by the DS Lite.
  • Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire keep the Pokemon tradition going.
  • Sony still releasing PlayStation 3 titles.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • I finally hit level 8 on Steam.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 8 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • Really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online next year.  Andrew Groen has been making regular updates and things seem to be on track.

Lows

  • Nintendo still hasn’t sold enough Wii U units to make the whole thing worth the effort.  It remains their worst selling mainstream console, a bitter pill to swallow after the Wii.
  • While Nintendo’s handheld rules the portable roost, it’s success is mainly reliant on remakes and the same small cast of characters.  How much longer can Mario and Pikachu carry this show?
  • Part of the Pokemon tradition includes cool features that only appear in one game, then are gone for the next release.
  • Have to suppress the realization that, despite all the updates and tweaks, Pokemon has not changed in any fundamental way since it was on the original GameBoy.
  • I only bought one PlayStation 3 title in 2014… and it was Assassin’s Creed III, which came out in 2012.  And I had to wait to buy it (for my daughter) because the PlayStation Network was down due to hackers… again.  All we use the PS3 for is streaming video most days.  It is great at that, but frankly a $100 Roku box would give us more options.
  • I literally won’t buy anything that isn’t at least 50% off on Steam at this point.  And even then I let my wishlist pass.
  • Steam competitors?  How many software sales platforms do you think I am going to invest in?  So far, the answer is one.
  • Steam blocked me one point shy of level 8, where you get a serious boost in cards and stuff, until I bought something.  I bought the original Wasteland for $1.49.  I’ll have to see if it plays like it did back on my Apple //e way back when.
  • I really just use my iPad 2 to browse the web, read news, and text my wife.  The only games I play regularly at this point are Ticket to Ride, DragonVale, and Candy Crush Saga.  The same three titles I was playing 2 years ago.  And I am only to level 301 in Candy Crush Saga, because I won’t give King a dime.
  • Where the hell is my copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls?  The Kickstarter date was a “pessimistic” August 2013, back in February of that year.  2014 is about done and there is no ship date in sight.

The Blog and the Internet in General

Highs

  • Hey, I kept blogging for another year.  Gotta love the force of habit!  375 posts so far in 2014.
  • Still feel like I am connected in some minor way to a lot of the other bloggers out there in our little corner of the net.  You all write great stuff and I don’t link out to you all nearly enough.
  • The blog continues to live up to its name, as the games I played the most this year are all pretty old in internet terms.  World of Warcraft and EverQuest II both just turned 10, EVE Online is 11, and the Pokemon franchise is 18 years old at this point.
  • Turns out what I said last year about it being nice having a blog because so many of my screen shots are there came to pass when my power supply blew out and fried my motherboard, video card, and both drives… which actually sounds like a low, but I got a replacement board for one of the drives and it spun up and I was able to recover data.

Lows

  • WordPress.com seems determined to force horrible design choices on their users.  Most of their 2014 updates have offered less functionality, worse layout, and slower performance.  Seriously, WTF WordPress?
  • The randomness of Google and the internet means my most read post this year is the one I wrote about considering which class on which to use my WoW insta-90.
  • I remain at a loss as to what gamer social networking ought to be.  I keep getting invites to sites, and spent some time with Anook, but I dropped off after a while.  I already have a blog and too many ways to interact with people, why do I need a site that appears to be primarily looking to me to provide free content?
  • When did Yahoo’s motto become, “Well, we’re not the best, so let’s just be complete shit?”  Their site, their mail interface, their mobile app for mail, all have gone to utter shit.  I am pretty sure if I install Ad Block, Yahoo would simply disappear.
  • Also, Apple, WTF is it with iTunes?  Why must it get worse and worse?
  • GamerGate: Failed to learn the lesson of Occupy Wall Street (no leadership or unified platform or goals), so now any reasonable message under that hash tag is forever tainted by death threats, doxing, and revenge porn.  You cannot disavow something if nobody/everybody speaks for you movement.  You just managed to reinforce all the negative gamer stereotypes.

That is what came to mind for 2014 when I sat down to write this.  I am sure somebody will point out some big things I missed… which is the purpose of the comments section, so have at it.

And other people in the blogesphere have been looking at 2014 for good or ill, so you can see what they had to say as well.