Category Archives: EverQuest

H1Z2 or The Daybreak “Divide and Something” Plan

SOE, in cleaning up its act in order to get sold off and become Daybreak, cleared its decks of a number of titles.  The list of titles Daybreak has today is substantially shorter than what SOE had on offer just few years back.  Since 2012 it seems like they’ve shut down a lot more titles than they have launched.

It follows you as you move about the room!

The eye seems angry today…

I’m not sure how many people really miss Wizardry Online or Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures or a few of the other titles that have fallen by the wayside.  But Free Realms had a following and I have to think, with the current emphasis on nostalgia in Norrath, that closing down the EverQuest Macintosh Edition server rather than making that the basis of a classic server usable by a Windows client must be wistfully regretted in some corner of their office.

Anyway, once the company became Daybreak it had rid itself of a lot of baggage, but also had less to sell… and then proceeded to get rid of Dragon’s Prophet.

Meanwhile, new titles are few and far between.  EverQuest Next, more than five years since it was announced, seems no more likely to ship than it did two years back.  Landmark continues is desultory existence.  Planetside 2 remains dubious.  DC Universe Online, which just passed its fifth birthday, is getting ported to XBox One.  That was the big liberating factor in becoming Daybreak, that Smed would no longer be limited to the Playstation, but I am still dubious as to whether or not this will be a huge win.

The only bright points over the first year of Daybreak’s existence (we heard about the merger just about a year ago) have be the super awesome legacy Norrath team, which runs EverQuest and EverQuest II, and which has worked hard to give players some things they have been asking for, and H1Z1, which managed to sell a million units in early access.

So I guess the email note I received while in Hawaii shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.

CUSTOMER SERVICE NOTIFICATION
Notice Regarding Your H1Z1 Account!
Hi
On Wednesday, February 17, 2016, H1Z1 will be branching off into two separate games: H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill. Since you previously purchased an Early Access copy of H1Z1, your account will be upgraded to include both H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill.
Your existing keys, crates, and items will be also duplicated and available in both games.

H1Z1 is splitting into two games, H1Z1: Just Survive, which is the zombie horror survival game, and H1Z1: King of the Kill, which is an arena cash cow that Daybreak has convinced itself is going to be some sort of esport.

On the bright side, at least you get a copy of each if you already purchased H1Z1 via early access.  Of course, there is one more unplayed game in my Steam library because, while the base H1Z1 had some comedic co-op survival charm to it, Daybreak’s whole “pay to compete” battle royale thing had no appeal to me whatsoever.

I think we can safely predict Daybreak will have to change the name of one of these games in a month or two once the whole brand confusion thing finally dawns on them.  My own pick would be H1Z1 and H1Z2, but even those two might be too close in name to avoid the inevitable confusion.

Was this split a surprise?  I suppose so.  It certainly wasn’t without a bit or irony, at least when compared to this motivational quote from the Daybreak web site.

Was this a left turn then?

Was this a left turn or a risk then?

But in hindsight, I guess trying to package the different needs of the two modes of play together might have become an obstacle to one branch of the game or the other.  I doubt, however, that this split means that there will be any more people working on the combined projects, despite the statement about two development teams, so one branch will likely languish as the other gets attention.  My bet is that Just Survive will see its advance towards release… whatever that means to Daybreak these days, since they put our a press release indicating that H1Z1 had already been launched a year back.

But the act of splitting titles in order to beef up their catalog isn’t exactly a new thing at Daybreak.  We of course had the EverQuest Next and Landmark split, where Landmark was just going to be a dev tool for people to use to make things for EverQuest Next, but which got turned into an early access project as well as all we’ve ever really seen of the EQN code.

And H1Z1 itself started life as a branch from the PlanetSide 2 code base, a way to use work already done to make a new game… though I am not sure if the time that has gone by says more about the state of H1Z1 or PlanetSide 2.

I might even argue that DC Universe Online being ported to XBox One at this late date is something of a split, since it will be its own code base by necessity, will draw of resources from the other branches, and won’t be able to play cross-platform.

Finally, we are seeing this sort of thing in what I would consider the core Daybreak, the legacy Norrath team, which has gone from something of a tepid relationship with special rules servers to embracing them fully.  There is now a pretty clear divide between the free to play servers and the subscribers only, special rules servers, splitting up the audiences for both EverQuest and EverQuest II.

That sort of split was something SOE decided was a bad thing back during the EverQuest II Extended experiment.  But there you had two different client applications and the fear that the old servers would wither and die because all new players would be steered towards the free version, from which they could not transfer.  Now the spin is different, with the free servers being the old news and the shiny new special rules servers drawing off a significant percentage of the long-term fans of the game.

Aside from a hunch about the two H1Z1s needing more distinct names, I am curious to see how this will play out.

Of course, the hidden bit of news in the FAQ is this little gem:

At this time, we do not have any plans to make either H1Z1: Just Survive or H1Z1: King of the Kill Free-to-Play titles.

I knew that early access was simply too lucrative for them to let go of to depend on free.  “Free to Play. Your Way” seems to be dead at Daybreak.  H1Z1 is not a free to play game.  It will be buy to play, with a subscription, and an overbearing cash shop, complete with lock boxes.  Expect no less from anything else coming out of Daybreak.

At least they will be dropping the early access moniker this summer, or so the FAQ alleges:

H1Z1: King of the Kill will be coming out of Early Access and will launch on PC, the PlayStation® 4, and Xbox One in summer 2016

We shall see.

Others on this topic:

MMOs on the List of Most Important PC Games

Earlier this week, over at PC Gamer, which I think still actually has a print magazine version, publishes a list of what they felt were The 50 most important PC games of all time.

PCGamerLogo

And, if you know me, you know I love a good list like that.  Those are discussion starters without equal, and I bring them up pretty much whenever I find them.  I’ve even written about a PC Gamer list in the past, when they were writing about the 100 Greatest Games of All Time, (they do that article every year, here is the 2015 version) that being a distinct and separate category from the 50 most important.

The most important games are the ones we could not imagine not having existed in the genre, that inspired people, or that changed the market.

Wisely, PC Gamer decided to not stack rank the lot of them, choosing to list them out chronologically, kicking off with Space War! from 1962, the first thing that actually looks like what we think of when we say “video game.” (I even wrote a bit about Space War! at one point.)

Of course, this being me, I went storming into the article shouting, “Where are the MMOs?  Show me that online massively multiplayer goodness!”

And I was not disappointed.  MMO titles that made the cut were:

  • Ultima Online 1997
  • EverQuest 1999
  • EVE Online 2003
  • Second Life 2003
  • World of Warcraft 2004

Yes, I am admitting Second Life to the fraternity of MMOs I recognize, and not just to pad the list.  It was a thing in its day, even if Massively totally over-covered it for a bit.  I have even played it a few times.

So that is five MMOs on the list… by which I mean persistent world online games in the mold we all know and grudgingly tolerate while complaining about incessantly… or 10% of the list.  Not bad for a genre.

I suppose it says something the “important MMO” era is pretty much 1997-2004.  Has everything after that been simply refinements and derivatives of what has gone before?

Of course, limiting themselves to 50 games meant that anybody is going to find omissions that they feel are important.  Even the editors had to make an Honorable Mentions list because there was no doubt a large number of titles that were so close.

On the MMO front, I am a little disappointed that MUD1 or anything from the 1980s online era was neglected.  Maybe MegaWars III wasn’t that influential, but what about Air WarriorBut the list does feel a little heavy on the more recent end of things, probably a result of the relative youth of some of the contributors and the general feeling we tend to have that nothing is more important than right now.

Still, there are some good games whose presence on the list surprised me, like Starsiege: TribesFor a fleeting moment of time that was the best online shooter ever.  I played the hell out of that

Ultima IV is on the list, which is interesting because I think you have to have at least ONE Lord British game on the list, but which one?  I suppose Ultima IV was a turning point in the series, but I was always a big fan of Ultima III.  I’m shallow like that.  Also, I had that Ultima III editor, so made my own version of the game.

I find it somewhat odd that DotA is on the list by itself as opposed to being paired up with Warcraft III, since then you could have gotten in a side mention about how much Warcraft III influenced WoW.  Ah well.

And, of course, a lot of the list includes the games you would expect… probably demand… should be included; Wizardry, Pinball Construction Set, Civilization, League of Legends, Quake, Tomb Raider, Diablo, Half-Life, SimCity, The Sims, Minecraft, they are all there.

Yes, of course Doom is on the list...

Yes, of course Doom is on the list…

But I still look back at that list of five MMOs and wonder, is that the legacy of the genre?

Sixteen Predictions for 2016

It’s a brand new day
And the sun is high
All the birds are singing
That you’re gonna die

-Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

We actually sing that song at our house, because we’re like that.

But it is a brand new day opening up on a brand new year.  Cue new 2016 graphic my daughter made.

Blog2016

I asked for a spaceship and got a pink kitty.  Such is the way of things.

And so we have… long standing tradition… every year… yadda yadda yadda… predictions.  Obligatory history links:

Again we stand on the edge of the abyss… erm… a new year and, having arrived yet again at this arbitrary point in time where we need a new calendar, I will gaze into the middle distance and try to predict things that might come to pass as we make our way around the sun once more.

In reading this, I ask readers to remember that these are predictions as to things that I think might happen, not a wish list of things I hope happen… except for that part about Project: Gorgon, because I want that to do well, and Diablo IV.  But not the rest… for those, I would be happy enough being wrong.

So with that in mind, I present my last minute load of crap deeply considered peek into the year 2016.  Here are 16 predictions for 2016:

1WoW Legion will ship on August 16th, which will give Blizzard both one of the fastest expansion release cycles in its history along with one of the longest content droughts, leaving few happy.

2WoW Legion will be heavily criticized for the small amount of content it delivers at launch.  It will turn out that Blizzard can’t figure out how to make any more content than usual, so the plan will be to dole it out in more, but smaller, chunks over the life of the expansion.

3 – The Warcraft movie will be a modest success, though after it settles down somebody will calculate that more people have probably played World of Warcraft than saw the movie in the theater.  The movie’s impact on the game will be negligible.

4Diablo IV will be announced at BlizzCon.  Really.  This time I am serious dammit!

5 – Daybreak will get a new head honcho who will be selected from another company and will have little or no experience with the fantasy MMORPG genre that has kept the team in San Diego funded for most of its existence.  Expect this person’s past experience to be the hammer and any Daybreak problem to be a nail.  They’ll be just like that VP we once hired from Oracle, for whom every solution required a database.  So if, for example, they have a history with first person shooters on the XBox, you’ll know what to expect.

6 – It will be more tough times and harsh realities for Daybreak.  The EverQuest/EverQuest II teams, which pull their own weight, will be safe so long as they can sell expansions, but everything else will be up for grabs.  As a result I expect two of the following to happen:

  • EverQuest Next pushed out prematurely for early access dollars.
  • EverQuest Next and Landmark merged back into a single product/project, but you have to buy it again it you bought Landmark.
  • Legends of Norrath shut down.
  • Legends of Norrath turned into a stand-alone iOS and Andoid game, where it fails and gets shut down.
  • PlanetSide 2 shut down, relaunched with a new name as a buy-to-play title for consoles only, old version not compatible with the new one.
  • DC Universe Online shut down on Windows, left running on PlayStation.
  • H1Z1 basic package launched as a buy-to-play title, but seriously gimped unless you are a Daybreak All Access subscriber or plan to spend big in the cash shop.
  • New, console-only project announced.

7 – Turbine needs a splash in 2016 with LOTRODDO rolls along as is, sharing the Dungeons & Dragons license with Neverwinter.  But the contract with Tolkien Enterprises for LOTRO wraps up in 2017.  While a renewal seems pretty likely, barring a complete disaster, it would go over much better if some additional cash were flowing in.  So, after a couple years off… and perhaps learning from the market… a big expansion will be announced that will bring us to Mordor.  Cirith Ungol or maybe just to the main gates, but the end of the journey will be in sight.  Expect a special Blessing of the Valar level boost to be bundled in with it that will get you stuck straight into the new content.  Yes, I know this isn’t in the current 2016 plan for Turbine, but this will change before the end of the year.

8 – In EVE Online, citadels will be big. (Ha ha!)  Everybody will want one, which will cause a boom in construction and a spike in mineral prices and a rise in concurrent users.  It will be the new shiny.  This will wane as the close of summer comes to an end and we all figure out the flaw in the citadel plan and the game grinds to a halt while we argue about how CCP should fix it.

9 – CCP will either close down the CSM or change it so drastically that it is essentially a different beast.  We’ll get CSM XI, but it will carry on the now familiar tradition of institutional animosity from certain sectors within CCP, something that won’t be helped by the fact that most CSM veterans will decline to run for election, leading to a fresh CSM with Xenuria and DurrHurrDurr (or a reasonable facsimile of the latter) as the permanent Icelandic duo.  That will force CCP to act.

10 – The return of The Fountain War Kickstarter will succeed when it kicks off in March, being better thought out.  Drama will be way, way down compared to the initial run.

11 Black Desert, the new anticipated hotness, combining an Asian MMO import with the word “sandbox” yet again, is going to be a replay of ArcheAge, with a big rush, overcrowding, disappointment and recriminations, before settling down for the core audience that will remain after everybody who pinned sky high hopes on it storms off in a fit of pique.

12 Project: Gorgon, after being in the shadows for so long, will have a banner year in 2016, with early access success on Steam leading to the game going live for real before the year runs out.

13 – NCsoft will announce that WildStar is closing down, it’s free to play conversion having been a brief flash in the pan.

14 – Despite all the back and forth and talk of lawyers and lawsuits and who is going to sue who for what and where, the Derek Smart vs. Star Citizen brouhaha will fade away without a metaphorical legal punch being thrown.

15 – Somebody will buy Funcom… for cheap… to rescue a couple of their titles, but Anarchy Online won’t be on the list of the saved.  LEGO Minifigures Online is the prize there.

16Crowfall, will still be in development, allowing only limited access for backers by the end of 2016.  It won’t really be a thing until 2017.

Special Bonus Prediction – A big Pokemon announcement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the series on February 27, 2016.

Big 2016 Question – Will VR be interesting enough to spur people to spend money upgrading their systems in order to spend more money to buy an Occulus Rift rig?

So there are my predictions.  feel free to agree, disagree, correct, discuss, rage, or storm off in a huff.  We shall see how the year develops.  Next December, when I score this, each item will be worth 10 points, with partial credit available.  In the mean time, we wait.

Others with Predictions for 2016:

Looking Back at 2015 – Highs and Lows and Things in Between

Here we are, the end of another year heading towards us, as unstoppable as an oncoming freight train, reminding us yet again of our own mortality.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

And yet, before the express labeled “2016” strikes us head on, I am going to indulge in my usual end of the year “looking back” at what was wrought in 2015.  This is an ongoing tradition, and past posts may be found here:

2015 has been an interesting year, and while some of the news still falls into the usual Highs and Lows categories I traditionally use, there has been a couple things that have fallen in the middle for me, so I am going to inject a new heading where appropriate.  And, of course, these are Highs, Lows, and in between as I see them.  Not all highs are equally high, not all lows are equally low.  You may view them differently, the contents may have settled during shipment, and your mileage may vary.

Sony Online Entertainment/Daybreak Game Company

Highs:

  • Hey, they finally figured out nostalgia sells.  Special, subscriber-only servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II appear to be popular.
  • Expansions are back for EverQuest and EverQuest II.
  • EverQuest II server merges were probably past due.  They went off as well as could be expected.
  • Despite the occasional gaff (like that no raids for casuals thing and some odd poll interpretations) Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has done about all one could hope for with the EverQuest and EverQuest II franchise.
  • PlanetSide 2 finally hits a console platform, launching on PlayStation 4 at last.
  • They shed Dragon’s Prophet, which was probably more of a distraction for a company that really needs to focus.

Lows:

  • Layoffs.  Always expected after an acquisition, but never fun.
  • It is a good thing the EverQuest live franchises have Holly Longdale, because the remains of the community team seems to be of the “remove posts, lock threads, delete forums, ban people, and push everything possible onto Reddit” persuasion.  Sort of the anti-community team.
  • Nostalgia is popular for now, but how long will it last?  Rolling out the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers for EverQuest basically killed the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers.  Maybe they were done, but it does bring up how these sorts of things should be handled, especially since we just got another special server in the form of Phinigel.
  • What does nostalgia cost?  The Stormhold and Deathtoll servers on EverQuest II were purported to have drawn off a lot of already subscribed players from the live servers.  Raiders couldn’t raid on some servers because their guild mates were off on these new servers.
  • Segmented player base.  One of the reasons that SOE merged EverQuest II Extended into EverQuest II and went full free to play was the folly of having essentially a free server, where all the new players would show up, killing off the live servers, which looked like they would stagnate and die under that scheme.  A couple years down the road, these special servers look to be testing that idea again.
  • Also, the Drunder server?  How is that working out?
  • Who in the hell thought they shouldn’t do expansions in the first place?  Another SOE-level mistake where they ended up at the right answer, but only after publicly committing to the wrong one.
  • PlanetSide 2 has been live for three years now and it still feels like a work in progress.  Getting on PlayStation is fine, but is that going to make it better?
  • H1Z1 seems to have sold a lot of early access slots.  Money money money.  But what is the upside of launching the game if it makes money in beta?  I expect it to spend a long, long time in this “released but not released” state.
  • EverQuest Next?  Hellooo?  Are you still out there somewhere?
  • Landmark?  Is that still a thing?
  • Still not used to calling them Daybreak.  SOE is still a more recognizable acronym than DGC.

Middling:

  • With the buyout the team in San Diego is no longer at the whim of the stumbling Sony colossus.  However, it is now under the thumb of Columbus Nova Prime, an investment group that will treat Daybreak as exactly that, an investment.  Independence is an illusion if you need to pay up every quarter.  Yes, Daybreak can make games for XBox now, but is that what was really holding them back from success?
  • The departure of John Smedley came under unfortunate circumstances, but satisfied some who were calling for fresh blood in Daybreak management.  I hated to see him go out under a cloud, though it was pretty much written, in my experience with mergers, that he would have to go sooner or later.  I am sure he got his golden parachute and, in California, non-compete clauses are unenforceable, so he can do what he wants.  Still, he facilitated EverQuest and helped it become a thing,  I am sorry to lose that part of him.  But he was also the PvP child in a company where PvE paid the bills.  PlanetSide was always his baby, so his focus at Daybreak appeared, from the outside, to be just that and H1Z1 and getting games on XBox, things that held little interest for me.  So I am left wondering if his departure will be better for the things that interest me, because Columbus Nova Prime could just hire some ex-Zynga exec who will throw all development into exploitative trash.

Turbine

Highs:

  • They live yet under the thumb of Warner corporate leadership.
  • Lord of the Rings Online has been getting some much needed maintenance level attention, including server upgrades, merges, and attention to long standing gripes from the player base.
  • The LOTRO team has also clearly backed off the “raiders and PvP players don’t matter” stance that reared up at one point during 2014.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online seems upbeat from all I have read.
  • More resources are clearly being applied to the long running MMOs, DDO and LOTRO.
  • Server LOTRO merges were good.  The reality of the game population made this a necessity if Turbine wanted to keep an active player experience.
  • Hey, wow, we’re also getting server hardware upgrades.
  • Minis Tirith!

Lows:

  • Infinite Crisis was stillborn after sucking up so much dev time.  Money down the drain and development time that could have been spent elsewhere that can never be retrieved.
  • A bunch of internal issues aired by Aylwen back in March, confirming a lot of negative views of Turbine, including how screwed up the Infinite Crisis project was.
  • Turbines’s only new project: An exploitative second tier iOS knock-off to promote another studio’s game.
  • Another company decided that expansions aren’t worthwhile for their MMOs.
  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 plans appear to have come to naught and both feel like they are one major server issue away from being shut down.
  • Asheron’s Call looked to be at that fatal server issue earlier this year.  Somebody managed to fix it in their spare time, but the writing is clearly on the wall.
  • LOTRO is feeling its age these days.  The character models were never great, and more than eight years down the road they feel even more awkward.
  • 2017 and the end of the LOTRO licensing agreement for Turbine looms.
  • You have to ask if MMOs have a future with WB?

CCP

Highs:

  • A real attempt to change up how things work in null sec and shake up the status quo!
  • Running with Reavers has been a lot of fun over the last year and has very much helped keep me invested in New Eden.  There are actually people I fly with who know who I am.  Amazing, right?
  • Some cool new ships in EVE Online.
  • A return to expansions, with Citadel coming this spring.
  • I think CCP finally got it right with the ship SKINs thing.  I am seeing a lot of SKINs in fleet these days, especially when mixed in with the capital ships.
  • Let go of White Wolf, and even got a bit of cash for it, so is no longer holding back any World of Darkness MMO.
  • EVE Valkyrie looks good and appears to be a bright star in the VR market, getting bundled in with the Occulus Rift starter kit.  A big win for CCP there.
  • EVE Gunjack showed up out of nowhere and became CCPs first shipping VR app, to good reviews.
  • The community, or communities, or whatever, was still mostly happy, positive, and invested in the game.
  • EVE Vegas was fun!

Lows:

  • I’m not sure we ended up where CCP expected in null sec.  Mechanics that people predicted would be bad well in advance turned out to be as bad as predicted.  Some small changes have made things a bit better.  A lot of people decided the new system wasn’t worth the effort while the larger powers still do what they please.  The Imperium, the Russians, Provi Bloc, and -A- still abide, but there are cracks in even those once stable edifices.
  • Reavers is a lot of work for Asher and the other SIG leaders, so can only be deployed for short stretches.  But those deployments have spoiled me and now being with the main fleet seems like a chore at times.
  • I am just waiting for the exploit that gets command destroyers nerfed into oblivion.  Still, it is fun watching people used them to snatch ships off an undock and whisking them 100km away to their death.
  • To get back to big expansions we did have to get through… what was there, 15 or 18 of these mini expansions… few of which I can even remember two months after they’ve passed.  And I am still not sure if the small expansions are gone.  December’s was called the “December Update” at one point and then the “Operation Frostline” release elsewhere.  Anyway, they became a blur, which removed some of the special from them.
  • Need more SKINs.  Need better SKINs.  Need brighter SKINs!  Orange and Pink SKINs!  Need to fix T3 cruisers so they can have SKINs.  Need to fix the Manticore so it looks as good with a SKIN as a Purifier.  Need to figure out how to make SKINs look better on rusty surfaces for the sake of the Minmatar.
  • Well, I think the CSM is pretty much dead as an institution at this point.  I could never figure out what its role should have been, a problem I seemed to have shared with literally everybody, CCP included.  Another “nice” idea brought low by reality.
  • The Fountain War Kickstarter community war thing.  Whoa, Nelly.  CCP gave an official endorsement to this project, and presumably was set to get paid a cut.  And then it was badly launched, badly attacked, badly defended, and became an incredibly ugly internecine conflict as people got right down to “community is what I say it is, no more no less” level of attack.  Who needs Derek Smart when we have us?  No side came out of that still bubbling cringefest looking very good.
  • Also, that charity, shoot the titan event where the ISK for charity instead went to fund an EVE casino.  Okay, not really a CCP thing, but again we players not looking very good.
  • Speaking of good, did anything good come from CCP owning White Wolf for all those years?  Anything?
  • As cool as EVE Valkyrie looks, VR is still an expensive addon for expensive, top tier gaming PCs.  Being good is one thing, being the killer app, the thing that will get people to throw money at an expensive upgrade just to play it, that is a whole different level of good.  Not sure EVE Valkyrie is THAT good.
  • I didn’t meet as many in-game people as I should have/could have at EVE Vegas.  Being quiet doesn’t help, but that is just who I am in person.  Also, few of us look like our in-game avatar it seems.  Who knew?
  • DUST 514?  Helloooo?  Didn’t even get a keynote at EVE Vegas.

Blizzard

Highs:

  • Still makes money like no other.
  • World of Warcraft sails into 2015 with the Warlords of Draenor expansion and more than 10 million subscribers.
  • The WoW Token thing now gives people a way to buy in-game gold for real money or buy game time with in-game gold.
  • Flying in Draenor
  • WoW Legion expansion announced.
  • Overwatch got a launch date, Heroes of the Storm finally went live, Hearthstone got more cards, and the final chapter of StarCraft II shipped.
  • Diablo III seemed to still be selling pretty well and even got a couple major patch updates.  The 2015 game is really good compared to what was there at launch.
  • Word that Diablo II and StarCraft will be reworked for modern machines.

Lows:

  • The lion’s share of the loot still comes in from Azeroth
  • Warlords of Draenor Garrisons: All the negatives of housing about which Blizzard warned us for years, without any of the satisfaction that actual, decent player housing can bring.
  • Subscribers down 45% with more than a year to go until the next expansion.  How’s that flying working out?
  • WoW Legion expansion announcement was clearly earlier than they had planned, done in order to counter news earlier that week of WoW subs dropping to 5.6 million by the end of Q2.
  • WoW Legion appears to be on the same old development track as all past WoW expansions, so the Draenor dry spell will be as long as any past content drought.
  • Punting on even talking about subscription numbers anymore.
  • Diablo III, the game they keep telling us has sold more than 30 million boxes… no word, no plans, no expansion, no nothing.  Completely ignored at BlizzCon.
  • Also, Diablo III being always online, even for single player, is still dumb.
  • A high likelihood that Blizzard will charge too much for those reworked classics. Still, I’ll probably buy Diablo II yet again.  I think I own three copies already.
  • The realization, with the acquisition Candy Crush Saga barons King.com, that Blizz and King operate in very similar fashions; they steal somebody else’s idea, polish it up, and sell it as their own.  At least Blizz hasn’t tried to trademark “World of” or anything really egregious.

Middling:

  • I’ve started to suspect that Blizzard has a secondary motive for no longer quoting subscription numbers for WoW.  Seeing as it still brings in a mint, they can do more of their BS bundling and say things like, “WoW and Hearthstone made a billion dollars!” or some such.  That might mean WoW is less doomed, but it would also mean more meaningless metrics in the Blizzard part of the financials.

Other MMOs and Devs

Highs:

  • GuildWars 2 got the long anticipated expansion.  Expect to see a spike in revenue for the game in the 2015 results.
  • WildStar went F2P, which was good for fans of the game, because it really looked like it might just get shut down given its revenue collapse.
  • The Edler Scrolls Online went F2P as well, but at least had some console sales to bolster it as well.
  • Project: Gorgon sees Kickstarter success at last!
  • Star Citizen gets a little heat, which I think was good.  If your project can’t take some scrutiny or address its skeptics, then there is a problem.  The first two Derek Smart posts could have been played into a way to highlight progress being made.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar both making lots of progress.
  • World of Warships actually turned out to be pretty neat and more accessible than World of Tanks in my opinion.

Lows:

  • The team at ANet seemed bent on annoying their core base, giving away the GW2 base game with the expansion, then making it free altogether, taking a different focus on content, and even going after the raiding demographic.  Of all the GW2 bloggers I read, only Ravious wasn’t grumbling about something or another during 2015.
  • WildStar is still dead.  Preview of my 2016 predictions: WS won’t last the year.
  • TESO isn’t doing all that well, laying off support staff and such.  F2P cannot make your game better, only less expensive to try.
  • Star Citizen takes a public beating from Derek Smart, exacerbated by Chris Roberts and company reacting badly.  Throwing Smart out of the club then trying to hurl mud back was sinking to his level, something guaranteed to keep him in the fight while making the exec staff look petty.  So we’re into something like eight Derek Smart posts, that article at The Escapist, wild talk about lawsuits, and more coverage of the whole thing than there should have been had things been handled better.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar… and Star Citizen for that matter… are nowhere near making their Kickstarter launch estimates, to the point that I think Kickstarter should put a big red warning sign, “These estimates are clearly bullshit,” on any MMORPG campaign project.
  • World of Warships still didn’t do much for me in the end.  Played it for a week and moved on.  Still longer than I spent on World of Warplanes!
  • Need for Speed: World was given the EA treatment and shut down.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Finally discovered Minecraft, which became the binge game for the second half of 2015 for me.
  • Nintendo gets another Wii U selling hit in Splatoon.
  • A revamped 3DS XL shows that everybody’s favorite Pokemon platform is still going strong.
  • A Nintendo commitment to put games on other platforms, specifically iOS and Android.
  • Sony still supporting my PlayStation 3.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 9 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • I got my copy of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls… only two years late.  Kickstarter.
  • Still really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online.  I have heard nothing but great stuff about it.

Lows

  • I think my Minecraft enthusiasm is drive in large part by my MMO malaise.  I’m happy enough to let the ten rats live most days.
  • The Wii U is nearing the end of its lifecycle, isn’t it?  I know some analysts said that the Wii U/PS4/XBone generation would be the end of consoles, but when are they ever good at predicting anything besides the past?
  • 2016 is the last year for PlayStation 3 support.
  • No new mainline Pokemon RPG for the 3DS platform.  All we’re getting is a new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (Pokemon as a Rouge-like) and the ability to play the original three Pokemon titles in time for the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.
  • Of course, I haven’t finished Alpha Sapphire yet, so I am not sure I need a new Pokemon game, right?
  • Also, a Pokemon download event at McDonald’s?  My Wii Fit wept.
  • The combo of Steam sales and so many unplayed, or underplayed, games in my library has effectively become a deterrent to my buying any new games.
  • The iOS 9 update initially did kill my iPad 2, or nearly so.  Fortunately I delayed that update long enough that 9.1 came out two weeks later, fixing the worst problems.  I think the end is nigh for support of my old slablet.
  • I’ve only heard great stuff about A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online because I haven’t got my copy yet because the project is late.  Maybe that red warning sign I mentioned previously should apply to all Kickstarter backed creative ventures.  The latest update say I should get the book in February at least, with direct sales coming to Amazon on March 8, 2016.

Blogging and the Internet

Highs

  • Hey, I made it through another year and am still blogging away, with 353 posts in so far for 2015.
  • I still quite enjoy having a record of my thoughts and activities over the last nine years.  Doing the month in review post and looking back a year and five years is a high point of every month.
  • Speaking of old, I think the average age of the MMOs I write about went up again this year.  I think the newest thing I write about is Minecraft, and that is four years old at this point.  Play in with the blog title I suppose, which I guess is good.
  • We still have something of a happy, healthy MMO blogging community in this little corner of the internet.  Just look at Blaugust.  We had such fun then, right?  And there was another NBI!
  • Massively Overpowered and Blizzard Watch and MMORPG.com and MMOGames even occasionally pay attention to blogs.
  • Somehow I managed to accrue 500 followers on Twitter.  I am halfway to being able to enter the community relations area at CCP.  I even got two retweets from CCP_Seagull this week.

Lows

  • My posting is down.  At the same point last year I was at 375 posts.
  • Traffic is still trending down.  After a peak in 2012, things have been down some every year.  The big drop in 2013 was largely attributable to changes made by Google, but since then things have just tapered off.  The audience is smaller, the games I write about are no longer what people are searching for, I write less, and all of that.  It looks like 2015 will ring in at about 65% of the traffic 2012 had.  Traffic doesn’t make me write, but it does make me think.
  • As I play less new games, I end up writing about fewer games over time.  Even this yearly post used to look at a couple more studios, like Trion.  Haven’t played anything from them in ages, so haven’t paid much attention to them, so I don’t have much to say.
  • My being stuck in something of an old school a rut is reflected by how many links I get from other blogs.  Bad enough being a generalist MMO blog, so game specific blogs often look past me, even if I am writing about their game, but now I don’t even play the cool new games like Ark, World of Warships, or Final Fantasy XIV.  My lacks of relevances, lets me shows you them.
  • NBI numbers were pretty low this time around, and blog mortality remains pretty high.
  • AOL dumping Massively and WoW Insider was a blow.  At least the archives haven’t been deleted yet; they’re hanging out under the Engadget banner for now.
  • Man I hate that new “Moments” tab in Twitter, since they put it where the “Notifications” tab used to be, so I click it on accident a lot.
  • I keep going to /r/eve and expecting to be better.

Media

Highs

  • A new Star Wars movie that is at least unequivocally better than the prequels.  Lots of debate as to where it ranks (which is a good sign) but I haven’t seen anybody say “I > VII” yet.
  • Mad Max was the most visceral on-screen event I have seen in ages.
  • SyFy is exploding with new SciFi shows.

Lows

  • Farewell Leonard Nimoy.

So that is what I have, sitting here in December, and looking back at 2015.  Not as bad as some of my lows might make it seem.  It wasn’t the best year evah, but good times were there to be had.  Memories were made, posts were posted.

Still, I am sure I have left some things out.  What did I forget from this past year?

And so we look forward towards 2016… erm… okay, I did that last week.  I guess I got these posted in the wrong order.  Anyway, I think we’re done here.  Bring on the new year!

Some others looking at aspects of 2015:

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • 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.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • 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.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • 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.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • 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.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • 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.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • 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.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • 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.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • 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.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • 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.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • 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.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • 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.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • 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.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • 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.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • 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 ofEverQuest 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.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • 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.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • 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.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • 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.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  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

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

Phinigel, the True Box EverQuest Progression Server, Opens Today

We know how those estimates work out.  Still, I would guess that the server will be open by the time people get home from work on the west coast.

Yes, the EverQuest team is betting on yet another special nostalgia server to keep the money flowing and its fortunes bright… or as bright as they can be for a video game facing its 17th birthday early next year.

Named for Phinigel Autropos, the last known knight of the Kedge, it aims to solve most of the loudest complaints aimed at the previous progression servers.

Also, I find thid GIF of Phinigel to be adorable

Also, I find this GIF of Phinigel to be adorable

First, and foremost, the Phinigel server will only allow players to log into it with a single client from a given machine.  This is an direct attempt to thwart the scourge of multi-boxing, with players driving a full groups via IS Boxer or some such and hogging all the good spawns.  You are going to have to play with other people if you want to group up… or multi-box by literally using multiple boxes.

A Computer for every client

A Computer for every client

I think this will be a good thing.  Multi-boxing has always existed in EverQuest, to the point that SOE eventually fixed the client software so you could run multiple instances of it on the same machine without any tricks of special software.  Why say “no” to somebody who wants to pay for multiple subscriptions, right?

But in the nostalgia environment, the point seems to be more about reliving the old days when we had to find groups rather than eschewing all social contact to solo yourself to level cap and through various bosses.

That was complaint number one solved.

Next on the list was expansion unlocks.  Votes for unlocks have been close and contentious, while unlocks based on raid content being completed have lead to very fast unlocks.  So this time the unlocks will be set in stone, coming at 12 week intervals.  We’ll see if the forums erupt in “we need Kunark sooner” demands, as they did with the last progression servers.

Finally, there is the raiding question.  As I understand it, raid bosses (which have been booster in power) will still be available in the open world, but they will also be accessible via instances.  The instances will have an account-wide 6.5 day lockout, so you and your team will be able to hit raids weekly without having to worry about fighting over spawns.

That brings a welcome end to Holly’s past statement about raiding:

What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.

Casuals will now get their opportunity to raid.

Otherwise, all of the changes made during the launch of Ragefire and Lockjaw in order to handle a rush or players… multiple versions of zones, improved performance, more players allowed on the server, and a primitive server queue… are still in place.  My hope is that these, and the lack of multi-boxing players, will keep Daybreak from having to launch a second server.  That has happened with every progression server launch so far, and always leads to a secondary, underpopulated server over time.  One server will keep everybody together in what will hopefully be a well populated world.

Still, all is likely not to be peaches and cream.

This will still not be a real 1999 level server.  Your gear doesn’t stay on your corpse when you die.  Lots of new things will still be in the game.  This will annoy some people.

And then there is the question of how much nostalgia is too much?

Currently Daybreak still has the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak time locked progression servers running.  They are getting close to live, but aren’t there yet.  Then there are the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers that were launched back in May.  That wasn’t all that long ago and they are still on the Ruins of Kunark expansion.  That puts them in a nostalgia sweet spot.

So launching Phinigel today will make for five nostalgia servers running at once, all available only to Daybreak All Access subscribers. (For nostalgia, you gots to pay to play.)

Will the other servers hold on to their dedicated populations?  If so, will that keep the Phinigel server population more manageable, or will it fail to hit that critical mass needed to make a world feel alive?

Or is the allure of starting fresh (and no mulit-boxing) strong enough that Phinigel will drain players off of the other four servers and run into the sort of first night follies we’ve seen in the past, with over crowding, queues, and the team eventually giving in and launching a second server, all while the other four servers languish for lack of enough players?

Too soon?

I already think this might be the case for Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak

I like that Daybreak is iterating on the nostalgia server idea, but is there a limit to how often the nostalgia card can be played.  I am interesting in this new server and how seeing how well it goes, but I am still good on EverQuest nostalgia from the early days of the Fippy Darkpaw server.

Maybe I’ll jump on the next one.

Anyway, if you are interested, Daybreak has a full FAQ posted for the Phinigel server in the forums.  And no, recruit a friend is not available on this server, please stop asking.

EverQuest Phinigel Server – A True Box Progression Server

The EverQuest team is prepping another nostalgia run with a new progression server, which will mean that there will be a total of five such servers in play with Fippy Darkpaw, Vulak, Ragefire, and Lockjaw still chugging along.

The nostalgia is strong in Norrath.

Named for Phinigel Autropos, the last known knight of the Kedge, this is going to be a special progression server according to Daybreak.

Phinigel awake...

Phinigel awake…

The Phinigel time locked progression server is aimed at addressing some of the more common complaints about the past round of servers, specifically Ragefire and Lockjaw.

To this end, you will only be able to log into the server with one client from a single computer.  Multi-boxing a pile of characters from a single computer will be blocked.  As the Daybreak team put it, if you want to multi-box you will have to do it the old-fashioned way.

A Computer for every client

A Computer for every client

(Real old-school would have had a half dozen scrounged 15″ CRTs.)

In addition to this, the whole open world raiding log jam will be addressed by having both open world and instanced versions of the big bosses.  From Daybreak:

The big raid targets from each expansion will be instanced. While bosses like Lady Vox, Lord Nagafen, and (/cough) Phinigel Autropos (hey, THAT’S where we got the name!) will still spawn out in the world, groups of players will ALSO be able to have these targets available to them via Raid Instances.

The instanced raids’ targets have an account-wide 6.5 day lockout and will have the same difficulty as the non-instanced version of the raid target. Note that raid bosses on progression servers have had their difficulties increased since the launch of Ragefire.

So the bosses will be out in the open if you want to compete for them and hidden away in an instance on a timer if you just want to raid and not deal with external guild drama. (Internal guild drama is still on you.)

And, finally, voting will be dispensed with and expansions will unlock on a regular, 90 day schedule.  People can just be angry about that schedule being too short/long rather than claiming vote fraud.

So what will EverQuest players find to complain about in the forums this time around?  I have no doubt they will find something.  Recruit a friend is always popular.

All of this kicks off on December 9th.  We’ll see if the tradition holds and Daybreak has to open up a second server, though with all of the multi-zone instancing work they have done, I hope they can keep the population on a single server.

And, as always, in order to play on the Phinigel server you will have to have Daybreak All Access active on your account.  I’ll have to see how I feel when the launch date arrives.  I am currently not playing any fantasy MMORPGs at the moment and it is strange.  Of course, Gaff is now trying to get me back to LOTRO, so we shall see…