Category Archives: EverQuest

The Daybreak Studio Split Comes to Pass

It isn’t even Friday afternoon and we’re getting news from Daybreak.  The splitting of the company into discreet studios focused on specific games is under way, something that has been somewhat expected since July of last year.  Of prime importance to me are the fates of EverQuest and EverQuest II, which will now be run by Darkpaw Games.

Darkpaw Gamed for Norrath

A producer’s letter from Holly Longdale announced the change, though details were scant.  Quoted from the site for posterity:

Welcome to our first bark as Darkpaw Games!

Unsurprisingly, our motto is “Never Give Up” given that our studio name is borne from our beloved in-game character, Fippy Darkpaw – the gnoll that won’t quit. For over 20 years he’s been fighting the good fight for his tribe. Same goes for our studio, our games, and our tenacious players.

We are the OG. The passionate. The dedicated. And the proud! Grrr….Bark Bark…Grrr.

I’m sure you want to know what this change means…

Darkpaw Games will operate autonomously and focus on the EQ franchise, its community, and its future. I will be at the head of Darkpaw and Daybreak will be our publisher with its incredible support and operations teams we’ve come to know and love over the years.

We will work toward expanding the franchise and invest in our future as a studio.

Currently, nothing will change for your accounts and membership. No worries there.

Our staff has grown a bit and we’ll continue to adjust as Darkpaw evolves and grows into its development strategy and vision. What’s that, you ask? To create immersive entertainment that is socially driven and diverse, enriches lives and fuels imagination.

That vision comes from decades of working with and listening to our communities about how EverQuest games have impacted, changed, and enhanced their lives. We want to continue it. It’s what we do best.

Immediately, and in practical terms, our focus is on the fans and investing in our current games and the business of starting new ones. We’re already executing on the plans we had for 2020, like expansions and events for EQ and EQ2.

We’ll start evaluating the interest in, and logistics of, a fan faire and move forward with that as soon as possible.

More than anything, we want to deliver on what players love and go even further. We are going to think outside the box a bit, so hold onto your tails!

This month, we plan to sell a limited run of our EverQuest 20th and EverQuest II 15th anniversary shirts on Amazon. If it goes well, we’ll keep exploring official product ideas. We’ll send out links and details as soon as we have them!

EverQuest’s first anniversary in its THIRD decade will come in March and we’ve got plans for that, so stay tuned! EverQuest II has its own plans that will roll out soon – Yeehaw!

Now, with all my heart, thank YOU! We hope you continue to embrace us as we grow into our indie paws. We want to communicate in new ways with our own Darkpaw voice, too. Many of you are familiar with our personalities and we want to live our best life as gamers and developers with you.

Join the pack! More news as it comes!

Sincerely, as ever,

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale
Executive Producer, Darkpaw Games
“Never Give Up”

What this means for the business itself is unclear.

The PlanetSide 2 team had a similar announcement, declaring that they are now developing as Rogue Planet Games.

Rogue Planet for PlanetSide

Then there is DC Universe Online and the Austin studio that goes with it got a post from Jack Emmert that they will now be Dimensional Ink.  No cool splash screen yet from them, and they ended up not going with the previously registered Golden Age Studios.  Jack Emmert is probably most famous for his association with Cryptic and City of Heroes and his letter stands out among the three when declaring some level of independence.

Those three teams cover most of the company.

Omitted from mention at this point is the H1Z1 and Z1 Battle Royale games, whose web site has no similar note from a producer.  I suspect that they will roll along with Rogue Planet, but we shall see.

All three of the posts make sure to declare that nothing is changing right now and that everybody should remain calm.  That is the standard starting point for everything.

There is a fourth post from Daybreak as well, which sums up the other three:

Daybreak Introduces Three New Franchise Studios –
Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games, and Rogue Planet Games

Newly Branded Development Teams Reflect “Franchise First” Model to Strengthen Autonomy of Studios with Signature Games and Genres from MMORPG to FPS and Superhero Titles

SAN DIEGO, CA – Jan. 21, 2020 – Daybreak Games today announced its “Franchise First” initiative in the form of a business structure that establishes three new individual creative franchise studios — Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games. Building on the success of the teams that introduced genre-defining games and franchises including DC Universe™ Online, EverQuest® and PlanetSide®, this business model is the result of a long-term strategy designed to amplify the existing franchises while enabling each studio to further foster its unique identity, community and culture.

By allowing the identities of each of these studios to thrive under their individual studios, each team will have the flexibility to continue their work developing current and upcoming games, recruiting new talent and building upon the legacy of their respective franchises.

Dimensional Ink Games in Austin develops and operates DC Universe Online, the one-of-a kind DC Super Hero-based MMORPG enjoyed by millions across PC and consoles. Dimensional Ink will be led by Jack Emmert, the mastermind behind City of Heroes, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter. The studio will continue to support DCUO while developing its next high-profile action MMO project starting in 2020.

“Crafting iconic MMORPG experiences has always been Daybreak’s lifeblood,” said Emmert. “We intend to continue that legacy and grow Dimensional Ink, Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games into the future. Whether it’s DC Universe Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, PlanetSide 2 or our future projects, we’ll be giving players their ideal fantasy game experiences for years to come.”

Darkpaw Games will be focusing on EverQuest, one of the most legendary MMORPG IPs recognized worldwide. Holly Longdale will continue to lead the studio as its Executive Producer. Darkpaw’s mission is to continue to expand upon the unique and amazing fantasy adventure that is EverQuest and EverQuest II and develop the next innovation for the franchise.

Rogue Planet Games, the studio branch in San Diego that broke new ground in the massively multiplayer first-person shooter genre with PlanetSide and Planetside 2, will be working to craft even more new and unique experiences in the space under Executive Producer Andy Sites at the helm. The team is looking to develop its next genre-defining experience for fans of shooters under its new banner.

As for what this really means, that is yet to come.  All three letters say that Daybreak will continue to publish and support the studios.  Does that put them on an equal footing of independence as Standing Stone Games and their work with Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online?  We would probably have to know something about the actual relationship between Daybreak and SSG to answer that.

Daybreak, however, will continue to be a thing.  How that evolves and what that really means is still foggy.  Are they set to become something more akin to Gamigo or Perfect World Entertainment, a holding company for milking old MMOs?  Is there a plan to perhaps sell off one or more of these new studios?  Or is it all window dressing?

The Darkpaw producer’s letter sounds very promising all the same.  Ongoing expansions and otherwise doing what they have been doing is about all you can ask for at this point… aside from a new EverQuest game, but that seems unlikely.  After some early stumbles, the EverQuest franchise has done better under Daybreak than it had been doing during the last few years at SOE.  I hope that success for Norrath will continue.

Of course, we have been waiting for this to come to pass.  It was on my list of news I was expecting in the last quarter of 2019, but had to roll it over into my 2020 predictions.  Now to see what it really means.

Other coverage:

My ManicTime Numbers for 2019

We have finally arrived at what I believe to be my final end of year post.  I have nothing else on my list.  So after this it will likely be a return to my more common ramblings and complaints.

I mentioned back in January of 2019 that I was going to track my game time with ManicTime.

The idea came from Endgame Viable and landing as it did right at the end of the year it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.  And so with every month in review post for 2019 I added a short entry that listed out which games were tracked at what percentage of my play time they represented.

But, of course, I kept all those numbers in a spreadsheet so I could trot out the numbers for the full year once it was done.  And here we are with the list of all the games tracked.

  1. World of Warcraft – 44.49%
  2. EVE Online – 20.22%
  3. EverQuest II – 9.38%
  4. RimWorld – 8.46%
  5. LOTRO – 4.83%
  6. Minecraft – 3.96%
  7. EverQuest – 3.81%
  8. Path of Exile – 0.84%
  9. Dota Underlords – 0.82%
  10. Civilization V – 0.60%
  11. Diablo – 0.46%
  12. Defense Grid – 0.44%
  13. StarCraft – 0.43%
  14. MS Solitaire – 0.33%
  15. New World – 0.31%
  16. Teamfight Tactics – 0.19%
  17. EVE Aether Wars – 0.14%
  18. Combat Mission – 0.10%
  19. Age of Empires 2 – 0.09%
  20. GTA V – 0.08%

That list is pretty easily parsed into two sections.  There are the first seven games, which are measured in full percentage points, and everything else, which are in fractional percentage points.  That, in turn, lines up pretty nicely with this chart from a previous end of year post, where I graphed the games I recorded playing every month in the month in review posts.

2019 games played by month

Yes, that list is slightly different… WoW Classic is its own thing while a couple of the ManicTime measured games are not listed… but basically, the top seven on the list are games I played for more than a single month or so.

  1. World of Warcraft – 44.49%
  2. EVE Online – 20.22%
  3. EverQuest II – 9.38%
  4. RimWorld – 8.46%
  5. LOTRO – 4.83%
  6. Minecraft – 3.96%
  7. EverQuest – 3.81%

So what makes those seven games so special.  That six of the seven are MMORPGs is the most obvious.

World of Warcraft was always going to be a player on that list, but the launch of WoW Classic was what made it a lock for the top spot.  The first couple months I binged a lot on that.  And, as I mentioned in the December month in review, Blizz changed the name of the WoW Classic executable and ManicTime now tracks that independent of retail WoW, so we will get to see how those two diverge in 2020.

EVE Online is the static regular.  It isn’t the monthly top of the list unless there is a war… and, honestly it suffers somewhat from the fact that it is the game I spend the most time tabbed out of and in another window while playing and ManicTime stops the clock when the game isn’t the window of focus… but zKillboard has me recorded for every month of 2019 with a kill mail, though for August the kill mail was me.

EverQuest II is probably the biggest surprise on the list.  I wander back into it every year or so for a bit of time, and expected to again this year due to the 15th anniversary thing.  What I did not expect was to find the stars aligned just right for me to get hooked and lined up to run into a new expansion.  It ought to have been down with EverQuest.  Instead it banked nearly 10% of my play time for the year mostly in the last two months.

LOTRO was kind of the hangover game in the new year.  It was in kind of the EverQuest II position for 2018, where the LOTRO Legacy server thing saw it get a lot of binge play.  However that tapered off as I wrapped up the initial content, and did not pick up when Mines of Moria was unlocked.  It got a bit of time as I poked my nose in now and then to try out things like the new 64–bit client.  But for the  most part things ended when Moria began.

Minecraft saw a burst of activity when Microsoft released a big new update, the Village & Pillage thing.  However, once that wore off, things tapered off and I eventually backed up the world and turned off the Minecraft Realms server.

And then there is EverQuest with just under 4% of my time, which ended up being about 45 hours of play time.  That is more than I thought I might spend with the game.  Despite updates and expansions and all that, it is still a 20 year old title and I have been away from it for so long that it can be tough to find my way when I jump back in.  But I found a path to follow for a bit and got to be around for the anniversary.

Which leaves us with RimWorld, the sole single player game on the list.  How did that happen?

RimWorld is a very good combo of elements that appeal to me.  It isn’t constantly demanding.  You spend time adjusting or setting priorities rather than directly doing things.  It has that compelling “I just want to see what happens next” aspect to it, akin to the “just one more turn” thing that a good Civilization title gives you.  And it is pretty compatible with listening to podcasts or audio books.  Something I pick the game I want to play because I want to listen to something while I am doing it.

The question really is why I didn’t play more RimWorld if it has a feature set that appeals to me.  And the answer to that is “mid-game.”  Just like Civilization and some other titles, eventually you solve your critical problems and your path forward becomes clear and you end up just tuning and adapting a bit and solving little issues and pushing back on random attacks, but things are otherwise so in the bag that you know you’ll get there.

Looking at the numbers so far for 2020, EverQuest II is well ahead of the pack.  It is my current focus title for solo play.  That doesn’t mean it will stay there.  I have a habit of being into it for a stretch, the dropping it to return to WoW.  And WoW Classic is still a thing and the instance group has many dungeons ahead of it in the new year.  The interesting question will be if some new or unexpected title makes it into the full percentage point, multi-month play category for 2020.

But now, one final question.  Did ManicTime alter my game play habits?  This might seem a silly question to some, but it has long been proven that observation and measurement of people’s behavior will change that behavior, and it is something that I felt I needed to bring up at the six month mark of using ManicTime.  I am going to say yes, and unequivocally so, that ManicTime did influence my game choices and play time in some way.  The question is only how much.

I am pretty sure, for example, that my games played list for 2019 is only 20 games deep due to the knowledge in my head that I was tracking and  reporting on games played.  How significant was that I cannot say.  I would guess that the list might have had from two to five more titles on it otherwise.  There are probably a few games I might have launched had something in the back of my head not said, “Do you want to have to write about that in the monthly wrap up?”  I was determined to mention every game tracked early on, though I relented on that as time passed.  But it still sits there in my brain.

On the flip side, I am going to say that GTA V might not have even been launched had I not been measuring.  There may have been some internal mental pressure to get it on the list after having said I bought it during the Steam Summer Sale.  (We’ll see if my buying The Witcher during the Winter sale does the same thing!  I’ve already thought about it.)

So without ManicTime the list might have been as low as 19 or as high as 25 possibly.  And a “made from memory” end of year list might have even been much shorter.  That month to month chart above only has 17 titles from the ManicTime list.

That said, I suspect that the changes would have been confined to the “less than a full percentage point” part of the list.  I can attest to being tracked having made small changes to my behavior, but I doubt it was going to suddenly make me start playing something I didn’t already have a mind to play, nor keep me playing a game that had grown  stale.  I said nice things about RimWorld a couple paragraphs up, but it hasn’t gotten any play time recently.

And so it goes.  Heisenberg was right.  But people will over think so many things that I find it difficult to worry about, even as I over think it.

What Would I Like to See in 2020

So far this year I have done predictions and a forecast of my own likely game play pattern for 2020.  It is time for something more upbeat here on the first Monday of the new decade.

The problem is that I am a bit of a pessimist by nature.  I am a product of my environment and have been part of too many rosily optimistic ventures that have been about as well grounded in reality as that of the gnomes in South Park.  Four out of five start ups fail because they cannot satisfactorily answer that second section. If I never hear another exec wave away objections to a vague plan with a quote from Field of Dreams I would be quite happy.

So even in a post predicated in optimism I feel the need to stay somewhat grounded.  No miracles.  No “just be good so you get a million customers” sentiments.  Which, of course, makes this post a tad more difficult.

World of Warcraft

Just make Shadowlands not suck?  I’m already off track.  See, this is going to be difficult.  Hrmm…

Okay, maybe get this whole level squish thing right?  I am warming to the idea of being able to run an alt from 10 to 50 through which ever expansion I choose.  But I also wonder about the itemization and how it might make all those parallel experiences lose any uniqueness when it comes to equipment. Also, I know they said they thought about this, but still make sure the favorite of running old raids is still viable at level cap.  And whatever you do, don’t make mobs scale based on ilevel.  That went so badly in BFA.  You could literally screw over all new players… unless the plan is to force them to buy character boosts, which is something not included with the Shadowlands base expansion.   Please don’t do that either.

Class rework.  Make classes great again or something.  WoW Classic has shown how well simplicity can work.  It was imperfect, but the designers can work from that.  At one point I had seven different classes at level cap.  With BFA only two of them were any fun to play.

WoW Classic

Again, a place where I could go crazy with pie in the sky wishes, like wanting Blizz to develop fresh new content on the WoW Classic platform.  But that just isn’t going to happen, so I have to reign myself in.

Given that, I want a path forward to later expansions.  I don’t know how Blizz is going to do it, but if five years down the road there are not classic experiences availabe for The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, I will be angry.  That is the Cornetto Trilogy of WoW.

What the best path forward will be remains to be seen.  Separate fresh start expansion servers?  Transfers off of WoW Classic to expansions?  Expand WoW Classic into the new content?  No matter which way they go somebody will be pissed off.  And I suspect that Blizz will end up needing to create a version of the client for each era, which will no doubt lead to them bitching about having to keep a total of four clients up to date.  But this is a gold mine and will pay for itself if worked correctly.

EVE Online

All I want is vision.  Of course when CCP is talking about vision we complain about all the little broken things they ignore, and when they work on tactical items like balance and all the little broken things we go on about a lack of vision.

That said, I still think the lack of a longer term vision for the game is hurting EVE Online.  As I have opined before, people who like space games tend to be the type of people who get caught up in vision and the promise of the future.  Making sure the NPE doesn’t drive people away is a good goal, but it doesn’t spark any sense of adventure or wonder at the possibilities.  As lame as player made star gates ended up being, just the idea of them and what they might be was probably worth something.  We need a vision.  And visions are cheap, though it does help if one goes with a vision that has some grounding in the possible.

EverQuest

There are so many things I would like to see done with EverQuest, not the least of which is a redone modern client.  I would happily take all the old content, doled out in annual increments, named EverQuest III or whatever, if they could just throw together a client that ran even half as smoothly as WoW Classic.  That is probably too much to wish for, but if somebody like Pearl Abyss bought the Norrath part of Daybreak… hell, I’d take a Black Desert Online looking version of EverQuest too.

More in reality-ville, I honestly think the best I can hope for is ongoing annual expansions and maybe a new special server now and then.  Oh, and a heroic insta-level character boost that goes higher than level 85.

EverQuest II

The other Norrath franchise is strange because it is both crazy insular and focused on its core audience while being, at times, deeper than the ocean.  And the team is still not afraid to try new things every expansion.

So while my main wish might be a more comprehensible game… I don’t know how, as a new player wandering in off the street, how you even get started in such a way as to make the game stick… part of its charm at this point is its level of incomprehensibility.  I write what might seem like angry posts about the crazy level of effort that sometimes goes into getting things done, but that is what keeps me engaged.  However, I have no idea how somebody gets the wiki together.  I look at the flow of some of the signature quests and wonder how long it took to figure out some of those steps.  It still struggles from all the same problems, like too much old, outdated, and opaque content, odd, confusing, and sometimes archaic mechanisms to guide you places, the strange focus on the potency stat over all others, and way way too many skills.

With all those problems I cannot come up with an simple or realistic change.  I mean, I kind of want a Station Cash sale, but I am pretty sure there are still burnt fingers in accounting from that.

So I guess my wish here is to keep on being weird?

Lord of the Rings Online

Even more than the Daybreak team, Standing Stone Games feels like a group that doesn’t have a lot of slack for ambitious projects that won’t either bring in money, like an expansion, or that are required to keep the game viable going forward, like a 64-bit client.  So asking for a better patching mechanism to replace that “let me inventory all your files on the fly then go grab the files I need and copy them over one by one” isn’t going to make it.

Neither is some of the new content I might like.  One of the oppressive aspects of the MMORPG genre is the “moving ever forward” aspect of it.  So we’re never going to get, say, an alternate leveling path that would bypass Siege of Mirkwood.  Wouldn’t I love that?

So down in reality-ville, maybe fix the legendary weapon system?  That is a serious mill stone around the neck of the game, an awkward, demanding, do I really need to go back to a settlement and reforge this piece of crap again mechanic that they should have let go of when we passed out of Moria.

That, however, probably won’t be enough to get me to go back and play.  So maybe a special rules server?  I realize that one of my predictions this year was that SSG would go that route and do it badly.  But that doesn’t mean I cannot wish they would come up with something fun and new and interesting.

The MMORPG Genre

I realize that, as somebody whose wish list so far is made up of a set of games, the newest of which launched in 2007, I am not your ideal customer.  Or I am exactly your ideal customer as I will clearly become invested in your game and stick with it long term.

If the former is true, stop copying the games I already play and do something new that will attract a different target audience.  I’ve made it pretty clear with my dollar votes that I am not going to run off to play your game due to the graphics being 43% better or the elves being 19% sluttier.

If the latter is true… well… same story I guess.  Why would I put in the work to get invested in your new version of WoW if you are mostly retreading the old version with some minor variations?  Again something new.

Of course, the problem is that anything really new likely won’t fit nicely into my internal definition of what an MMORPG is or should be.  So, really, I have nothing here.  But I felt I needed to explain why.

Steam

Just curate.  You know you want to.  You’re effectively doing it already.  Just admit that there is, in fact, some bar a title needs to clear in order to find a space in your store.

I get it.  I get that having the biggest pile of games is a marketing point.  But I could illustrating the 2008 mortgage lending crisis of the with Steam.  It started out with quality, but then over time, to keep things going, it became necessary to mix in a lot of low value shit that kind of ruined it for a lot of people… like indy devs with actual quality titles who haven’t a hope in hell of getting noticed.

Honestly, I think the biggest rock that the Epic Store could throw at you is that your service is ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five pound bag.  It is hard to navigate and filled with things people don’t care about.  And once Epic gets a store that worth being something beyond second place, they might go there.  Steam is safe for the moment because Epic doesn’t have the critical mass to be anybody’s exclusive.  Steam is the only place you can have almost everything you want.  They even got EA and Microsoft to bend to their will and admit last year that they need Steam.

So Epic is trying to poach exclusives to make themselves matter until they can get a quality critical mass.  At that point they can start talking about what a huge pile of garbage Steam is.  Yes, I know EA tried that back when they introduced Origin, saying that they would be the Nordstrom to Steam’s Target.  But EA is rampant capitalism dressed up as a video game company and couldn’t back up their words.

Others

I tend to ignore pretty much everything else in gaming, unless it becomes a meme or so popular that it is getting a lot of press.  So maybe something that would distract for my MMORPG obsession for a bit?

Anyway, we will see what the year brings.

My Gaming Forecast for 2020

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.

-Woody Allen

There are days when I want to quit my job, sell the house, cash in my 401k, and do whatever the modern MMO equivalent of buying a VW bus and following The Grateful Dead would work out to be.

I can’t quite imagine what that would be, and it is all a bit of fantasy, as much as the virtual worlds I wander around in.  Also, I have a now adult daughter whose college education needs paying for, not to mention what my wife might have to say about such notions.  And my 401k only recovered from the last recession due to the money I have shoveled into it since.

Reality dictates a more modest vision.

So when a part of me wants to fly free, do new things, and maybe actually play Project: Gorgon or some other game less than a decade old, I have to temper myself with an examination of what is really likely to happen.

And so any such list has to start grounded, setting a foundation of the likely or obvious.  What will I play in 2020?  Here is the forecast.

The Sure Things

Games I will almost assuredly play in 2020.

  • WoW Classic

I’ve almost certainly logged in and played this, even if just for a short time, since the clock struck midnight and the new year was rung in.

And why shouldn’t I play it?  I am enjoying it, I have friends to play with, and it is a voyage both nostalgic and fulfilling.  Four months into the game and in our 30s, the instance group is maybe a third of the way

  • EVE Online

The way my main account is setup right now I will remain an Omega clone into 2021 thanks to one final bump from the Fansite program.  There is no reason not to log in and keep things going.  But I am also feeling a bit weary of New Eden.  I have been subscribed and playing since late 2011, when I came back to see if the Crucible expansion would be a worthwhile return point after the fiasco of Incarna.  In December of 2011 I went to null sec and straight into a war and have been there ever since.  But wars in null sec are barely a thing anymore.  I’ll play some EVE Online, but it might be time for a change of scenery.  But what I may or may not do is something for another post.

  • EverQuest II

My last couple of runs back in Norrath have gone pretty well.  In fact, I did so well in November that I bought the Blood of Luclin expansion, having managed to get a character up to the level cap and ready to take part in it.  Having thus invested it seems pretty sure that I will play.  How long I will play is another question though.

The Likely Candidates

Titles that history indicates are probably going to get played.

  • WoW Shadowlands

This would have been a sure thing a couple of years back.  When was the last time I didn’t run straight to a WoW expansion launch? (Answer: Only twice, The Burning Crusade and Mists of Pandaria, both arguably very good expansions.)  But a decade haunted by wrong turns leaves me less than excited at the prospect of another WoW expansion.  We’ll see if I am saying that when the pre-expansion events kick off.

  • RimWorld

It seems probable that I will go back to this for a bit.  The build up part, the struggle to get to a stable state that can withstand setbacks is still quite enjoyable.  Whether I will be able to endure another long mid-game is another story.  But it is an easy game to pick up and while away the hours with as I listen to podcasts or audio books.

Possibilities

Titles I have a fondness for and which I wander back to now and then.

  • Civilization V

When I am in a mood for a strategy game there is always Civ V there waiting for me.

  • Stellaris

If not Civ V, then this is the other likely alternative.

  • World of Tanks

I keep thinking I am going to log in and play this again.  I think I like looking at the tanks more than I like playing, but it is still fun.

  • Minecraft

While I took down the Minecraft Realms server due to nobody playing, a big new update might get me back to poking around.

  • The Witcher

I just bought it on Steam for a buck and half, maybe I should play it.

The Long Shots

I might log into these now and again, but I am not sure I will commit to any real play time.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

The Legendary server proved to me once again how much I like the initial 1-50 content.  I suppose I might wander back into that.  The problem is, as I have said before, the Siege of Mirkwood is an impenetrable barrier for me, and the live servers hold no temptation.

  • EverQuest

For all the nostalgia I spew about EverQuest back in the day, it has not always aged well.  It looks and runs better than any 20 year old game has any right to, but that doesn’t mean it is the best game for me.

  • Diablo III

Not beyond the realm of possibility if I get the simple ARPG urge.  The problem is that I really only enjoy two classes in the game and I have played those multiple times.

  • Elite: Dangerous

Somebody said they have automated docking.  Since I could never quite master that, maybe it is worth a look back in at the game.

  • New World

I played in the closed test phase for Amazon’s new game last year.  It had its merits.  It was kind of interesting.  I just don’t know that it really grabbed me all that much.

I Should Make Time

But if history is any indicator, I likely won’t.

  • Project: Gorgon

I keep thinking I should go play, but it is always a few places down the list.  You find the time to do the things you really want to do, so that I have not found the time must mean I don’t really want to play I guess.

  • Grim Dawn

I should dedicate a month to just getting into this.  I dipped my toes into it previously, but didn’t get that far in.

  • Something Else from Steam

My list of unplayed, or underplayed, games in my Steam library is annoyingly long.  It weighs upon me if I stare at it too long.

Something New?

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you’re probably of the opinion that new isn’t really my thing.  And it would be difficult to argue with that, though I would point out that a lot of “new” seems synonymous with “the same old stuff we’ve seen before.”  I think the only “new” I saw last year was the auto battler genre.

Still, I live in hope.  Maybe there will be something new in 2020 that will catch my eye.

2020 and Predictions for a New Year

I have to say that the brightest point about the new year is that we have now moved into a decade that should be easily referred to.  Gone are the “teens” or whatever we called the last ten years, so bring on “the twenties!”  Whether they are “roaring,” “soaring,” or simply “boring” remains to be seen.  (And yes, it is a new decade. It has been proven beyond doubt.)

And, as happens every year, it is now time for me to expose my ignorance and nonsensical notions by attempting some predictions about what may come to pass in this fresh new year.

The history of this ritual is documented.  You can go back and see just how often I am wrong, which ranges between “almost always” and “damn near always.”

As always, each prediction is worth ten points, with partial credit available.  And, just because it comes up now and then, I will remind people that predictions are not wishes.  What I think will happen and what I want to happen are generally pretty different.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

Scoring

That gives me 230 possible points from the core questions, plus the extra credit bonus questions.  Now I just have to sit tight and wait for eleven and a half months to see what comes to pass.

Looking Back at 2019 Highs and Lows

What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Here we are again, sitting at the end of another calendar year.  And not just that, but at the end of a decade as well, if we’re going to collect our arbitrary eras of time.  Reality doesn’t care about the calendar, but humans like to put things in nice neat boxes.

As has become the routine every year, I spend a bit of time writing out some of the highs and lows of the year.  This is not at all an inclusive or an exhaustive list of things good and ill that came to pass in 2019.  I inevitably look back at these posts and come up with a dozen more things I could have listed.  Rather, this is more of a stream of consciousness vomit of words into the text editor.  As such, don’t expect to find any links to whatever I bring up.  But you can ask in the comments I suppose.

The only links you get are back to past iterations of this post from previous years.

I think the major change this year is that I decided each bullet point needed to be a complete sentence with punctuation.  That probably means they aren’t really bullet points, but I don’t care.

One thing I will note is that going through some of the older posts… and I now have a full decade streak running from 2010 through 2019… is how much my focus has narrowed.  My ability to care about a wide range of games and genres and technologies has decreased noticeably as the years have dragged on.  I suspect that this is a function of age as much as anything else.  But this means that, over time, the list of categories has decreased and the number of titles I feel inclined to mention has grown smaller.  Still, I will go on about some of the expected standards from the blog.

Blizzard

Highs

  • The Warcraft 25th anniversary and WoW 15th anniversary were highlights.
  • Rise of Azshara update finally gave us the flying unlock for Battle for Azeroth.  That was enough to get a few people back.
  • WoW Classic comes alive and succeeds beyond at least Blizzard’s expectations, picking up the slack for the faltering Battle for Azeroth expansion.
  • Personally WoW Classic was an excellent return to a simpler time in Azeroth.
  • A working version of Diablo in conjunction with GoG.com!
  • Diablo IV announced!
  • Overwatch 2 announced!  It will have a PvE story campaign and will overlap functionality with Overwatch.
  • The next WoW expansion, Shadowlands was announced.
  • More decks and a new game mode for Hearthstone.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged closer to release, and it looks really good.
  • StarCraft Cartooned was pretty funny.  Worth my $10.
  • The promise of more devs for WoW and WoW Classic.

Lows

  • 2019 was a strong reminder that Blizzard is just a company and not a special magic factory or your best friend or an organization that cares a single whit about you.  Blizz is just EA dialed back to maybe 8.  That doesn’t mean you should be mean to people who work there (please don’t be that person), just that you should set your expectations accordingly.
  • The Blitzchung Hong Kong fiasco put a shadow over the whole company right before BlizzCon.
  • Blizzard’s sanctions against Blitzchung, their slow response, their corporate speak, and the lack of clarity as to what J. Allen Brack was actually apologizing for all worked against Blizz.  The only bright point for Blizz in all of this was probably that most of its customers didn’t give a shit.
  • Battle for Azeroth just wasn’t thrilling people.  This is a problem when you have a lot of people to please and you only push an expansion out every other year.
  • Took Blizz a while to get Darkmoon Faire trade skill quests working right with the BfA tradeskill revamp.  Another case of one hand not paying any mind to the other I bet.
  • Blizz wildly underestimated WoW Classic popularity, having to nearly triple the number of servers they started with, then doubling the capacity of the servers just to soak up all those wanting to play.
  • WoW Classic has some odd performance issues.  It is mostly crisp, but crossing zones always has a little hiccup and at times actions fall behind the UI and you’re left hanging while the game catches up.  Maybe that was in vanilla too and I’ve just forgotten.
  • WoW Classic population balance… lots of free character transfer offers, but not sure if they did the trick.
  • Then there was UKDillahs and their DDoS attack on WoW Classic.
  • WoW Classic can’t carry the load forever and there has been no indication that Blizz “gets” the whole nostalgia thing beyond a superficial level.
  • WoW Classic PvP servers once honor was introduced.
  • Paid character transfers for WoW Classic show up now that honor has made life miserable on some PvP realms.
  • The level squish plan coming with Shadowlands if rife with the possibility of problems.
  • Diablo IV is still a long, long way away.  We’ll be getting updates about it for a couple more BlizzCon cycles before it goes live.
  • No Diablo II remaster yet and the original Diablo II devs say it will never happen… though they throw shade at everything Blizz does with the franchise they created.
  • Is Overwatch 2 a dessert topping or a floor wax?  It is billed as a new game, looks like an expansion, and feels a lot like something that should have been part of the original.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged was supposed to launch in 2019.  Only made it to closed beta so far, and only for those who pre-ordered.  The launch should be in January.  We shall see.
  • StarCraft II?  Helloooo?
  • The usual amount of missed opportunities due to Blizzard being both slow and cautious and having grown to be even more lumbering due to its size.
  • Layoffs announced in the breath after celebrating their best financial performance ever.
  • Blizzard margins were way down mid-year, which is never a good look for a public company as Wall Street obsesses about margins.
  • Not a single new game out of the company in how many years now?

Daybreak

Highs

  • EverQuest turns 20!
  • Lots of good EverQuest news about the viability of the franchise.
  • EverQuest II turns 15!
  • Both Norrath games got a new expansion.  The future seems bright for fans.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II special rules servers have helped keep the Norrath franchise alive.
  • Managed to find time to play and enjoy both EverQuest and EverQuest II this year.
  • The EverQuest Show arrives dedicated to covering EverQuest, something I have long wished for.
  • DC Universe Online remains hardy, gets updates.
  • DC Universe Online even got a version on the Nintendo Switch!  No idea how it is doing there, but that they thought it was worth the effort says something.
  • Daybreak launched a new title, PlanetSide Arena!
  • Plans for a PlanetSide 3 announced!

Lows

  • Layoffs.
  • Signs of a possible company break up or sale, with new names being registered and new social media accounts.
  • Daybreak has four viable games: EverQuest, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and PlanetSide 2… and I won’t swear to that last one… the youngest of which is seven years old.
  • EverQuest franchise is a cow and Daybreak is content to milk it.  Same for DC Universe Online.
  • Exec Producer says there could be another EverQuest game someday under the right circumstances, which leads me to believe there won’t ever be a new EverQuest game so long as current Daybreak management are running the show.
  • EverQuest special rules servers tend to work best in one flavor despite different variations.
  • EverQuest II special rules servers do not have the same appeal as EverQuest flavors.
  • EverQuest II seems to be back in the performance issues zone.  When playing there are is a lot of hesitation and delay when using spells or combat skills.  This is more so in group play, like the dragon events, but I see it even in solo instances.
  • The EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin, is… odd.  That may not be bad.  There may be things going on here the industry ought to look at.  But for a company that brings out an expansion annually in order to cater to its core audience, rocking the boat like this is a risk.
  • The EverQuest Show went quiet after a few months.  I hope it isn’t gone for good.
  • No more Player Studio.  SOE/Daybreak were leaders with that, but had to fold up shop.
  • Sorry about that currency exploit which apparently inflated the hell out of the economy in DCUO.  Daybreak had to apply a “fix tax” that basically took everything above 25 billion from anybody’s account.
  • Z1 Battle Royale handed back to Daybreak when NantWorks couldn’t make it work.
  • H1Z1 neglected and mis-handled on the PS4, while the returning PC prodigal son… was also neglected and mis-handled.
  • PlanetSide Arena, a battle royale based on PlanetSide 2 strikes very few as new in any way.  Overwatch 2 has better claim to being new to my mind.
  • PlanetSide Arena failed to launch in February, re-targeted to “summer” to include PlayStation 4 version as well, after which Daybreak goes into its usual silent mode for six months.
  • PlanetSide Arena goes early access on PC only in September (technically just before the end of summer on the calendar) only to be roundly scorned by the dwindling PlanetSide 2 community.  Steam numbers quickly go so low that the game is clearly not viable.
  • PlanetSide Arena gets shut down… would writing just PlanetSide Arena have been enough?
  • Plans to revitalize PlanetSide 2 appear to be to based on… something vague they can’t tell us about.  That generally means they don’t know.  We’ll find out in 2020.
  • PlanetSide 3 plans were to build off of PlanetSide Arena… which is now kaput.  So what happens now?
  • PlanetSide and H1Z1 franchises prove that being a cow and getting milked is still better than some other options.
  • Does Jason Epstein still own this mess?

CCP

Highs

  • Triglavian ships for everybody!
  • Triglavian invasions for most everybody!
  • Skill points for everybody!
  • Really a lot of good, solid, quality of life fixes in the game.  They may be small, but they matter.
  • Moratorium on devs playing EVE Online openly has been lifted after more than a decade.
  • CCP working on the ISK faucet problem seriously, and actually having an impact.
  • War Dec changes finally putting some sort of cap on that scourge of high sec.
  • Some progress on Upwell structure issues like time zone tanking and low powered structure spam.
  • Still some wars in null sec, with TEST and Fraternity battling and the Imperium going north to drive PanFam out of Tribute.
  • CCP said to have gotten lots of good, actionable data from summer experiments.
  • EVE Fanfest World Tour brought official EVE Online events to many people.
  • EVE Vegas and the Permaband performance were excellent.
  • EVE media seems pretty strong on the streaming front.  Lots of streamers and streaming shows covering New Eden.
  • Team Talos created to tackle what are essentially balance issues!
  • Katia Sai making it to all the systems in New Eden without losing a ship and getting wide recognition for the feat, including a monument in game and a Guinness Records achievement.
  • A whole range of new and colorful ships SKINs arrived as the year closed out.
  • EVE Aether Wars tech demo promised better tech infrastructure for online games of the future.
  • Finally progressing towards another live product with EVE Echoes.

Lows

  • CCP bans CSM member Brisc Rubal for cheating… and then does their investigation only to end up reinstating him and apologizing.  The phrase “measure twice, cut once” springs to mind.
  • The CSM remains a bastion of null sec for the same old reasons.  But an elected CSM will always be as such.
  • CCP gets lots of new players, then loses almost all of them in the first week.  Half of people who register don’t end up even logging in.
  • There comes a point where “give away more skill points” might not be the right answer.
  • What Alliance Tournament?
  • Entosis mechanics remain a barrier to sov warfare in null sec.  We shoot structures to fight and only take space when one side decides to pack up and leave.
  • Capital meta still oppresses subcap game play in null sec.  Form battleships and you get supers dropped on you.
  • The “summer experiments,” Hurricane Hilmar and the Chaos, era kills off a lot of null sec and economic activity.  Velocity of PLEX plummets.
  • Imperium campaign in Tribute was brought up short by the completely unfun and unrewarding Drifter attacks.  Player war killed by dubious event.
  • Their own analysis showed that the blackout hit the poor hard and was barely noticed by the rich.  Just like real world economics!
  • HyperNet Relay – Gambling returns to New Eden.  But CCP and the CSM seem quite enthusiastic about a mechanism where almost everybody involved loses their money.
  • Cyno changes meant an end to solo capital play unless you had the budget to pay half a billion for every cyno.
  • No more EVE Vegas.  Its not that I don’t like San Diego.  It is a nice place.  My sister lives there.  But if you’re going to to keep it in the western US, LA is the clear winner (Disneyland for the family) and Seattle is the place different enough to be a runner up.
  • CCP Guard and CCP Falcon, two staples of the community team, left CCP.
  • Written media about EVE Online continues its decline.  Crossing Zebras closed down, New Eden Register faded, EVE News 24 pretty much just reposts dev blogs and press releases, and even INN has become sporadic in its coverage of New Eden.  Streams and videos are great, but I miss the search and index functionality that comes with the written word.  But then blogs are pretty fringe now as well.  The cool kids don’t write.
  • There was a long, dry spell of almost no new ship SKINs for much of the year.
  • EVE Aether Wars is tech that will never make it into EVE Online at this point and the record attempts as part of the tests fell so far short of goals as to be embarrassing after three tries.
  • That Starter Pack deal that gave anybody who bought it a one time million skill point boost for $10 is still there, still available for anybody to buy.  I guess CCP decided they could weather out our 15 minutes of outrage… and it looks like they were right.
  • CCP’s plans for EVE Online are all tactical, which isn’t all bad, since the game needs that, but there is no long term vision of aspirational feature on the horizon.
  • Seriously, when CCP Seagull mentioned player made star gates way back when, was anybody thinking “oh, that will just be the replacement for jump bridges?”  Because I sure thought it meant something more expansive.
  • That chart from Hilmar that seemed to say that the goal of the new player path culminated in anxiety and boredom.  It is in the CSM minutes and it betrays some blurry thinking.
  • Still a lot of goofy, old, out of date, need revision mechanics in the game.
  • Perhaps the first year where I did feel like EVE Online was dying.
  • I am not a fan of EVE Echoes.  It is too complicated to be a mobile game yet too simplified to be EVE Online for me.

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • LOTRO got another expansion with Minas Morgul!
  • LOTRO Legendary server carries on with progression.
  • SSG says they have many years of additional content they could add to LOTRO.
  • An admission that the awful legendary weapons system might need some work.
  • DDO got… some things.  I seem to remember that.

Lows

  • The Minas Morgul expansion is hidden behind the Mordor expansion, which stopped me cold.
  • I honestly think the claims about future content are hubris in the extreme.  Content sells, but the ring was destroyed in the last expansion.  How many “we’re still cleaning up Middle-earth” expansions can they get away with?  Unless they’re going to go the time travel route.  Please no.
  • SSG attempting to cash shop their way out of the awful legendary weapon system that has been a menace following the game since Mines of Moria, like a tedious and time consuming Gollum.  Don’t like legendary weapons?  Just give us $50 and to unlock everything.
  • As I have said before, the company depends on milking their two titles for their ongoing survival.  Any serious misstep could derail the whole thing.
  • Still not clear who owns the company and what the real connection is with Daybreak and whether or not that connection should worry us given the tenuous nature of Daybreak’s future.

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD carries on, has added a new class to the options.  Not bad for a 26 year old game.
  • The Minecraft Village & Pillage update was pretty big, with a lot of great additions to the game.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order, in which it seems like EA somehow managed to make a decent Star Wars game that wasn’t laden with microtransactions, loot boxes, or other heinous cash grabs.  It is like they know what they’re doing wrong, but do it anyway.
  • Google Stadia promised a whole lot of stuff.
  • Auto Battler/Auto Chess gave us a new game mode that was some fun, leading to Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords.
  • The Switch gets a real Pokemon core RPG title in Pokemon Sword & Shield and it sells like crazy, proving once again the strength of the franchise.
  • The Epic Game Store gave Steam some competition, which it really needs.
  • Steam still carried on, even managing to get EA and Microsoft to put their games on the Steam store again.
  • Microsoft launched Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Steam.
  • Niantic has kept Pokemon Go lively by unlocking new Pokemon and adding new features.
  • Niantic even let me change teams in Pokemon Go. It cost a thousand coins, but was worth it.
  • Yathzee Crowshaw’s Dev Diary series on YouTube where he is making 12 Games in 12 Months has been great so far.  Learn about the primary game play loop!

Lows

  • The loss of Brad McQuaid.
  • Shroud of the Avatar getting handed off to an unknown company was a new low point for the game.
  • Not sure the downsides of Google Stadia… like having to buy any game you want to play there again if you already own it… will make the upsides worth it, even if Google manages to fulfill its promises.
  • I don’t even care about Fallout 76 and it annoys me.  Stop being bad!
  • The Epic Game Store lost many fans when it paid devs to sign exclusives that required them to pull already existing pre-order from Steam.
  • Most people are just going to stick to Steam no matter what.
  • Steam sales, summer, winter, and in between, just don’t have the power they once did.  I’ve been saying that for years now, but sales continue to have less impact on me and sale prices are the not-so-new normal at this point.
  • Great moment during the summer sale when Steam managed to get lots of people to purge their wishlists due to being unclear how you might win a game from it.  Lots of dev panic as they saw their games getting dropped and then Valve trying to explain their mistake.
  • Steam continues to have to revise their policy of allowing any game.  They approved a game called Rape Day, then removed it after outrage.  More recently they deleted a whole range of crap… which should be a high, but that they still won’t admit they should have standards makes this a low.
  • Unless you have a current machine, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition might not run very well on your system.  Also, do I want to buy that game for the third time? (Original, HD, and now DI versions.)
  • The last few levels before 40 in Pokemon Go are a drag with little in the way of rewards.  Also, any event that requires me to make multiple excellent curve ball throws is taxing to my patience.  Also also… damned Sinnoh stones.
  • Cryptic killed their player studio stuff in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter.  User created content is apparently more trouble than it is worth.
  • ArenaNet layoffs and the departure of people like Mike O’Brien cannot mean good new long term for Guild Wars 2 fans.
  • Fallen Earth went dark, but plans to come back.  We shall see.
  • Industry cannot stop making lockboxes seem bad, while trying to explain them away as “surprise mechanics” just makes them look like liars.  This is how you get your industry regulated.
  • GameStop is as good as dead now.  You may not love GameStop, but it being there and able to sell me some obscure bit of console hardware no longer made by the OEM was handy at times.
  • More local to me, electronics chain Fry’s, once the Silicon Valley go-to place for nearly everything nerd, looks to be on its death bed as well.
  • Along with the used market, digital is also killing off the rental market.  Redbox said nuts to that and shut theirs down.  GameFly probably won’t be long for this world.
  • Writing this section proves more so every year that I rarely play anything new.  I like my old games.
  • I’m not even good at keeping up with MMOs anymore.  I am not sure I could string together three relevant sentences about games like ESO, FFXIV, SWTOR, or any of the other still viable, still chugging along staples of the genre.

 

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Watched some good shows like The Boys, Succession, The Madalorian, Watchmen, Umbrella Academy, and Russian Doll along with new seasons of The Expanse, Rick & Morty, The Good Place, and The Crown.
  • Baby Yoda deserves a special mention.
  • Good movies as well, like The Irishman, Detective Pikachu, The Dead Don’t Die, Toy Story 4, Dowton Abby, Ford v Ferrari, and Jojo Rabbit.  I was happy with all of those.
  • Working towards cord cutting with a Roku Streaming Stick and services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.
  • On YouTube Honest Trailers, How it Should Have Ended, and a few other channels continue to deliver joy for me.
  • Despite complaints, I find Twitter to be a good source of news and humor.  It has remained the best social media option for me, though I am also very selective as to whom I follow.
  • For all the cries that “Facebook kills democracy” and the like, I’ve yet to see anybody I know post or comment on something politically where I couldn’t have guessed where they stood in advance.  Nobody is swayed by retweeting memes or political ads as everybody makes up their mind first then cherry picks facts to support their point of view.  Facebook just made this more obvious.

Lows

  • No real “great” movies or TV shows however.  That might just be me, but nothing this year made me want to go back and watch it again.
  • Not feeling it for the final season of BoJack Horseman.  They seem to be setting him up for a huge fall just to make sure the series is done.
  • The main high point of Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker is that at least we’re done with that for a while.  I’ll stack rank the series again at some point, but don’t expect episode IX to be near the top.  It mostly felt like wasted potential.
  • Profusion of new specialty video streaming services.  I am tapped out after having to get Disney+ because my wife said we needed Baby Yoda.
  • Cannot really cord cut because the cable company remains the only high speed internet option in my neighborhood and 100 MBit internet alone costs more than 100 MBit plus basic cable.
  • Also cannot cord cut because Hulu “live TV” is over a minute delayed for live sports, and my wife texts her friends about hockey and cannot stand to hear about goals or penalties that haven’t hit our TV yest.
  • Not enough time/energy to go see a lot of movies in the theater, and and many are getting hidden away on some streaming service I won’t be subscribing to.  I didn’t see Avengers: End Game until we got Disney+.
  • Love binge watching shows, but getting all the episodes at once just means waiting longer until the next season becomes available.  But I won’t stop.
  • That drip feed of weekly episode releases is tough to deal with now… but it does keep everybody on the same page and builds up a sense of fan engagement for some shows.  Just stop being in such a hurry to live post all the spoilers as the episode airs.  Some of watch the next day.
  • Horrible Sonic the Hedgehog render for movie gets huge fan backlash, forcing studio to rework the model, leading to the company doing that work getting fired for not going into constant crunch mode to do the fix.
  • Twitter redoing its web interface was an abomination.  I was very happy when a browser plugin showed up to return it to its old format.  But I freak out a bit every time I see the new UI on somebody’s machine.
  • People on Twitter are still horrible.  There needs to be some sort of reminder that the person you’re trashing is a real human being and maybe some sort of five minute delay on posting with a Win10 level “are you sure you want to post that?” and “really, last warning, do you really want to say this publicly and have it recorded for all posterity?” before a tweet goes live.
  • The lack of a typo edit feature in Twitter is just killing me.
  • Facebook is still annoying to look at even if it isn’t killing democracy.
  • The demise of MAD Magazine, staple of my adolescence.  There was much there that made me the cynic I am today.
  • Elementary wrapped up in a semi-satisfying way I guess with a half season finale.  But the previous season felt like they were struggling for a thread, so maybe it ran too long.
  • The end of Game of Thrones… as lots of people have noted… felt rushed and rather half-assed.
  • Also, generally speaking, in a world of LED TVs please stop doing so many scenes of people in black, with dark gear, in unlit rooms, on dark moonless nights.  If you create video that is pretty much unviewable on default settings you suck.
  • Google+ went away, though admittedly few were using it… much fewer than were still using Google Reader when they killed that.

The Blog, Blogging, and things more Personal

Highs

  • The blog carried on for another year.  That makes 13 years in total.
  • Still managed to crank out a prestigious amount of posts and words.
  • Blaugust had a reasonable turnout this year, and the Discord channel for it remained active after it ended. (Unlike last year, when there were like three of us still there afterwards.)
  • MMO Fallout announced it was shutting down… then opened back up to keep covering neglected bits of the MMO market niche.
  • The old instance group back together again in WoW Classic!
  • We got a new oven and I am surprised at how much of a difference it made.  Consistent, even, accurate heat means the directions on the box for most everything I cook are correct.  My wife, who actually cooks real food, likes it too.
  • My wife and I have successfully raised child to legal adult age.  Said child has already been accepted to several universities.  Op success!

Lows

  • Do people still read blogs?  Blog traffic continues to drop off.
  • I remind myself that quantity does not equal quality.
  • More worrying, my own desire to write yet another post about something I’ve probably covered previously feels like it is slipping.
  • The instance group is all older and less able to stay up past our bed times.  Earl being in Japan also makes group times a bit odd.
  • Having adult offspring doesn’t make you feel any younger.  Oh, and now to pay for that university education without incurring crippling debt for anybody.  Welcome to America.
  • What are we going to do when the child, the center of our existence for almost 20 years if you count getting everything ready, leaves the nest for college?  I kind of envy my parents for having kids so young.  When I left home my dad was the same age I was when my daughter was born.  Then again, my parents being young meant that my main parenting lesson from them was “Don’t do what they did if I can avoid it.”
  • Also, everything else in Silicon Valley is so freaking expensive.  If I am able to retire some day, we will have to move in order to afford it.  I hear Idaho is… nice.
  • In a complex world our simian brains fixate on simple answers, often “burn it down and rebuild it from scratch” without any care for the impact.  Humans are dumb when they generalize, freeze up when they get all the details, and I don’t know how to fix that.  It is frustrating no serious public discussion of any issue seems possible.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t as bad as all that.  But I am sure next year will try to prove me wrong.  It is a leap year, which means not only is there another full day for the world to get into trouble, but there is also another summer Olympics to get through.  And there is a presidential election too.  But I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Pilgrimage

From a notebook found in the Qeynos library, author unknown:

I set out from the north gates of the city.  I had sailed there when I had heard the news.  I chose to walk, to see the lands, to feel the vast spread of the Karanas, and even after so much time had passed it still felt both familiar and new.

I followed the same path that spawned so many adventures and saw so many travelers over the years, passing small settlements and camps.

The spires still stood, and the bridges were in good repair and guarded still.  Qeynos may be a backwater now, but its power is not completely spent.

Across the bridge and into the eastern range of Karana I went, and to a small settlement where I found what I sought.

The marker sat there, just as I had been told, his flaming sword now permanently sheathed in the rock that marks his passing.  And I sat a while and thought of all of his works and deeds and adventures we had shared in realms now forgotten.

Aradune Mithara – Outrider of Karana

Perhaps I wept a bit, lost in thought there in a quiet corner of Norrath.  Time passed and day turned into night and back into day as I sat.  There are so many memories and his labors were great.  But now he is at rest.

And he will be forever part of his creation, the land he toiled to bring to life for so many.