Category Archives: Guild Wars 2

Pushing into the Harathi Hinterlands

My time with Guild Wars 2 continues as the game of chasing objectives on the map gets me to log in for a bit every day.

That game

My time spent per session slipped some over the last week or so by my reckoning.  I did manage to wrap up the Glendarran Fields zone.

All boxes checked off

There is something of a pattern to finishing off a zone which includes the inevitable vista that I have to Google in order to figure out how to access it.

From Glendarran Fields it was into the Hirathi Hinterlands, featuring more of the same objectives and the now normal herds of centaurs.

A couple of people have suggested other zones to avoid the centaurs, but I do not find them to be objectionable in any way.  At worst, fighting them is no worse than fighting goblins or orc or gnolls or whatever bad guy stand-in you care to choose.  Also, gotta avenge my sister.  Also, they do seem a bit comic when examined closely.  I keep wondering how they pick things up when they drop them.  The upright humanoid torso at the front of their otherwise equine bodies don’t seem to have the reach.

In the Hirathi Hinterlands I made it to level 40.

Level 40 unlocks

However, the last three levels came about due to a daily reward that gave me three boosts good for one level each.  That was timely, as I had taken the wrong path in the zone and was getting in a bit over my head.  It is better to be a couple levels too high and get down-leveled in GW2.

Hitting level 40 also unlocked the next round of my personal story, this time in Lion’s Arch.  That yielded some upgrades and another level.  While there I used the opportunity to buy and collect a couple more upgrades, including a significantly better longbow.  Then I ran around and picked up some of the points of interest in the city as well.

After that it was back out to the hinterlands to lay in wait for more centaurs.

Waiting for the next wave to hit

And so it goes.  The centaur menace must be opposed.

Following the Map Through Queensdale and Kessex Hills

My return to Guild Wars 2 has started off in a somewhat stuttering and haphazard way… which might well describe my wanderings in Runes of Magic last month.  I have not been very invested nor have I sat down and played for long stretches of time.

I’m going to use this logo for every post, you watch

On the flip side of that, GW2 seems pretty well setup to accommodate that lack of commitment and short play sessions.  Basically, the map and completing all of its various points and events not only gives me direction but also ensures I have something to do.  As soon as I log into the game, there is that arrow in the upper right corner pointing me at something.

Hey, go there!

Sometimes the arrow even points me to a scout who fills in areas of the map for me.

Here is a new place to go and something to do

This mechanic lacks the directness of quests, but in a world mostly lacking in what we might consider traditional quests, the map and its events and points of interest fill in the gap, at least for somebody who tends to be as goal oriented as I am.  So at times I just log in and follow that little pointer around the map, doing events and slaying things as I come across them.

Usually it involved centaurs.  Centaurs are into everything out in the human starter zone.

They’re even stealing our booze now!

And then as I wander about the map, going where ever the pointer tells me, I will hit a significant level, in this case 20 and the personal story pops up as a consequence.

Woo hoo, a round number! I get rings… and a story.

Big deal.  People… well, Bhagpuss… have said I can just skip the whole personal story thing.  The problem is that the personal story takes over the pointer of destiny in the upper right hand corner.  The arrow of whim is gone, replaced by a nagging reminder with only one destination.

Yes, yes, I know…

I could just use the map itself to wander around.  The points are marked, and when they are not it is usually because they are in an area of the map I haven’t been through yet… something that is obvious when looking at the map… so just going there will reveal them.  But I wanted my pointer back, so I schlepped around doing the personal story, as I had done after level 10, in order to get that out of the way.

That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a different, and perhaps more traditional, more quest-like set of things to do.  There were some nice prizes at the end, including a mastery point which even the game says I don’t need to worry about until level 80, which is a long way off.

Mastery point now for mastery later

I was happy with that and happier still to be back to my now standard method of operation.  But the personal story had one more trick to play.  Upon leaving the instance it dumped me out in the middle of two events which succeeded in getting me killed almost immediately.

Oh not that spider again…

The Toxic Spider Queen and falling from high places are my two leading causes of death so far in Tyria.  I have generally been pretty successful with the struggle mechanic that lets you come back from mortal injury, but that just doesn’t work when the damn spider is camped right on top of you.

Once I recovered from that I went back about my wanderings, following the pointer this way and that until I found that I had finished things up and now had two complete zones under my belt… for specific definitions of complete I suppose.

Two zones down, many to go

As noted, this works for the task oriented completionist in me.  And the pace of leveling seemed to be just about in tune with this method.  While I tend to look askance at auto-leveling systems, the GW2 version seems to work pretty well at this point.  In my last attempt at the game, I found myself not keeping up with the content so advancing to the next zone meant either being in over my head in the new content or re-doing the old to level up.

This time around I seemed to have been about right where ever I have gone.  Being a level or two up and having the game down-level me is better than being too many levels down to start with.

So two zones down, many more to go.

The uncovered chunk so far

And my friend the pointer was nice enough to direct me to my next destination.

Go here and stuff… also, damn centaurs

Along the way I had a few discoveries of quality of life improvements.  The first was suggested in the comments on last week’s post by Orthom, where he pointed out that I could send crafting materials off to storage from anywhere via an option in my inventory window.

The magic option

I was aware of the crafting storage, but had only deposited stuff there while at a crafting station.  That went a long way towards helping inventory management.

The second was a bit silly.  I spent a bunch of time walking back and forth in the game because I did not know that teleporting between waypoints for a bit of coin was a thing.

I can just go there for some copper?

So that made life a little easier.  I just wish I had discovered that when I was doing the level 10 personal story line, as that involved quite a bit of running back and forth.

And, finally, I discovered dyes in the game, so changed up my cosmetic armor set to be more ranger-ish in color scheme.

Green on green with gold and gray to off-set

And so it goes.  I am off into the third zone and level 30 and the accompanying personal story looms.

In Which I Return to Tyria

I was sitting around this past weekend staring at my computer, willing it to tell me what to play.  I wanted to play something, get lost in some game away from the real world, but the destination just wasn’t coming to me.

As noted, Runes of Magic lost my attention when my bag rental expired, causing an immediate inventory management crisis.  There wasn’t an op going in EVE Online and I wasn’t in the mood to rat or mine or do what amounted to more inventory management.

I fiddled with Steam for a bit and Swarm Simulator, but wasn’t really feeling it.  I was tempted for a bit to re-up for Daybreak All Access and jump on to the Agnarr server in EverQuest just to run around again. However, I know how that ends, with me not playing after a few days unless I find a regular group to run with.  Plus it was after dark and spending money online after dark is almost always a mistake.

I’d done a bit of World of Tanks recently, but that wasn’t grabbing me and I wasn’t up for the long patch process that launching War Thunder would no doubt entail.

I considered Elder Scrolls Online for a bit, they having sent me an email recently about how to solo through the game.  That seemed like something aimed at me, but that meant spending money on a game I wasn’t all that interested in outside of the fact that they sent me that email.

I was thinking about just pottering around in Minecraft, but went back to the list of installed games.

Down the list I passed Guild Wars 2.  I wasn’t even sure I remembered my account name, much less the password, but I launched it to see how long it would take to patch up.  I could keep looking while that worked away.

Still a damn fine logo

If you look at the Categories drop down on the side bar, you’ll see I made an entry for Guild Wars 2, which is about as firm a commitment as I make to a game ’round these parts.  There are even 37 posts listed under that category.  That doesn’t come close to the twelve hundred or so EVE Online posts, and is a mere tithe of even my Lord of the Rings Online posts.  37 puts it more in line with titles I take note of but haven’t really played all that much, such as Dungeons & Dragons Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, or the late Need for Speed: World.

And even those post are merely about the game… usually me predicting that NCsoft will make ArenaNet put out an expansion due to declining revenues… rather than about playing the game.

I own the base game, which isn’t saying much since that has been available free since the Heart of Thorns expansion.  But I paid for my copy… which I guess says something.  Sucker, maybe?  Because in the almost five years since GW2 launched I have three posts from about four years ago that involve me actually in game and playing.

And yet there it was, still installed after all this time, requiring no cash outlay and with nothing else was calling to me.  So I dug out the login credential and once the patch process was complete… it zipped by pretty fast… I clicked on “play” and off I went.

I had two characters already created, both of the pseudo-human Norn race, one level 16 and one level 2.  Clearly I did not get far.  But time has moved on, I’ve changed, the world has changed, and I assumed the game probably had as well.  Still, I decided not to reinforce failure and rolled up a new character.

I figured that part of the problem with my past run might have been the race/class/zone combo, so I opted to change that up a bit.  Rather than a Norn melee class I went for a human ranger.  Ranger is never the wrong choice, is it?

I was tempted by the idea of ranged attacks and a pet, being swayed by images of the hunter class in WoW.  Having gone that route I entered the game.

Of course, I’ve forgotten most of what I ever knew about GW2, and what I knew was pretty minimal to start with.  For example, I realized after I was in the game that I couldn’t recall if I had picked a server or had even been offered a choice  Character creation seemed to be mostly about appearance and back story.  I’m a middle-class ranger whose sister ran off with her centaur boyfriend or something.  Also I have a pet bear.

The bear and I fighting a bear with another bear in the background

Later, at the character select screen, I noticed that I was tagged as being on the Henge of Denravi server, but could choose whatever world I wanted to play on.

So long as there isn’t a queue to log in, I am not sure that matters.  This is likely to be a solo affair.  But at least I think I knew what to say if somebody asks.

On entering the game I was presented with a row of wiggling icons in the lower right corner over the mini-map.  The first wanted me to please buy the Heart of Thorns expansion.  Given that my previous run into the game stopped at level 16, that seemed like a premature ask.

There was also some sort of “hey, you’re back!” reward for me, a cosmetic outfit which I put on because the starting armor included a quilted jacket that made me look like a zek from the gulag.  I chose the shiny outfit to hide that.

All shiny and ready for whatever

There was also a daily reward… because we won’t play MMOs unless we are rewarded for logging in every single day.  I’m not quite sure what I got from that daily, but I managed to make the prompt go away.

Then it was out into Queensland, the starting area for humans.  Like much of what I have seen of GW2, it was very pretty… and infested with centaurs.  I can see why my sister ended up running with that crowd, they seem to be everywhere.

My initial run at combat seemed to go as expected.  I shot the longbow I was wielding at something… a centaur most likely… then the bear would run out and grab aggro and keep the target at range while I pelted it with arrows until its health bar ran down.  Just what I wanted.  So off I went.

Have you seen my sister? Also, die!

I did see some things that were new… new to me, or forgotten by me so as to seem new… like a grand pop-up every time I made a level.

Level Three! Already?

I guess they want people to know what levels mean to them.  And I got a bag with that level, which was good because I was already sitting on a lot of drops and inventory management was looming already.

They also give you a preview of rewards to come, no doubt to entice you to keep leveling up.

Also a home version of the game and some Rice-a-roni, the San Francisco treat!

There is also the nice little arrow in the upper right that points to places of interest along with the map itself that also makes an effort to get you going in a direction where you might find some adventure.

So here I am in Guild Wars 2.  It might be a flavor of the month, the way Runes of Magic was in May.  We shall see.  I only have to get past level 16 to beat my past effort.

2017 – Predictions for Another New Year

Has 2016 stopped looking our way yet?  Yes?  Good.

Glad to be done with that, because a new year is like a new roll of the dice right?  Completely independent of the last year/roll?  Aren’t they?

My daughter even drew me a brand new pic for a brand new year.

kidpixtigerredraw2017

That is her re-draw of a picture she did in 2009 to celebrate getting her first mount in World of Warcraft.  Her talent has grown over the years.

Anyway, here we are again at the arbitrary point in time where we declare a “new” year and start yet another roam around the star we call the sun.  And with that, I will carry on my own minor tradition of greeting the new year by attempting to foresee what may come to pass.

Previous runs at this sort of thing:

Given past low scores I persist in making predictions.  So here is my list for 2017.  All predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit possible.  And, just a reminder, these are predictions and not wishes.  I am not rooting for many of these things to come to pass, it is rather that I fear they will.  A list of my actual wishes would look different and probably be even less likely to happen.  Such is life.

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

10 – And Access for All LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

18 – Forsaken AvatarShroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

19 – Not ShippingCamelot Unchained, Crowfall, Pantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

So those are my guesses at the new year.  At ten points each, that is a possible of 200 total, with an extra ten extra credit points for the wild guess of the year.  I will be back in eleven and a half months to score that, and if I do better than 40% it will be yet another Festivus miracle.

Others forecasting events of 2017:

 

Friday Bullet Points – Numbers, Pokemon, and Phishing

Another Friday morning when I have a half a dozen almost done posts in my drafts folder, but no real drive to finish any of them.  So time for some bullet points.

Such Super Data

I do enjoy when SuperData Research puts out another blog post with titles ranked by revenue.  They just posted one for June.

SuperData Sez - July 2016

SuperData Sez – June 2016

Of course, I enjoy their charts for odd reasons.  They are, in their own way, very effective trolling devices.  I can already predict a SynCaine response to this.

And then there are the questions raised.  What defines an MMO?  What defines a P2P MMO? (SWTOR claims to be F2P, right?) And, finally, how the hell is FarmVille 2 even a thing?  Is Zynga still a thing?

NCsoft Numbers

NCsoft put out their Q2 2016 earlier this week.  You can find them at their investor relations site.  The PDF summary is the usual 10 pages, with everybody’s favorite chart on page 4.

NCsoft revenue by title - Q2 2016

NCsoft revenue by title – Q2 2016

The surprise of the quarter is WildStar, which revived with a more than 40% boost in revenues over Q1’s all time lows.  Of course, WildStar’s revenue number is still pretty small.  GuildWars 2 dropped by more that 6.5 times the WildStar total and still pulled in 7 times as much revenue.

The numbers are in millions of South Korean Won (KRW), which makes the WildStar total about 2 million USD for the quarter.

Meanwhile, it looks like GuildWars 2 is going to be feeling some pressure to release another box and, as always, the 1998 title Lineage rules the revenue roost for NCsoft

(Hat tip to MMO Fallout)

Pokemon Nation Championship Restrictions

The 2016 Pokemon National Championships are being held not too far from where I live… just up in San Francisco… and Nintendo has asked me not to show up.

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay – By Invite Only

Due to the limits of the venue and the popularity of the event, no outsiders or random visitors will be allowed in to view the competition.  So that is that.  Nothing can keep you from going up to SF to hang out, but if you think you’ll be seeing some sort of Pokemon competition, you had best plan on running it yourself.

Also on this front, the whole Championship series is undergoing changes for 2017 as well.

New Eden Phishing and Seabeasts

CCP has an alert out on a phishing scheme going about, with emails pretending to be from support asking players to log into their account via a dubious link.

Know your login pages

Know your login pages

So, you know, don’t do the dumb.

On the upside, CCP also announced that the Matigu Seabeast SKIN is now available in the New Eden store for a variety of Caldari hulls.

And that is about it for Friday.  The weekend approaches.

Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead

There is a game you can play with Google… well, there are probably many, but this is one of them… where you enter the name of something, followed by “is” to see what pre-filled search suggestions come up.  These results are driven by what people have searched for previously.

As I was playing this game the other night instead of doing something important, I began to notice a trend in my searches.  It seemed like Google was declaring most everything dead.

Sure, sometimes that was apt.

GSAbeVigodais

Abe Vigoda, after being reported dead by mistake on multiple occasions over the years, does indeed now sleep with the fishes, having passed earlier this year.

And sometimes the result wasn’t so spot on:

GSObamais

I’m pretty sure somebody would have mentioned if he was dead… or a mack daddy.

I decided to see if that trend held for video games on my side bar.  First on the list was, of course, EVE Online:

GSEVEis

Given that “EVE is dying…” is practically an meme at this point, that wasn’t too surprising.

Likewise, EverQuest, at 17 years of age got a similar result:

GSEQis

At least it wasn’t both “dead” and “dying” I suppose.  Of course, that last item lead me to World of Warcraft:

GSWoWis

Three of those aren’t so good, “dead,” “dying,” and “boring.”  Even EVE Online didn’t get “boring” as a top result.  That lead to a series of other titles, all of which at least got dead as a result:

GSGW2is

GSLOTROis

GSRiftis

GSWildStaris

I had a whole run there where “dead” wasn’t just a result, but the top result.  Then I started branching out from MMOs:

GSSCis

GSTF2is

I finally hit a game where “dead” wasn’t the top result, though I am not sure that was a good thing:

GSStarCis

Even Minecraft got “dead” as a result, though at least it was in fourth position, which was practically an endorsement at this point:

GSMinecraftIs

Hey, “awesome” came before “dead!”

Landmark was odd, but I think it suffers from having a generic name:

GSLandmarkis

Still, I think “dead” might be in there just for it.

Then, finally, I hit a game that wasn’t dead:

GSLOLis

League of Legends is only “dying,” not “dead.”  Also, it is “gay,” which I think says more about the demographic that is searching for things about it.  Still, it is doing better than Heroes of the Storm:

GSHotSis

“Dead,” “dying,” “bad,” and “free!”

Then at last, I hit a search where “dead” wasn’t even a result:

GSHearthis

I’m not sure Hearthstone was really winning with that draw.  I mean sure, “dead” wasn’t on the list, but the rest was hardly an endorsement.

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: