Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

Quote of the Day – Retro MMO Ideals

As for the ‘give us an old version of LOTRO’ thing – my answer is the same as always: why unfix all those bugs? You think it was perfect back then, but I remember our bug queues at the time and I can assure you it was not. Thirteen years of bug-fixes just disappearing? Yikes!

-Master of Lions, LOTRO Dev team, LOTRO forums

There is in some of us, myself included, a longing for the “good old days” of a particular game.  That isn’t so hard to find when it comes to single player games.  I have enjoyed a return to Diablo II on its 20th anniversary.

Back with Cain and his tales again, basically unchanged in 20 years

But when it comes to MMORPGs, which are as much a service as a game, a service that must exist within a complex and changing ecosystem, and which host players in a shared world that is being constantly fixed and updated, it becomes problematic to reach a state where the “good old days” can be achieved.

SOE, and then Daybreak, have been playing the nostalgia card for well over a decade with EverQuest by rolling out servers where the content is restricted and unlock by expansion and where they have tinkered with the xp curve and mob difficulty.  But purists rightly argue that this doesn’t get you back to 1999 as so much has changed in the game since then.

LOTRO likewise experimented with that a couple of years back.

Even with WoW Classic, where Blizzard spent time and resources creating an experience very close to a point in 2006 gets criticism for some of the compromises they made in order to ship a product that would be viable in 2019.  It is very close to the 2006 experience, but it is not perfect.  Even I can spot a difference here and there.

Creating the exact early game experience, while maybe technically possible, does not seem practical and, in some ways, problematic.  As the quote at the top asks, do you re-introduce bugs, some of which can be quite annoying, merely to get that first day feel?  Does fixing those bugs invalidate the experience?  And how does all of that interact with current operating systems?  In the case of LOTRO I was running on Win XP when it launched, an OS that was already starting to get a bit long in the tooth and, even skipping Vista and Win 8, I am personally still two operating systems down the road.

And what is the experience true to in any case.  I’ll bring out another salty old quote:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

Heraclitus

The problem is two fold.  Due to changes in technology and the infrastructure around games, it isn’t likely you can set foot in exactly the same game you did back in 2007, or 2004, or 1999, or whenever.  Too much has changed.  If a company with all the resources that Blizzard has cannot get there without making compromises, small studios like Daybreak or Standing Stone don’t have much of a chance.

But you too have changed.  Even the forgetful, like myself, cannot be surprised anew at everything in a game.  There are too many memories of what happened before, too many blog posts, too much information on wikis and news sites to possibly be able to approach a game as you did back in the day.

The best you can hope for is a good time that in some way reminds you of how you felt back in the day, an experience that revives memories and makes you feel good.

LOTRO Outages and Compensation

While I haven’t been playing the game for a while now, I have been reading lately that the game has been having problems.

Starting around July 15the the servers were sometimes down, often for long stretches during prime play hours.  When the servers were up, chat functions were limited and reliability and connectivity wasn’t stable.  The company, Standing Stone Games… or Daybreak, depending on who you think owns them… has been reluctant to offer anything much beyond “we’re working on it” sort of answers.

It seems that something happened in their data center.  They at least confirmed that much.  It stands as another reminder that software isn’t a “solved” problem but a constantly shifting scenario where updates are pretty much regularly required for security, compatibility, and support reasons.  And updates often make new problems as they fix old ones.

This certainly wasn’t the longest outage in MMORPG history.  CCP has had their issues now and again with EVE Online.  And then there was SOE, which had its great hacking issue back in 2011 when all of their games were completely offline for almost two weeks and the PlayStation Network was down for more than three.  It was a bad time for them.  And other MMOs have broken and never recovered.  I seem to recall that being the fate for the now aptly named Fallen Earth.

But the problems seem to have been somewhat addressed over the weekend.  Chat channels are still limited, but the servers were up.  I don’t know how well they were doing, but I didn’t see any further “everything is down” reports.

So now comes the time when they work out some way to give the players some compensation.

This can be kind of a big deal.  Sony and SOE faced a class action lawsuit over their outage even after their “make good” plan.  Granted, there was more in play than just the outage, but it ended up costing Sony quite a bit, even if the players affected pretty much got squat. (In class action suits, the lawyers are generally the only winners.)

The LOTRO offer, posted in the forums, is available between now and August 31s by using the code THANKYOUGIFT in the LOTRO Store.  The code can be used once per account, so choose wisely where you redeem it.  That will get you the following.

  • Skill and Slayer Deed Boost x5
  • Enhanced XP Supply x5
  • +5000 Enhanced Reputation Supply
  • +2000 Virtue Acceleration Tome

All players can use the code, but there is still some pending compensation planned for VIP players, which means subscribers.  The information is supposed to appear in the thread linked above.

If you want the play by play coverage of the outages, Massively OP’s post about the compensation has links to the story so far.

April in Review

The Site

April is usually a big month for page views.  The Blizzard April Fools post usually gives me a boost in search engine traffic for a day or two.

Googly eyes at the hero select screen in Overwatch was the big item

August generally sees a boost in page views as well due to Blaugust.  So turning that into Blapril ought to have been a double whammy.

The Blapril commeth

And I suppose I did get a boost from the both.  Traffic was up noticeably from March, this month being the most active for page views since last September when WoW Classic traffic was driving people here.  But it was down from last April, which was down from the April before, and so on.  My peak page view date is April 1, 2013, and it has been a slow decline ever since.  Even the pandemic and stay at home orders can’t make blogs popular again.  But I persist.  If I wrote for page views I wouldn’t write how I do currently.  Sometimes it is better to quietly write what you want than to write to seek attention.

One Year Ago

April Fools, once a grand tradition at Blizzard, was pretty sparse.

Google Plus went away.

The Minecraft Village & Pillage update landed.

CCP loudly announced the removal and banning of CSM13 member Brisc Rubal.  And then in what I described as the “nightmare scenario,” CCP hedged, promising to investigate further.  And then they exonerated Brisc and restored him apologizing for all the trouble. A disastrous example of “measure once, cut twice” by CCP.  And Brisc didn’t get his reputation back.  I still see people who think he must have been guilty and somehow worked a deal or threatened to sue in order to get CCP to back down.

CCP also announced the CSM14 election timeline.  Brisc opted to stay away from that.  And the April update brought capital nerfs, especially for the Rorqual.  Hilmar was starting on something about player retention.  And CCP unveiled the Katia Sai monument in Saisio.

Actually out in space myself in EVE Online, I was flying with Liberty Squad as we visited The Spire for a fight over a Sotiyo as well as busting some other structures and setting some timers.  There was also an op from Delve to Lonetrek and another Reavers Race.

NantWorks handed H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royaleback to Daybreak, having failed to make a go of the challenge of reviving the game.

I reviewed a bit of the coverage the EverQuest 20th anniversary got.  There was also some changes to the Selo progression server, which reflected on what players wanted versus what Daybreak was offering.

I was also playing World of Warcraft, binging on pet battles and catching some new pets.  We got some news about the approaching update, which would unlock flying in Battle for Azeroth.  That promoted me to get the first part of the pathfinder achievement done.  I also got my first alt to level 120, though he hadn’t even been to Zandalar or Kul’Tiras.  Pet battles will do ya.

And I came up with a guide to criticizing games you do not like.

Five Years Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right? [Narrator: Xenuria has been in KarmaFleet since August of 2015.]

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  It recovered and went up eventually, but it took a while.  They also had a beta for the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot further back than it did.

Ten Years Ago

Video games as art?  Did we flay Roger Ebert enough over that?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet, though we did get LEGO Harry Potter.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has still not to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

In EVE Online somebody was trying to blackmail Gaff’s corp.  This was an out of game threat though.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

There was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as used to be the case.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand.  On the bright side, while it started as a tease, it ended up becoming a real thing.

Fifteen Years Ago

Guild Wars: Prophecies launched, with ArenaNet going with a “buy the box, play for free” business model for its new MMO, though they wouldn’t call it one at the time.

Twenty Years Ago

The first expansion for EverQuest, The Ruins of Kunark, launches.  We got ten more levels, new races, and a new continent to explore.

Nintendo sold its 100 millionth GameBoy/GameBoy Color.  That total eventually passes 118 million units sold, only tapering off with the arrival of the GameBoy Advance a year later.

Sony announced that the PlayStation 2, which launched the month before, was so sophisticated that the Ministry of Trade would place export controls on it as it could be used for military applications.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2020 is Centered on Overwatch
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. The Hunt Goes Live in New Eden with New Implants
  4. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary
  7. I Fly a Titan At Last
  8. CCP Launches a Surgical Strike on New Eden
  9. WoW Tokens Five Years Later
  10. CCP Quietly Starts a New Login Campaign in EVE Online
  11. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  12. My Actual First Computer vs My First Real Computer

Search Terms of the Month

“world of warcraft” “subscriptions” “2020”
[“sorry” “just” “MAUs” “now”]

is dragonvale dead
[It is dead to me]

sto game sexiest female uniforms in the game
[It is Star Trek]

eve online apparel account wide
[No. In fact, it has to be in your current station to use.\

Game Time from ManicTime

I played, or at least logged into, more games in April than in March, with the time break down looking like this:

  1. WoW Classic – 38.49%
  2. EVE Online – 25.29%
  3. World of Warcraft – 12.57%
  4. RimWorld – 8.91%
  5. EverQuest – 7.45%
  6. Pokemon Sword – 4.89%
  7. EverQuest II – 1.98%
  8. LOTRO – 0.42%

WoW Classic remained the top choice, though not by the long margin it was last month.  I go into the reasons below, but overall I spent less time playing games in April than I did in March as well, which I mentioned in a post earlier this week about motivation.

EVE Online

I did get out and on a few ops at the start of the month, though even the tempo of ops has slackened with the changes that CCP applied mid-month.  Super carriers being more vulnerable means that they don’t undock, so there are fewer to save and/or blow up.

EverQuest

I am not really “playing” EverQuest in anything like the traditional sense.  I have been messing around with the Overseer feature instead.  It does, as some have noted, seem to have more in common with a phone game than an MMORPG, but they gave it just enough depth and progression to keep me logging in every day.

EverQuest II

I am really not playing this, not even the version of the Overseer they have.  Darkpaw updated the feature, actually giving it a bit of progression.  But it still lacks what depth the EverQuest version has, seeming to be more of a magic prize machine rather than a game.  Oh well.  I also used my level 110 trade and adventure boosts on a new character, and then haven’t played them.  But they are geared up.

Lord of the Rings Online

I patched this up and logged in for a short bit.. I was certainly in for a lot less time than the patch process took.  The patcher hs never been a strong suit of the game.  I was primarily interested in purchasing the Minas Morgul expansion with my LOTRO points, SSG having said it would be available in the online store come March.  Here it is, the day before May and it is not yet available.

Pokemon Go

I hit level 39 at last just a couple of days ago.  That sounds like I am almost 98% through the leveling game, but since the gap between 39 and 40 is five million points, or 25% of the total points to level cap, I suppose I am only 75% of the way there.

Level: 39 (2% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 531 (+5) caught, 560 (+4) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Servine

Pokemon Sword

I did play a bit of this, though not as much as I intended.  As a game on the Switch Lite, it is something I can play away from my desk, where I now spend all day for work.  However, I need a kind of quiet place to focus.  I used to go play on the couch when nobody else was home, but we rarely achieve the state of “nobody else home” these days.  Still, I made it through the sixth gym.

RimWorld

I thought I was going to play a lot more of this in April.  It is, in its way, a pretty good game to play while you listen to an audio book or a podcast or whatever, and I am pro multitasking in that way.  And I did play some.  Just not as much as I thought.  Part of that was just not feeling like playing anything, but the fact that RimWorld suffers from the classic mid-game problem added to my lack of play time as well.

World of Warcraft

I did actually play some retail WoW this past month.  As I posted, I unlocked flight in Battle for Azeroth.  And with flying now available on all my alts as well as the 100% xp boost that will be available until the Shadowlands expansion hits, I have been tempted to play more.  I did work on a Horde alt some, but I am not really invested yet.

WoW Classic

As with most of the past six months, WoW Classic continues to top the play time chart.  But it also has the biggest month over month drop in time played.  It has a double whammy in that not only to I sort of have to stoke myself up to log in and play, I also have to figure out what I want to do as my prime alts, who are all in the around level 40 trough where quests ramp up faster than you do.  It wasn’t so bad with my hunter, as it is easy to just grind mobs with him, especially if I can skin them as well.  But my pally… he is sitting at 40 and I now remember why my pally back in vanilla seemed stuck at 40 forever.  The instance group is carrying on, but on the whole we’re not logged in nearly as much.

Coming Up

Another month.  Isn’t that enough?  So tired.

Well, there is the Blapril roundup for sure.  One last time to link out to everybody.  If history is any guide, the title of that post will be The Labors of Blapril.

There are some EverQuest bits and pieces coming up.  I’ll probably get to that tomorrow.  I also want to write something further about the Overseer feature.

There are updates and such for EVE Online expected as well.  Maybe that rather dry login campaign will wrap up and be replaced with something a bit more engaging.

In World of Warcraft Classic it seems likely that the instance group will enter Zul’Farrak.  It is also possible that I will hit level 50 with at least one character next month as well.  Maybe I’ll even figure out where to go with my level 40 paladin.

I am still tempted by the double xp in retail WoW now that I have unlocked flying.  I could maybe get my blood elf paladin to level 120 without much effort beyond seeing the story on that side of the game.

What else is coming up… Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in the US…the Activision-Blizzard Q1 earnings call… and probably a few other things I am forgetting.  Oh, another month of stay at home here as they have apparently have been under counting cases where I live.  Apparently in suburbia we just die at home and don’t tell anybody.

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.

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.

Reviewing my 2019 Predictions

The wheel keeps turning and we have arrived back in December again, which means getting back to stuff I said in January.  I predicted some crazy stuff then, much of which is just embarrassing in hindsight.  But hindsight is an exact science, while the future can be an impenetrable fog on a cold January morning.

While there are still a couple weeks left in the year my general rule is that if it hasn’t happened by December 15th it isn’t going to happen.  So barring a 4pm press release from Daybreak later on today I think I am safe calling it now.

This is a regular feature and, as such, you can go back and review how it has gone before… if you have that much free time.

But if you do not want to dwell on the past… then why are you here, that is my favorite thing… we can get right down to this year’s prediction scoring.  As usual, unless otherwise noted, predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit available.  So off we go!

1 – Early Classic Date

WoW Classic will launch on May 28, 2019.  As is the standard for this sort of guess at a date, I knock off 2 points for every week I am off.  That is about as concrete and clearly defined as a prediction can possibly be.  The early date will be to coincide with the end of the six month subscriptions that Blizz sold back in the fall as Battle for Azeroth isn’t holding people otherwise.

I was way off on this.  Blizz being Blizz shipped WoW Classic later than I expected.  And Blizz just went with another six month subscription offer to get people to stick around in BfA0 points.

2 – Classic Rush

The WoW Classic launch will be 2004 all over again.  There confluence of nostalgia and the end of the Battle for Azeroth expansion will conspire to cause WoW Classic to overflow quickly.  There won’t be enough servers leading to long queues to get on to the servers available.  This will lead to new servers being spun up and the classic server split routine from back in the day.  Blizzard will publicly compare the day one WoW Classic crowds to how things went at the WoW launch in 2004.

I hit some points on this one.  Maybe not exactly like WoW in 2004, but queues and not enough servers and all that were clearly present.  I’m taking 5 points for this one.

3 – Classic Plans

By the time BlizzCon roles around… we’ll get to BlizzCon itself in a bit… there will be a panel, or at least a mention in the keynote, about WoW Classic and moving on from vanilla into some of the early expansions.  How to do an expansion like The Burning Crusade without necessarily progressing the vanilla servers will be a key point of contention, with transfers and boosts straight to level 60 being discussed.

Eh, not so much.  WoW Classic got a mention in the keynote for sure… I mean, duh… but otherwise all WoW focus was on ShadowlandsWoW Classic plans will be next BlizzCon for sure, but this year it is 0 points.

4 – Classic Acceleration

By September 1, 2019 the WoW Classic rush will be over.  As we have seen time and again, the initial pile-on to play on a nostalgia server peaks pretty quickly as players, familiar with the old game and reliving their experience, move much more quickly through the game than back in the day.  This will lead to complaints about dead servers and calls for server merges or free transfers.  This will be even worse if Blizz goes full purist mode and doesn’t use the sharding tech that allows more people to use a single zone/server.

This one is tough.  Certainly progress for a lot of people has been much faster than back in 2004.  I think the percent of the population at the level cap is probably much higher than it was at a similar point in WoW history.  And populations have tapered off some, as one would expect.  My indicator is how many auctions are up in the AH on Saturday.  Early it was in the 500s, now it is below 400.  But a lot of people are still playing and I haven’t seen a dead server complaint yet.  I still run into people in low level zones doing the same quests.  It feels kind of like 2006 WoW… which I guess is what it is.  The Blizz sharding stuff worked I guess.  But 0 points for me.

5 – Next WoW Live Expansion

The early launch of WoW Classic to cover the Battle for Azeroth collapse will mess with the Blizzard’s timing the way that Warlords of Draenor did.  Look for Blizz to cover their sagging Q2 2019 earnings by announcing the next expansion in August, just after Activision releases their quarterly earnings report.

Nope, they waited until BlizzCon to announce.  0 points.

6 – The Long BlizzCon

There will be a BlizzCon 2019 on November 8 and 9.  The main stage will be taken over by new titles as Blizzard announces no fewer that five projects.  Three of them will be mobile titles and an actual PC Diablo franchise game will be another.  However, a Diablo II remaster will go missing yet again.

Well, it was November 1 and 2, so I was off by a week.  And, counting Shadowlands and Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, there were… uh… one, two… two and a half new projects?  There was nothing about mobile mentioned.  But the Diablo II remaster went missing again.  I’m going to give myself 3 points.

7 – Full Steam Ahead

Expect Steam to stay strong despite Epic, Discord, and Amazon trying to undermine it with better deals for developers.  Steam can and will play that game while carrying on as the one stop shop for all games PC.  Devs won’t get as big of a cut on Steam, but the installed base and success stories will keep any but the biggest studios from cutting ties.

Pretty much.  Epic made waves by luring away titles that were offered for pre-order on Steam to become Epic Store exclusives, but that didn’t go 100% in their favor either.  There was some backlash.  Microsoft gave up and starting putting titles on Steam.  Even EA made a half-hearted compromise with Steam.  They will sell their titles there again, but you still need Origin installed to launch them.  10 points.

8 – All Things PlanetSlide

PlanetSide Arena will launch… or go into early access or whatever… as planned at the end of January.  It will sell some boxes and make Daybreak some quick money.  But it isn’t going to steal back the Battle Royale market for the company.  Before spring turns to summer it will be showing peak numbers on Steam down near the H1Z1 end of the spectrum, lagging far behind PUBG and nowhere close to whatever Fortnite will report on its own.

Well, I got the ship date wrong.  It was September, not February.  I should never believe Daybreak.  But as for the rest?  It didn’t grab any market and became something of a divisive point in the PlanetSide community who didn’t want a re-hash of Battle Royale.  It isn’t dead yet, but rumor has it that Daybreak laid off most of the staff working on it.  7 points.

9 – Sayonara Norrath

I am going to go with the Prophecy of May and say that this will be a fateful anniversary year for EverQuest titles.  The 15th anniversary for EverQuest II and the 20th anniversary for EverQuest will see both titles celebrated, given special new content, and then put in what will be effectively maintenance mode.

Pessimism about Daybreak often ends up correct, but I think I am wrong on this.  We heard a lot around the EverQuest 20th anniversary about how the franchise has more players than it did back in 2015.  These two games will keep going, bascially because they have a core customer base and make money.  Expansions for the foreseeable future, but 0 points for me.

10 – NantGo Away, I’m No Good For You

The NantG Mobile joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks will deliver on none of its promises.  They’ll keep H1Z1 alive, but there won’t be any new Z1 Battle Royale (unless they just straight up rename H1Z1), there won’t be any new esports league, there won’t be an esports venue next to the LA Times, and there won’t be any mobile version of Z1 Battle Royale, and there won’t be any hint, word, or anything about any EverQuest game, mobile or otherwise.

All that and they gave all the code back to Daybreak.  A complete flop.  10 points.

11 – Something Has Gotta Daybreak

All of this is going to add up to hard times at Daybreak.  By December 1, 2019 it won’t be the company it was on January 1, if it exists at all.  It will either be acquired wholesale by another company or be parted out, with somebody like Gamigo taking the the three traditional MMORPGs (EverQuest, EverQuest II, and DC Universe Online) while the rest either tried to stand alone with the what I will call “the children of PlanetSide” or being folded into the NantWorks joint venture.  I’ll be writing a farewell history of the studio before the year is out.

Well, things didn’t get that bad.  There were more layoffs, but the company is still afloat.  But the fact that they were creating alternate company names and social media accounts indicate that this wasn’t exactly miles from the truth either.  0 points, but I still feel like it could have gone this way and may still next year.

12 – Standing Alone Games

Standing Stone Games will feel the impact of Daybreak’s misfortune as well as the sting of losing a key LOTRO developer.  They will carry through the first half of 2019 on momentum, but the latter half will leave people wondering what is up as they scramble to fill the void that Daybreak’s collapse will leave on their marketing/publishing front.  The company will soldier on, but you won’t be getting anything like a 64-bit client from them.

With no Daybreak misfortune there were no repercussions.  I’ll have to remind myself next time to stop making predictions that assume previous predictions come to pass.  And just to rub my nose in it, not only did SSG launch a new expansion for LOTRO, they also delivered a 64-bit client.  Imagine that!  0 points.

13 – Non-Shippers

The following titles won’t ship in 2019, defining “ship” as being available for sale with having to hide their unfinished state behind terms like “early access,” “beta,” “alpha,” or anything that falls into that realm.  2 Points per title on this one.

  • Squadron 42
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Atlas
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Crowfall

10 points.  Not a one of them on the list made the criteria.  We didn’t even get Camelot Unchained into beta.  It is starting to make Star Citizen look positively progressive in getting test content to users.

14 – CCP Anomalous

The ISK problem in New Eden will be one of CCPs targets for 2019, so expect null sec anomalies and the rats that infest them to change to try and slow down the titan and super gravy train while not stomping too hard on the line members in the VNIs.  Mining, however, will remain unchanged.  Ore doesn’t bring ISK into the economy and should be self regulating based on price.  It isn’t, but it should be.

Spot on here.  CCP went straight at super and titan ratting for a few months, changing fighter damage application, anom respawn times, HAW weapons on titans, and so on.  And then came the Blackout and the VNI nerf and it was the line members who paid the price.  Ah well, they started on the rich, but eventually slaughtered the poor.  5 points for things before the Chaos Era.

15 – High Sec Changes

The War Dec changes will lead CCP to change up how suicide ganking works as well.  Right now it is too by the numbers, a solved problem for most cases.  CCP doesn’t want high sec to be safe, but right now the gankers kill with impunity and need a shake up.

Maybe, a little bit.  They finally implemented that “warp in 3 minutes or your money back” scheme and made auto pilot warp to 10km rather than 15km.  That annoyed gankers a bit.  2 points.

16 – Low Sec Attention Span

CCP has to do something radical for low sec in general and faction warfare specifically.  My guess is that low sec will continued to be screwed in general, but that CCP will decide they need to greatly restrict, if not outright ban, the deployment of Upwell structures in FW space.

I figured this one was going to be a complete miss, but the last game update in December changed a bit of how Upwell structure tethering will work in FW.  Give me 2 points for that at least.

17 – CSM XIV

CCP will change up the election process yet again, trying to get the candidate list out further before the actual elections, but it will be for naught.  Eight of ten seats will still go to null sec alliances.

Nah.  Same old election scheme.  But if you count Olmeca Gold as a null sec candidate… it is where he lives and hunts, so I do… 8 out of 10 seats went to null sec.  5 points.

18 – POS Bash

Player Owned Starbases, already left with little relevance in the game, will see their end come June, when CCP finally pulls them from the game, symbolically burning the source code on the summer solstice.  And so will go the POS, long a staple of the game.

Nope.  All the blueprints are gone so you cannot make any new ones, but if you have one still deployed you can still hide within POS shields even today.  0 points.

19 – Key FOB

The POS announcement will come earlier as part of CCP introducing a new Upwell structure, the player forward operating base.  The FOB will be something akin to a corp/alliance sized mobile depot that will allow players to repair, refit, and resupply.  It will lack tethering or defenses and, give how cheap a Raitaru is, will barely get used.

Again, no sale.  0 points.

20 – 3DS Exit

Nintendo, after paring down the platform releases to almost nothing, will announce the end of their long running handheld line.  They will cease manufacture, blow out the last units, and throw themselves fully onto the Switch.  It will be the end of the Pokemon era.  Pokemon will just be another game, not something that made a platform worthwhile.

I am annoyed to say that Nintedo is still pushing the 3DS/2DS line on their website a year after it was effectively dead.  The only reason I can see for buying one is as a replacement for a failed unit for somebody who has an investment in older games.  There are a lot of older games out there.  But the online support for most of them is long gone.  0 points.

21 – MADE Pirates

Pirates of the Burning Seas will end up being the first MMORPG to make it into The Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment.  The unique state of its current ownership will create a situation where the game will actually be preserved, mostly because it won’t survive on its own.  And that will be it.  The games people ache to see enshrined, SWG or CoH, will never get there.  The only possible entrants will be games so small and unknown that few will notice.  So The Saga of Ryzom will be a possibility.  The MADE should work on preserving MUDs.  That is something they could make happen.

Pirates of the Burning Sea found a player  group to support it.  MADE remains without an MMO to call its own.  0 Points.

22 – Shlock Boxes

No wide spread change to the legal status of lockboxes or the selling of power or pay to win.  Some small jurisdictions might try to put something in place, as happened in 2018, but nothing will go in that will change the bottom line.  There simply isn’t a political power block against this sort of thing that could make any difference for politicians.  At best it will be used as a political football to try and divert attention away from other things.  For example, the NRA doesn’t care about video games… until there is yet another mass shooting, at which point they need something to blame.  More of that.

At the end of the day, with all the talk that spun around gambling, nothing really changed when compared to 2018.  10 points.

23 – A Prime New World

Amazon’s survival sandbox whatever MMORPG New World won’t be ready in 2019, but the company will announce special benefits for Prime members when the game does launch.  I hope it will be something more than expedited delivery from the in-game version of Whole Foods.

Nope. New World has disappeared into a black hole for months after testing.  Apparently it might end up being a thing next year, but I’ll believe it when it actually launches.  0 points.

24 – Behindcraft

While Microsoft and Mojang haven’t given up on Minecraft – Java Edition, which is the Mac, PC, and Linux version of Minecraft that lacks a cash shop, it has clearly slowed down development.  The rest of Minecraft has pandas and new cats and stuff while Java is getting development snapshots still.  This trend will continue as the Java code base won’t release the panda update until March and that will be the only update to be released for Java in 2019.

I mean… sorta.  Java got the update in April, so close on that I guess.  But the updates have gone to something of an annual cycle, so getting another update… as opposed to bug fixes… was never in the cards to begin with.  2 points for being close on that date.

25 – Avatar’s Shroud

Shroud of the Avatar will see further constrictions, if not an outright closure, in 2019.  Like most early access games, it used up the goodwill of all but the most dedicated fans as it was being built out and now nobody is left interested in buying a copy.

Lord British has grown bored and his remote mechanical telepresense has rolled off into the sunset in Austin.  Potalarium is… no more I think.  Some other company owns the game, being setup as a last ditch effort to keep it alive.  Predicting the online aspects of the game going dark in 2020 wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch.  10 points.

26 – Guild Wars 2 Continues

The pattern seems to be an expansion every could of years.  That is about as deep as my insight into the game really goes at this point.  But given that, I expect they will announce an expansion this year set for launch in 2020.

Nope.  Not really.  They’re just re-arranging the deck chairs over there at ANet these days.  0 points.

27 – Cattle Royale

As we saw the final rounds of the MOBA shake out with Blizz cutting back on Heroes of the Storm, the culling of the Battle Royale pretenders will commence in earnest.  Anybody for whom Battle Royale is just a mode tacked on to an already solid franchise, as with CS:GO, won’t have much to worry about, but anybody all-in on that alone… that isn’t Fortnite or PUBG… will be dead or dying by the end of the year.  This will be most unfortunate for the late comers that show up this year.  Also, how they hell am I even going to score this one.  See what I mean?

I’m giving myself 1 point for H1Z1, Z1 Battle Royale, and PlanetSide Arena.  They all stunk on ice and remain alive only because somebody has an unrealistic hope still.

Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction

Sony buys back some, if not all, of Daybreak from Jason Epstein at the bankruptcy sale at discount prices.  If Daybreak is headed for a fall, who has the most to lose?  At this point, aside from Daybreak itself, Sony makes a tidy sum on the PlayStation 4 from DC Universe Online and, for the moment, H1Z1.  Maybe they also make a bit from PlanetSide 2, but I’d be surprised at that.  20 bonus points if it comes to pass.

No bonus points here.

Double Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction

Daybreak announces a new EverQuest title, sells pre-orders, never makes it to early access, and shuts everything down without any refunds.  I want 40 bonus points if that happens.

And none here either.

Score

Out of 270 possible points this year I managed to only earn a meager 82 points, giving me a 30% success rate, such that it was.  Still, not my lowest percentage ever!  I was at 25% in 2017, and have done worse than that.

As with Jeane Dixon, I am sure people will forget all the failed predictions and just remember the time I called the next expansion for EverQuest II and being based in Kunark or last year when my wild-ass prediction was that CCP would be acquired.  After all, that is all I am ever going to mention, right?

So another year has passed and now I have to think about what the next year will look like.  Will I go with New Year’s predictions again?  Or should I try something else to see in the launch of a new decade?  Is it time for another turn at something like goals, questions, or aspirations?  Tune in on January 1st to find out.

Others reviewing predictions:

My Games Played for 2019

I realize that we’re only a few days into December at this point, leaving almost 8% of the year left to go, but there are also only so many days in a month and I had nothing else brewing for a post, so I am going to run with this a bit earlier that usual  This is where I look at, in a broad sense, which games I ended up playing in 2019 relative to what I thought I might play.

Back at the start of January I wrote a post about what I thought I might end up playing, so this is the nearly end of year follow up to that post.  There is something of a tradition around here with this sort of post, going back years at this point.

The list used to be largely about new games that I was going to play.  And then at some point it became clear that I don’t really play that many new games anymore.  But that is the essence of MMORPGs, that they want to keep you playing for years.  Op success for them I guess.  So now it is more about which stale old title I am going to linger on for yet another trip around the sun.

Back in January I broke my picks out into a few bands of likelihood.  Up first were the safe bets:

  • EVE Online
  • WoW Classic
  • WoW Battle for Azeroth
  • Lord of the Rings Online

And, I was pretty bang on with that list.  EVE Online got play time through the whole year.  WoW Classic has been a big play time favorite since it launched in late August.  WoW Battle for Azeroth was not neglected, though I still haven’t unlocked flying for the expansion, the measure of whether or not you really played by some accounts.  And I did kick off the year still invested in the LOTRO Legendary server idea, though that faded at some point in Moria.

After that there were the “somewhat likely” titles, which were:

  • EverQuest II
  • Project: Gorgon
  • Minecraft

EverQuest II was a last minute winner, getting more play time last month than anything else.  And I did dive into Minecraft when searching for stuff that came with the Village and Pillage update.  But Project: Gorgon, that remains unplayed.  I think it might be time to admit that I am just not going to find the time for it.

Finally, there were the wildcards, things I thought that might find their way into my rotation.  That list was:

  • EverQuest
  • Atlas
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Destiny 2
  • Diablo III
  • War Thunder and/or World of Tanks
  • Something Else New

Out of that list I played EverQuest.  I jumped in and played on a live server for the 20th anniversary in March, explored some new places, struggled with the layers of interface options the game has accumulated over two decades, and generally had a good time.

And that was it.  I never touched AtlasTorchlight Frontiers and Camelot Unchained remain as yet unrealized.  I am at the point where I’m wondering if I should apply for a refund on the latter.  It doesn’t seem like it will be a thing anytime soon.  Activision gave me a free copy of Destiny 2 and then it went away before I could be bothered to even launch it.  Diablo III I’ve played enough of.  War Thunder I am just so terrible at that I couldn’t be bothered to install it again, and I thought about Word of Tanks, but never pressed the button.

As for “something else new” I must have been making a joke, right?

Well, as long as we get away from MMOs and such, I did try a couple of new items.  On the other games list I said I would probably play the following:

  • Civilization V
  • RimWorld
  • Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

And I did, in fact, spend some time playing all three of those.  But I also played:

  • Path of Exile
  • Diablo (via GoG.com)
  • Microsoft Solitaire
  • Defense Grid: The Awakening
  • StarCraft (original)
  • Dota Underlords
  • Teamfight Tactics
  • Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin

Those all came and went in short bursts of activity, usually centered on some event.   Path of Exile had a new season and some friends wanted to play.  However, the people in the group who were into it raced ahead and those of us who hadn’t touched the game for a few years ended up somewhat lost in the new mechanics added over time.  For me PoE isn’t as compelling as Diablo III or WoW to play solo, so I let it drop.

The original Diablo got a GoG.com remaster, which means they made it work on Windows 10, so I ran through that.  It was good fun.  StarCraft got a Carbot skin, which was enough for me to drag it out and play with it for a bit.

Microsoft Solitaire is pre-loaded with Win10.  I tried it for a bit as something to do while waiting for an op to get going in EVE Online.  It wasn’t all that special, and when it started prompting me to pay, I was done.

Then there was the late summer Auto Chess/Auto Battler round up, where I tried out Dota Underlords and Teamfight Tactics.  They are kind of fun, but in using the heroes from their respective parent games, DOTA 2 and League of Legends, remained a bit too close to their core player base to interest me.

I got Defense Grid: The Awakening, a great tower defense game, during the Steam Summer Sale to earn a badge by unlocking an achievement.  I think that explains a bit of Civ V as well, though you can never play just a “bit” of Civ VAge of Empires II HD probably came in as part of that as well, though there was also the launch of the Age of Empires II Definitive Edition that might have sparked some interest there.

And every once in a while when I feel like something akin to old school table top war games I drag out Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin, perhaps the best game in the Combat Mission series.  I’m not a fan of their new engine and they no longer sell the old games, support being an issue.  But my copy still works.

With all of that, here is that annual chart that shows what I played and when.

2019 games played by month

I tried to shade partial months when time played was lot.  Also, this is clearly not the hours played evaluation that my usage of ManicTime has made possible.  I will have to wait until the new year to sum that up.  What I played is easier to do early than something based on real numbers.

EVE Online I played some every month.  There is some pressure to get credit for the corp by going on some ops every month, and I help out with that.

I am a bit surprised by how much retail WoW I played.  I guess I did get into the new content and leveled an alt to 120 and all that.  But that pretty much fell off a cliff when WoW Classic hit.

LOTRO also fell off a cliff once I got into Moria on the Legendary server.  I loved the original content, even in its modern form, and even Moria isn’t so bad, but everything after that is pretty much dead to me.

I figured I would play some EverQuest II, but I wasn’t sure if I would find some way to enjoy EverQuest during its 20th anniversary.  But I found a way.

RimWorld remains a solid time eater when I pick it up.  However, it does suffer a bit from the mid-game problem.  You hit a point where things are pretty balanced, you have supplies to last you through downturns and your defenses are good enough to thwart attacks and you’re just kind of waiting for research breakthroughs.  I started a primitive tech game… well, I started about a dozen until my group didn’t die out in the first two years… but that just pushes the mid-game back some, so eventually there is refrigeration and defense turrets and assault rifle production and you’re just working your way to the end game.

So that is what I played in 2019, for a specific definition of the word.  I decided not to bring mobile into the mix… Pokemon Go would just be another 12 month bar and I don’t record when I play anything else… and I left off a few where the play time was so small as to fall below my own mental threshold what ought to count.

Comparing Four MMO Expansions

I originally sat down to write about pre-orders being available for the next EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin.  However, aside from the addition of the Friends & Family option, it isn’t all that different from the last few times I’ve written about EQII pre-orders.  And even the new F&F bit is similar enough to the EverQuest version that I was feeling little dull.  Also, I am sick right now and going through that chart in detail was making my headache worse.  You can check out the details here, but I won’t be going through them with a fine tooth comb.  I’ll probably regret that in a year, but I’ll live.

You can buy it today

Instead I started listing out different aspects of some expansions.

We have a few expansions that have been at least announced.  Minas Morgul just went live for LOTRO, EverQuest and EverQuest II both have expansions in the offing, and at BlizzCon we heard about Shadowlands, the next WoW expansion.  In laying out some details for comparison I don’t have any real key points to highlight, but sometimes just the comparison is enough to make you think about what is going on.

How far in advance did they announce an expansion?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance
  • LOTRO – About two months
  • EQ – About three month
  • EQII – About three month

WoW has a tradition of getting a lot of details announced at BlizzCon about nine months ahead of when an expansion will ship.  Way more details than we got for the other three just months before their planned launch.  However, EQ and EQII do yearly expansion, so a year in advance they’d still be patching the current expansion rather than the next.

LOTRO though… I guess SSG just doesn’t like to spill the beans too far ahead.

When were pre-orders available?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance… like now for Shadowlands
  • LOTRO – About two months ahead of launch
  • EQ – About a month ahead launch
  • EQII – About a month ahead launch

With SSG and Daybreak, pre-orders seem to be offered pretty close to the official expansion announcement.  With Blizz there used to be a fair gap between the expansion being announced and pre-orders being available, but at this past BlizzCon we saw pre-orders go live coincident with the expansion announcement.

Expansion tiers and pricing

  • WoW – Base $40, Heroic $60, Epic $80
  • LOTRO – Standard $40, Collectors $80, Ultimate $130
  • EQ – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250
  • EQII – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250

The new “Friends &  Family” packages are outliers.  But even if we leave those out it does strike me as a bit odd that WoW is not the most expensive in any category save for the base expansion, and there it is tied with LOTRO.

Should the base expansion include a level booster?

  • WoW – No
  • LOTRO – No
  • EQ – No
  • EQII – Yes

I am a bit surprised that EQII is the outlier here with its level 110 boost.  LOTRO offers a level 120 booster with the two higher tier packages, as does WoWEQ though… as I noted previously, it is in a strange place.  It offers a booster with its more expansive packages, but it is still the now more than five years old level 85 boost.  This, for an expansion where the level cap is going from 110 to 115.  My “WTF Daybreak?” opinion of that remains.

Key items from upgraded packages

  • WoW – Mount, pet, cosmetics
  • LOTRO – Mount, pet, cosmetics, titles, various booster potions
  • EQ – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, house item, bag, various booster potions
  • EQII – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, cosmetic house item, teleporter to new expansion house item, various booster potions, and an trade skill insta-level boost to 110

I left out the level boost obviously, as it was covered above, and ignore the F&F packs, as they are strange new beasts.

EQII is really the standout in piling things on here, including even a level booster for trade skills, though EQII trade skills have the same level cap as adventure levels, and are earned more like adventure levels than the skill point upgrades in the other crafting systems.

WoW effectively gives you a boost into trade skills since they split trade skills up per expansion with BFA.  But you get that no matter what.

As I have said before, if I were a dedicated EQII player, I could see being very tempted by one of the more expensive packages… relative to EQ especially, which has the same price points… despite the high prices.

Anyway, I thought that comparison was mildly informative.  You can find all the order pages below.  I’d be curious as to how these four games compare to other MMORPG expansion, though I don’t keep a close enough eye on anything else to even know who still sells expansions like this anymore.