Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO Headed for the Grey Havens?

Turbine is transitioning into a free-to-play, mobile development studio…

-Warner Bros. PR statement to Massively OP

Well fuck.  It has not been a good… erm… few years for Turbine.

Yahoo Headline 2007

We were so optimistic back in 2007

There was this moment of optimism a while back.  They were going to bring back Asheron’s Call 2, they were going to let you run your own Asheron’s Call server, the Lord of the Rings Online contract situation was good for a couple more years and we seemed on the way to Mordor, Dungeons & Dragons Online was chugging along, upbeat and getting new stuff, and they were going to take on the hot new MOBA market with Infinite Crisis.

And then plans started falling apart.  Infinite Crisis was cancelled, the Asheron twins were put on life support with what seemed to be a DNR notice, and the company was left with two somewhat long in the tooth free to play MMOs to carry things forward.  LOTRO has already called out raidersDirty laundry was being aired.  And even LOTRO’s plans seemed subdued, with server merges and fixing long standing bugs being key part of one producer’s letter.  Even the upside bit, the upgraded servers, turned into a problem for a while.

But things seemed to be settling down.  The servers became usable, new content was being added to the game, and a new baseline routine seemed to have been reached.  And now this.

Of course, Warner is telling people to remain calm:

The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons online games will continue to operate as they do now.

But they HAVE to say that.  Those two games are the only income generating assets Turbine has now, and to say anything else might adversely impact that income stream.  And it is likely true for the short term.  But what happens next?

Warner could let the two games run on as before, with even less support and unlikely to get much in the way of substantial updates.  Given their new focus, that does not seem like sticking to the plan.

Warner could close the games down or, in the case of LOTRO, let the contact with Tolkien Enterprises run out in 2017 and not renew.  Both LOTRO and DDO, being licensed properties, likely have monthly minimum payments required to go to the rights holders, so an immediate shut down would leave Warner with bills to pay.  But at contract renewal it might be the time to walk away.

Or Warner could sell off the MMO part of Turbine to somebody like Perfect World Entertainment, where the LOTRO and DDO might each get a longer, if somewhat different, life going forward.  That would keep things going, provided that either game is a viable, money making venture that Warner can hand off to another company.  Anything with the name “Asheron” in the title seems to be doomed no matter what route Warner takes.

Anyway, it feels very much like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one, that Warner has a long term decision to make… or announce if they have already made it… that will affect the fate of those two titles.

Play the games while you have the chance, as the future is more uncertain than usual and nobody is likely to make a game like LOTRO again.

Others on the topic:

Friday Bullet Points About Games I’m Not Actually Playing

It is the middle of January already in the year 2016, a date that literally seemed like “The Future” when I was a kid.  Yet it feels really normal, right up until I watch some TV re-run from the early 90s… my daughter and I started watching The X-Files earlier this week, starting with season 1 episode 1… and not only aren’t there any iPhones or iPads or flat screen TVs, but there aren’t any cell phones at all present.

Clearly, future me is some sort of alien, since I can barely remember a time without such things.  1992 wasn’t THAT long ago, was it?

Anyway, some small items to note.

Diablo III Patch 2.4.0

We’re getting pretty much the only thing Blizzard deigned to speak about on the Diablo III front when it came to BlizzCon last year.

I was disappointed by the lack of new stuff for the Diablo franchise… like another full expansion or something about Diablo IV…  but I must admit that, reading the 2.4.0 release notes, they did deliver a decent pile of stuff.  A new island, some expanded areas in older zones, new rifts, a new season, and the inevitable new gear sets.

It makes me want to go back and take a look.  On the flip side, I am more about playing through the story… and exploring every single square centimeter of the map… than I am about the post-story gear grind.  Maybe I will start a season 5 character and run through the story again.

WoW Legion Alpha

I keep reading bits about the alpha for the upcoming WoW Legion expansion.. because it has no NDA… and I have to wonder what this means.  Is this how Blizzard is trying to keep their fans invested, by letting them into the next expansion even earlier than usual?


My gut says that this might mean the actual launch will be far closer to the September 21, 2016 than, say, the Warcraft movie release.  We’ll see.

I also wonder if this now constant exposure to the expansion content starting in alpha will make the post-launch enthusiasm window for the expansion even smaller than we saw for Warlords of Draenor, which lost 46% of its audience in under six months.  Basically, will all but the non-hardcore be mostly “done” with the expansion before it starts?

Anyway, I am averting my eyes from this… which means not reading a couple of blogs and avoiding some stories that are grinding through every detail… so as to keep myself fresh for the eventual launch.

Amazon Prime Discounts

Amazon announced that Prime members would be getting a 20% discount on new and pre-ordered  games this week.  We have Prime at our house, and get our value out of it largely via the video service, the occasional free Kindle book, and a bit of free shipping now and again.  But now I can pre-order the WoW Legion expansion at 20% off months before it goes live.

Remember back when The Burning Crusade stayed at list price for nearly a year after it launched?

Stormhold Moves On

During the summer I was trying to get myself engaged in the Daybreak first run at an EverQuest II nostalgia server; specifically the Stormhold PvE time-locked expansion server.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

I failed to get there… I played a bit, and actually had some fun, but I never got quite enthusiastic enough about the whole thing to get very far.

Time, however, moves on… as noted at the top of the post.  Last week the Stormhold and Deathtoll servers both moved to the Kingdom of Sky expansion, which also moves them out of my prime nostalgia zone.  That whole pacing question comes to mind again I suppose, but my nostalgia for the game sort of ends with Desert of Flames, with everything after that feeling like “the new stuff.”  Again, time is strange.

New LOTRO Servers

Earlier this week the team at Turbine moved Lord of the Rings Online over to their new server farm.  This was part of their 2015 plan that also involved server merges to boost populations along with promises better performance and all the other things that go with fancy new hardware.

Unfortunately, with new hardware there can also be new problems, something the game has been experiencing.  On the bright side though, the server upgrade did fix my inability to log in on the Brandywine server, something that shut down my nascent return to Middle-earth in early December.  Maybe once they get this settled down I can get back to Mirkwood.

Boot Camp Denied

I have a spoiler laden post about Star Wars: The Force Awakens sitting around waiting for the right time to post.  Maybe this weekend.  But as an indicator of the reaction at our household, my daughter had the sudden urge to play Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I gave her a taste on my computer, but to get that back I had to promise to setup a Windows partition on her iMac.  Easy stuff, right?  She has a fairly recent iMac… it is probably the best computer in the house… I have the Windows 7 media and an extra license key and there is plenty of drive space on her system.

And it mostly worked, right up until Boot Camp wanted to install the drivers for the iMac hardware, at which point it announced that the version of Boot Camp was not for this Mac model.  Google gave me a variety of possible solutions (the problem seems to come up a lot), none of which solved the problem.  Without the drivers, I have a fairly useless version of Windows 7 hanging around the house.

Now I have to guard my computer to keep her away from it.  Nothing is ever simple.

Such is life in the video game lane for me this week… at least for some games I am interested in but do not actually play.

December in Review

The Site

Here we are at the end of another year.  Somehow most of us survived.  2016 looms, just hours away here.  This is my 10th December in Review post, 112th month in review, and my 3,814th post overall, during the life of the blog. didn’t anger me this month…. at least not with anything new.  They introduced a new stand-alone app to managed your blog, available for both Mac and Windows.  Not sure I need that, but there it is.  The only external apps I regularly use for the blog are Notepad ++,, and Corel PaintShop Pro X3.

They also introduced some new blog themes.  They are actually pretty good about cranking out some new themes, generally on Thursdays.  They are all just appallingly ugly and unreadable in my opinion, though I clearly have very specific tastes on that front.  I want something I can read, not something that depends on a gimmick.

They did put out the usual Annual Report for blogs.  For me the most interesting part is who refers the most traffic to the site:

Top Traffic Sources in 2015

Top Traffic Sources in 2015

That is some heavily EVE Online focused traffic.  I suppose the biggest surprise is getting as much traffic from Gevlon as I did, me being a minion of evil and all.  Of course, the report doesn’t mention the biggest source, which is Google.  Google sends me as much traffic as all other sources combined, and then some, so should be number one on the list. (The next four on the list, just as an FYI and to round out a Top 10, are Twitter, Keen & Graev, Bhagpuss, and SynCaine, after which the numbers drop off fast.)

Anyway, if you are interested, you can read the report here, and you can substitute in the years 2011 through 2014 in the URL if you want to see past years and chart my decline.

One Year Ago

After my hardware woes the month before, I had to figure out which games to install again.

My MMO Outlook for 2015 was bleak.  But not as bleak as the reality ended up.  And then there were the highs and lows of 2014.

Syp was on about “real” MMO studios, strongly suggesting that you had to have more than one MMO to be legit.  I questioned whether that was really the case or not.  Examples were discussed.

It was the 10 year anniversary of the Nintendo DS handheld system.

Warlords of Draenor having launched at the end of November, the instance group was getting together in Azeroth and building garrisons… so we could be apart.  Of course, my first character into Draenor was already level 100 shortly thereafter.  We engaged in some jumping puzzles and then had to ride across country to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines.

Coming back to WoW also got me to post five seemingly simple things I wanted to see fixed.  I think they’re all still unchanged at this point.

I also spent a bit of time in EverQuest II over the holidays, figuring out where to go, getting some AA points handed to me, and rolling out into the Kylong Plains.  I also tried to recall the events around the great downtime of December 2004.

In New Eden, NCDot’s invasion of Fountain was pushed back.  Reavers were operating in their backfield in Querious, where Asher managed to setup a trap that lead to us killing four supers.  Then it was back to our home in the north.

We also got the Rhea expansion from CCP, which gave us graphical updates, the Bowhead freighter, the removal of clone costs, and Thera, a new kind of wormhole system.  There was also a blog banter about what to tell new players about EVE Online.

I was also wondering if PLEX-like currency items were working out well in any games besides EVE Online.  That was before the WoW Token came on the scene.

And I posted about three science fiction series I had started reading.

Five Years Ago

That December I had one of my all-time most popular posts, Talking Cats Playing Pattycake!  You can thank me for not taking the hint and going all talking cats, all the time.  Or hate me for not doing that.  Take your pick.  And We Didn’t Start the Fire?  Nothing.

But I still had kitty pictures.  Awww.

I still think that if you label a window “Currency” it ought to show all your currency, not just the odd-ball stuff.

I was still feeling the sting of ThinkGeek teasing us with the iCade at April Fools, all the more so because some pretenders were on the scene.

Turbine was giving away 10,000 Turbine Points, which comes out to real, and possibly taxable, value in real world dollars.  The comments on the post were obviously not from tax professionals.

I visited EverQuest for long enough to find a house.  And then I was out of money.

In EverQuest II they were starting the run up to vampires.

And I summed up what we knew about The Agency to that point… which was bupkiss.

In World of Warcraft, Cataclysm launched.  If you weren’t in the beta, there were still scams promising to get you in.  There was the digital pre-order, which worked for me.  And one final hardware upgrade we needed at our house before the expansion launched.  And then there was picking a new character for the re-rolled instance group in Azeroth.

The U.S. release date for Pokemon Black and White was announced at last.

Finally, I wrote something that looked sort of like a review of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s book Mogworld.  And then there was something about zombies vs. werewolves vs. vampires vs. unicorns.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. The Fountain War Kickstarter and Some Existential Questions
  2. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  3. Operation Frostline: New Ships, Improved Graphics, Giant Grids, and More
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. My MMO Outlook for 2016
  6. Reviewing My 2015 Predictions
  7. Adventures with The Imperium in Low Security Space
  8. Steam Holiday Sale – Even Valve Seems a Bit Bored
  9. Turbine Finally Figures Out Insta Levels, Will Send You to Level 95 in LOTRO
  10. Why Not This George?
  11. Four Hours in Cloud Ring
  12. Mirkwood – As Dank as the Dankest of Memes

Search Terms of the Month

how to 2 box on phinigal server eq1
[You are really going against the spirit of things here…]

why do villians in bond movies don’t just shoot him when they got chance
[He’s the hero, he can’t die]

john wayne shot first
[If he didn’t, he’d be dead]

“heart of thorns” “selling well”
[Fishing for good news?]

heir to the empire audiobook cast
[It was just that one guy]

EVE Online

I don’t feel like I have spent a lot of time in New Eden this month, yet if I look at the dashboard, I am well beyond the number of participation links my corp would like me to click on for the month.  (I need four and I have over a dozen.)  I read a comment somewhere by an FCON pilot bitching about how onerous the participation link requirement was and how nothing was happening, but I have to guess they just haven’t been paying attention.  Scrolling back in Jabber I seen many, many fleets rolling out of our staging system at all hours of the day for the Cloud Ring and low sec tower bashing campaign.  Oh well, people will complain about anything they don’t like.

I also built up my bank account a bit, ratting away.  I ratted enough that I actually moved into the modern age.  I am not carrier ratting yet, but I changed up my tools a bit so clean up is quicker.

Lord of the Rings Online

I was teetering on the edge of interest with LOTRO when the month started out.  I was happy to get into Mirkwood, but that wore off after a bit as I got into the usual side quests about killing bears, spiders, wolves, and boars.  One wonders that there is any wildlife left in Middle-earth.  Also, Mirkwood seems to be very heavily populated, as opposed to the dense and lonely place described in The Hobbit.

And then something happened and I can no longer log into the Brandywine server.  The process halts at loading character data.  And since my Mirkwood character is on that server, my progress is pretty much hosed.  I can log on to other servers, but Brandywine just ceases when it tries loading character data… which might just put an end to my time in LOTRO for now.


I have a few posts I have to write about Minecraft still.  I am a bit behind on the front.  However, they are more about the work others, especially Aaron, have done in the world, as opposed to things I have done myself.  I haven’t come up with a big new project since the great northern road.  Something to think on for the new year.


Since I didn’t MMO much, I must have played something else.  I did dig into my Steam library a bit.  I got back to Defense Grid 2 and finished out the campaign, and then went back a redid the chapters where I missed getting a gold medal until they were all gold.  But after that I stopped.  It isn’t a bad game, but it suffers from being a sequel.  After playing the hell out of the original Defense Grid (the only single player in my Raptr top 20), DG2 was a more of the same in a lot of ways.  It even suffers from some similar problems.  In DG, the solution to every level was “lots of cannons and a few lasers.”  In DG2 the solution to every level seems to be “lots of guns, a few lasers, and 2-4 missile towers.”  Not a drastic improvement.

I also got out Total Annihilation, my long time favorite retro RTS game.  Unfortunately, I am still missing all of the mods that made the AI a challenge, so I have to play a few AIs on hard, which means less tactics and more setting up kill zones for mass slaughter… which is fun for a while, but can turn into a slow slog as the AI clogs your treads with its wreckage.

And then there was the Steam Winter sale itself, which I have stared at every day, going through my queues and collecting my cards, but I have yet to spend a penny on anything since it kicked off.  I still have until 10am Pacific Time on January 4th for the current prices.

Coming Up

A new year, which means a new set of bad predictions coming tomorrow.  I’ve been thinking about that all month and only have three written down so far.  Expect some tragically bad last minute guesses at the future.

In New Eden there is a hint that there will be a Reavers deployment before the end of next month, with a new doctrine.  An expensive one, too, so it is a good thing I have been banking some ISK.

My latest fling with LOTRO may be over, given my character loading issue.  Of course, that I haven’t even bothered to Google the problem might indicate that the fling was over already.

In Minecraft I need a new project, though I would settle for version 1.9 coming out soon, as it appears to have a lot of changes and updates to the game.

And then there is the rest of 2016.  Being a leap year makes it 24 hours longer, while it being a presidential election year in the US will make it seem much longer still, and I am not making any predictions as to how that will play out.

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

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

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

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

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

Sony Online Entertainment/Daybreak Game Company


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


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


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



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


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



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


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



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


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


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

Other MMOs and Devs


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


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

Non-MMO Gaming Things


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


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

Blogging and the Internet


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


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



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


  • Farewell Leonard Nimoy.

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

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

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

Some others looking at aspects of 2015:

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

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

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

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


  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

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

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

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

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

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

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

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

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

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

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

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

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

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

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

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

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

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

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

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

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

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

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

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

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

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

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

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

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

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

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

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

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

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

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

No Shows

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

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

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

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

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

How did you do on your predictions?

Mirkwood – As Dank as the Dankest of Memes

Moe: Everybody is going to family restaurants these days.  Seems nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more.
Carl: You ain’t thinking of getting rid of the dank, are you, Moe?
Moe: Ah, maybe I am.
Carl: Oh but, Moe, the dank!  The dank!

-The Simpsons, from the B story in episode 3F02, Bart Sells his Soul

I made it to Mirkwood.  I left behind the 2007 base game content and the 2008 first expansion content and am now getting stuck into the content from the third expansion, The Siege of Mirkwood, which came out in 2009, almost exactly six years ago today! (US launch was December 1, EU launch was December 3.)

Siege of Mirkwood, December 1, 2009 (US release)

Siege of Mirkwood!

That was back when the Domion expansion came out for EVE Online and changed how null sec sovereignty worked, a system CCP started revamping more than a year ago.

At this rate I may make it into content from this decade before it comes to a close in a few years!

I am actually pretty happy about this.  I’ve felt a bit guilty about not getting there since… well… since they announced the expansion.  But now I am on my way.  I made it to the river in Lothlorien, found the quest that directed me to the boat that would take me across the river to Mirkwood, and started on the quest chain there.

Boats to Mirkwood for hire...

Boats to Mirkwood for hire…

On the far side I picked up the quest chain, which seemed to take place mostly in the dark.

Yes, I know, this is Mirkwood.  It is supposed to be dark.  Bilbo’s descriptions of the place in The Hobbit still stick with me, it being dark and oppressive and, well, dank.  But this was some old school, EverQuest with the gamma at default, running around at night dark.  Even when things got a bit lighter, or I got near lit encampments, it was still pretty dark.

I'm just a shadow in the dark in this shot

I’m just a shadow in the dark in this shot, yet I have a shadow!

If it hadn’t been for name plates above mobs, I wouldn’t have been able to find much of anything, stumbling about in the dark dark in between the somewhat lit dark of camps.  The daylight part of the cycle was still pretty dark.  Dark orcs on a dark background blended into the rather sparse woods quite effectively.

I can see the soldier that needs rescuing now...

I can see the soldier that needs rescuing now…

Gaff reminded me that somewhere along the line… I’m going to guess when Mirkwood was new, because Moria was never this dark… Turbine added in a personal light that you can turn on with the Alt-F10 command, if I recall correctly.  That was actually a nice addition, as I could at least see where I was facing and what I was standing on during the night cycle.

A light in the forest

A light in the forest

Not that I am complaining.  It is Mirkwood, so dark is to be expected, and it certainly sets a mood.  And the quests themselves seemed to be decent.  Certainly an upgrade to the somewhat meandering lot presented in Lothlorien.  The opening set at least had a unified focus set on defending the bridgehead in Mirkwood.  Lots of orc to kill, siege equipment to burn, a gate to jam, and eventually a boss orc to slay.

That last one was a bit of a challenge.  Gaff told me he had to take a few runs at it before he was able to get past the boss.  I went in as buffed up as I could be… so many little scolls and potions have accumulated on this guy after logging in every so often to make sure I got my Turbine Points and to collect the silver and gold reward box while I was there… that I had some choices on that front.

And things started off well.  You are with a group of NPCs and have to fight your way through a fort to get to their leader.  Once at the leader, an… um… elite… is elite the right term here… mob, that fight started off pretty well too.  Things seemed to be very much under control, I was able to keep my health up, I used an athelas potion to supplement between my own heals.  And then, as victory seemed within my grasp, his health down to the last bits, he summoned a group of adds, seemed to go into an enraged state, and really started beating me down.  My heals were on cool down and I had used a potion already, so I tried to ride it out, but was defeated.

First defeat in Mirkwood.

Seeing what I had to face I headed back to the NPC who sends you on your way to this instanced encounter, buffed myself back up again, using up more scrolls and potions, swapped heralds for something that would buff me, as opposed to the archer for DPS, and went back in expecting to have to restart the whole thing from scratch.

Instead, when I got there the place seemed empty.  I made my way up the path into the fort where all the previous NPC groups had been, but nobody was about.  I figured maybe Turbine was being kind and I would only have to re-do the boss encounter.  But the NPC group I started with was all standing around at the top of the platform waiting for me, no boss in sight, and the burning ring above the quest giver indicating that he had an update for me.

Apparently my posse finished off the boss as I sat there in that wobbly state of defeat, so the quest was complete.  That opened up the zone to me.  The starting story limits you to the Mirk-Eaves, but once that was complete the whole map could be explored.

Map of Mirkwood

Map of Mirkwood

All good.  There was a bit more running/sailing back and forth between Mirkwood and Lothlorien and a epic quest tale about exchanging an orc for a dwarf and the ego of the dwarves themselves.

Sure, that must be it...

Sure, that must be it…

Not exactly the most engaging quest chain in the epic series.  But we’re in Mirkwood, which is a secondary theater in the war.  We are here to clean up the flanks and keep busy as the fellowship has its little trip down the river and its big breakup scene, which is the climax of the first physical book.

I suspect we won’t be running into any of the original fellowship, the nine walkers… erm… eight walkers now… seven when we get out to the other side… or will it be eight again by that point… until we get to The Rise of Isengard, the 2011 expansion.  Not the first time we’ve been sent off to secure the salients.

I will admit, once I got adjusted to the lighting and the dank, that the zone so far isn’t all that impressive.  I realize that this is 2009 level tech.  But looking at the trees and the ground and the textures, it doesn’t feel like it is a decade beyond EverQuest at launch.  Yeah, the ground texture isn’t as bad as the horrible old linoleum prints in West Karana, but it appears to be the same leaves on the ground pattern everywhere, only broken up by the occasional rock sticking up or path through the forest.

And then there is the forest itself, which certainly doesn’t live up to the tree density as described in The Hobbit.  Yes, more technical limitations… Turbine has to limit how many polygons they throw at us… and we all know what I get the urge to do when there are too many trees in my way.  So maybe it is better this way.

Flint and steel solution...

Burn it! Burn it all!

Of course I am only into the first area in the expansion.  Perhaps it will be like Moria where it improves dramatically as you move through it.

Maybe I will even find some NPC to deal with my legendary weapon every time it needs to be reforged.  Going all the way back to the far side of Lothlorien is becoming a bit of a pain.  And are task boards no longer a thing after Moria?  Can I just sell all these junk drops that promise they can be turned in for experience and rep?

Onward into the forest.

Turbine Finally Figures Out Insta Levels, Will Send You to Level 95 in LOTRO

About two years back we hit the era of the insta levels, at least in MMORPGs.  It was an attempt to fix the “levels” problem, where the distance between the core player base and any new players grows increasingly daunting over time.

SOE was out in front with level boosts, first in EverQuest II and later in EverQuest.

Blizzard first offered an insta level boost as part of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, then as a separate $60 options.

Star Wars: The Old Republic came up with their own twist on the whole thing later on.

And then there was Turbine and their Gift of the Valar plan.

The Valar aren't what they used to be...

The Valar aren’t what they used to be…

In the face of their core population being distant from the newbies and seeing their competitors offer options to grant direct access to their latest expansions, Turbine chose to offer a boost that would bring people to level 50 and their first expansion, The Mines of Moria.

For 4,995 Turbine points, or somewhere between $38 and $75, depending on discounts and bonus points, you could jump past the 2007 content and straight to the then five year old 2008 expansion.  Specifically, you would get:

  • Character boosted to level 50
  • A set of level 50 gear
  • 1 Gold piece
  • An LIXP rune, worth enough XP to bring one LI to level 10
  • 4 ranks of each virtue
  • The Riding skill
  • A Dusky Nimblefoot Goat
  • A 25-stack of food that scales with your level
  • A 25-stack of Morale and Power potions that scale with your level
  • 5 +100% XP Boosts
  • A single-use map to Rivendell
  • 25 Mithril Coins

Some nice stuff in that.  And sure, it would get people past those first 50 levels.  But, in my opinion, it really did little to solve the “levels” problem in a game where the level cap was at 95. (The cap is 100 now, isn’t it?)  Turbine’s major innovation seemed to be to make the Gift of the Valar only available at special times as opposed to being a regular item in the LOTRO store.

The only real excuse I could see for this was that Turbine’s business model involves selling content, so boosting somebody close to the level cap would leave them without all the content and expansions between the starter zones and where they landed.  Of course, they were not exactly slick on that front either, as boosting people to 50 means that they immediately need to buy the Mines of Moria expansion.

Life with Turbine.

I have no idea if the Gift of the Valar was a big success or not, it was just an option I would never consider, feeling very much like a half measure as it did.

Well, apparently something… slow sales, customer complaints, a need to boost revenue… changed Turbine’s collective mind on the insta levels front.  In their current patch notes for update 17.1, the following two line items sit:

  • Blessing of the Valar – Level your character to 95, catch up to your friends, and jump into the Epic Quests to help defend Gondor!
  • Blessing of the Valar Upgrade – Already over level 51? Level your character to 95 with this option.

There is no elaboration in the post, just those two items, but they seem like a step in the right direction.  And since Turbine has gotten out of the expansion (and presumably the level cap boosting) business, this will be a solid offer to get people into the latest content additions without much effort.  Turbine’s plan this year has been focused on consolidating their population after all.

We shall see what they end up offering with this new Blessing of the Valar when it goes live.  There is a video up (hat tip: Massively OP) that shows the price (5,995 Turbine Points) and what is currently offered on the test server, but that may not be final.

Of course, here is the point in the post where I generally poo-poo whatever Turbine is up to lately.  I personally disliked the Gift of the Valar in part because I thought that at least to 1-40 experience in LOTRO was both smooth and swift as well as being something of a necessary introduction to how to play your classes.   Maybe there was a bit of shaking my fist at kids these days skipping past content I quite enjoyed on multiple passes, but not much.  It was more that the whole thing was, as I said, a half measure.  It didn’t jump you far enough ahead to be worthwhile.

With the level 95 boost, this seems like a much better plan.  I’m not sure I would buy it, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out as I did with the level 50 boost.  And I would sort of like to see the new stuff in LOTRO.

That said, I still think they have the wrong plan.  Here is what I would do.

First, I would go back and make sure that all of the book quests were really doable solo, and add in a solo option where there is none. (There were still a couple of those the last time I passed through.)  And not just a half-assed checkup, but a real deep look to tune the whole thing so that an average player can do it solo.

Then I would steal the SWTOR twist… I don’t know if a 12x experience boost would do it, or maybe just auto-level you up to the same level of the book quest you are on… and put a package in the LOTRO Store that would allow you to level up a character by running just the story line book quests.

That’s it.  You start at level 1, buy the option, start in on Volume I, Book I – Stirrings in the Darkness at one end and finish up where ever they are in Volume III (Book XIV?) or wherever, after which they are at or near the level cap and free to carry on from there.  No side quests, nothing blocking your way, all travel between areas worked into the package, and no need to buy the additional content.

The standard arguments against any insta level scheme apply to this as well.  But, as with other such offers, the most likely buyers are people who have already done the grind, or a good portion of it, already.  The core player base is much more likely to buy this sort of thing for an alt than a new player trying the game for the first time is.

Anyway, that is my thought.  If nothing else, I am glad to see Turbine coming to grips with the reality of their current insta level situation.

Others opining on this:

(I will add more, if I see any, as they appear)