Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

What I Have Played so far in 2021

2021 is past the half way mark now and, as usual, the months seem to have slipped by.  But it did seem like a good time to maybe stop and look at what video games I played in the first six months of the year.  Thanks to ManicTime I have a handy list to work with.

Unfortunately, ManicTime can only tell me what I have played.  It cannot make my list longer or more interesting.  Still, let’s see where I spent my play time budget.

  1. Valheim – 40.18%
  2. WoW Classic – 39.50%
  3. EVE Online – 17.89%
  4. War in the Pacific – 0.97%
  5. Burning Crusade Classic Beta – 0.43%
  6. World of Warcraft – 0.39%
  7. Runes of Magic – 0.31%
  8. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.24%
  9. LOTRO – 0.09%

Not even an even ten games, though these are just games on my PC.  We can add Pokemon Go if I need the round number I suppose, but I don’t have times for that, so we’ll skip it.  Anyway, looking at that list we have:

  • Valheim

Proof that I do play new games now and again.  It came out of nowhere in February and distracted the instance group from WoW Classic for more than two months.  It is actually in second place now in my Steam library based on hours played, just barely ahead of RimWorld and out in front of Age of Empires II and War Thunder, but still quite a ways behind Civilization V.

  • WoW Classic

The title I expected to be in first place, though it isn’t far behind Valheim.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while it making the list is probably no surprise to you

  • EVE Online

I am sure it is a sign of the current state of World War Bee that my time spent in New Eden is less than half of the time played in either of the first two titles.  Still, it is in the top three that together make up about 97.5% of my PC gaming time so far this year.  I do wonder sometimes if I should give EVE a multiplier for play time because there is no other game I spend so much time playing while tabbed out in a browser looking something up, and ManicTime only counts the time when the game has focus.  Then again, I do also sit docked in a hangar doing nothing a good chunk of time too.

  • War in the Pacific

My apparent attempt to prove that I no longer have the patience to get into a complicated war game title.  22 year old me would have managed it.  Even 35 year old me might have made it.  But far side of 50s me isn’t getting there it seems.  I blame the tiny text and the lack of a zoom feature.  And even as a failed experiment it makes it into 4th spot, so I tried!

  • Burning Crusade Classic Beta

You can argue that this ought to be under WoW Classic, but it had its own executable and was tracked on its own line.  Plus, given how little time I spent in beta, about which I have posted, there is a statement on how little I played anything below this.

  • World of Warcraft

Oh retail WoW, I was so into your Shadowlands expansion right up until I got my first character to level cap and decided I didn’t want to do dailies and grind anima or whatever it is.  I was seriously excited about some of the zones.  I’ll probably come back next year when the catch up mechanics kick in and make everybody who did it the hard way feel like a schmuck.  I mean, unless you enjoyed the journey.  I don’t want to take that away from you.  Anyway, my time spent here is mostly the monthly Darkmoon Faire login… and I even missed a month of that.

  • Runes of Magic

This isn’t a bad game, and it even works on my big monitor.  It suffers from the fact that there are just half a dozen other games at least that I would rather play.  I got hooked up into it for its anniversary for a bit.  Actually, it is probably for the best I didn’t carry on, because I never got as far as having to rent bag space or the dreaded $10 horse, which would have made me pissy about them having converted my account somehow causing me to lose all my diamonds.  Maybe it is a bad game.

  • MMO Tycoon 2

A single player game?  Whaaaaa?  Purchased this on a bit of a whim at the end of last month.  It seemed like it might be a bit of a laugh.  How meta, the one game on my list that has no MMO characteristics is about simulating the creation of an MMO!  Me so crazy!

  • Lord of the Rings Online

Grumble, grumble, monitor size and UI scaling.  I do log into the game once in a while, though I suspect if I went back into ManicTime and added up the time spent in the launcher patching and added that to the list, it would push LOTRO down another position.  Some day SSG will get around to supporting large screens.

What an entirely predictable list!

The good news, I suppose, is that I have picked up a couple items on Steam so the list ought to be a bit deeper before year’s end.  Everything won’t be “the siege of 1DQ carries on” and “the instance group rides again!”

Down the Rabbit Hole of Immersion

This could be the first of a multiple post thread on the topic… or it might all end right here.  I am not sure yet.

Last week I wrote about immersion from my usual point of view, which was trying to pin down what it is while trying not to become the pedant that cannot see that it can be different things to different people, that getting there and getting pulled out of that state are very much things that vary from person to person.

In reflecting for a while on things I found immersive, games and moments in time from those games, I came to the not all that startling in hindsight conclusion that there is very much a pattern of immersion when it comes to games I have enjoyed, played for long stretches, or for which I feel a great deal of nostalgia.

More of a “that makes sense” discovery than a “eureka!” moment, and yet I feel that there is, perhaps, a “eureka!” to be found if only I could approach this from the right angle.  It feels like if only I could somehow parse through the games that I liked because I achieved some tipping point level of immersion in them that I might find a pattern, some common thread… or maybe several parallel threads… that links those games together.  If immersion is truly a key aspect that dictates how much I like a particular video game, then discovering what factors lead to immersion might not only explain my video game preferences, but help me find games more likely to get to that immersion point.  To figure that out I need more data.

But how do you even go about compiling data for what is, at its heart, a very subjective and often transitory experience?

My initial thought is to simply list out all of the games that I have really enjoyed, that series of special titles that rise up above the rest, and explore, one by one, what worked for me within each.  Call that “The Immersion Files” and we are probably talking about a minimum of 50 posts exploring various titles through the years.

That can’t be enough though.  I have to at least spend some time with titles that, for whatever reason, did not hit the nebulous and indefinable immersion threshold, but perhaps should of due to their similarity with titles that did.

Why, for example, did EverQuest II and Lord of the Rings Online cross into immersion territory, but Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 never did?  That comes close to trying to say why World of Warcraft succeeded and Warhammer Online failed when somebody like Richard Bartle says that they are, with enough distance, pretty much the same game; an exploration guaranteed to make somebody angry!

Not that such would stop me.  I’ve already had people shout “willing suspension of disbelief” at me like it was an answer on that front, I can handle that.  Plus, I would be exploring my own likes, which need not feel obligatory to anybody else.

Also, any such exploration depends on my own recollection, and memory is notoriously faulty in most people.  If I go through all the possible titles I am going to have to dig way back.  Literally the first really immersive video game title that comes to my mind was from the mid 1970s, somewhere between Pong and the Atari 2600, when a friends dad brought us into the office while he was watching us one weekend and let us play Star Trek on the mini computer in accounting.

Star Trek in vt52 emulation

The source code for a variation of that in BASIC is all of 425 lines long.  We were so into that game we had to be dragged away and we went on to create a board game version of it so we could play it independent of the accounting department.

But this very early title brings up some important… to me at least… questions about the relative nature of immersion.

First, how much has what triggers immersion changed for me in almost 50 years?  I found this very deep at the time, but I was also 10 years old.  I suspect I wouldn’t find the same level of immersion in it today.

Second, how much does the state of technology at the moment affect immersion?  A 425 line BASIC program was pretty spiffy back then, but today it hardly makes the cut.  I was playing much better Star Trek games in the 80s and 90s, and even those games seem somewhat primitive by today’s standards.  I don’t need AAA photo realistic titles to find immersion… I can find it in un-modded Minecraft for Pete’s sake… but it seems likely that my experience since that game would make it less likely to hold my attention.

And third, how much does the associated theme and/or IP affect immersion?  While I practically need rose-tinted binoculars to see that far back in time, I do know that part of the appeal was that my friend and I were very big fans of Star Trek and this gave us an opportunity, simplistic though it was even at the time, to sit in the captain’s chair and fight Klingons.

This is not a throw away idea, either.  I suspect, could I fully explore my subconscious, that I would find that part of the reason I found, and continue to find, LOTRO compelling and immersive is its association with the books I read not too many years after my friend and I were playing our board game version of Star Trek.

Does my love of EverQuest at launch stem from it being a great game at the time or from the fact that it was very much a translation of TorilMUD, so I came in with some familiarity of what was going on?  I would argue that it was more of the former, but the latter was not absent.

How much impact does familiarity have?

Then there is playing with others.  That is always a big draw for me.  I am pretty sure I put up with WoW at first, which I didn’t like all that much at launch, because friends jumped over to play.  What impact does that have?  Does it improve the chances of immersion?

And given all that, how do I explain Star Trek Online?  I was into and familiar with the IP, wanted to play, and was there on day one with friends… and yet it never grabbed me.  Was it lack of immersion?  Was it just not a game made of of elements that appealed to me?  Or were expectations that the stars would align on such a combination of factors so high that disappointment was inevitable?  Does hype, anticipation, and high expectation impact the possibility of immersion?

Then, let me pile on top of all of that the “me” factor of how I felt, thought, and reacted to the world at various times over the last half of a century.  Leaving aside the tech aspect, there was a time when I would play NetHack all night long… I had the source code and would throw in my own tidbits at times just to see if would run into them… and then there was a time when I would no longer find that interesting.

Did I change?  Did something better come along?  Did I just wear out the possibilities of the game?  I suspect it was all of those combined and probably a couple other items as well, but there was a point when immersion was possible, and then that passed.

So is it even worthwhile exploring why Tank was immersive and Pong was not?  Why the Atari 2600 games Air Sea Battle and Pac Man were dull but Adventure and River Raid would keep me up past my bed time?  Why I played so much Wizardry and Ultima III?  Why WoW Classic is immersive now, and much more so than retail WoW, while early WoW wasn’t terribly immersive for me back in the day until around Wrath of the Lich King? How far back does the exploration of immersion remain valid?  What applies to me today?  Does TorilMUDEverQuestWoWLOTROValheim?  Where do the answers to this lie?

Perhaps the study of a single title that has both immersive and non-immersive aspects for me?  We shall see if I get to that.

The Burden of Returning to Middle-earth

While I am still not planning to play on either of the Legendary servers that the LOTRO team launched last Wednesday, I did decided to log in to take a look and see if there were queues or a big crowd in the starter areas.

You have to go for a bit into the game to see much because the initial start tutorial is a single player instance.  But it was in that instance I was reminded again of how long I’ve been playing LOTRO and the baggage that comes with it.

One of the early interesting aspects of LOTRO was the fact that you got plenty of bag space right at the start.  That bags were fixed in size and number eventually became a burden on the game… no bag upgrades… and after free to play, unlocking those bags became something to sell to people… but at the start it seemed pretty neat, inventory space always being one of those aspects of MMORPGs that most players have had to deal with.

But, while all that early bag space seemed like a luxury back in 2007, here in 2021 it is almost a necessity.  I rolled up an new character on Shadowfax and, once in the game, I found my bags well on their way to being filled up already.

At least there are six bags

What you see here is the culmination of a 14 year relationship with Lord of the Rings Online.  In my bags is every bonus item, from the Glass of Aglaral (bag 1, second row, first slot), which was the in-game item that came with the LORTO Special Edition box back in 2007, to the 14th anniversary gift box we received back in April.

Anniversary related items take up a whole bag of their own, there being 14 boxes and a house item.  Some of them include fireworks, so there is the tie-in to US Independence day, which is today.

Then there are the expansion related items… I never opted for the super collector’s edition, but many of them had something special, and often an extra item for pre-orders… that I have collected over the years.  There are six cloaks with stats, another five cosmetic items, three mounts, two boxes with more cosmetic items, two pocket items, some tokens that can be redeemed for other things, a writ for a title (in addition to the dozen I got without an item to bestow them), and a stack of scented candles.

This is still a nice cloak

On the one hand, this is an long time veteran problem.  No new player is going to have to juggle this much stuff on entering the game.  On the other hand, I am going to guess that this is why other games I could mention…  a couple of Norrath MMOs come to mind… have a redemption interface that lets you go and claim things when you need them.  I am sure I have even more items I could pile onto a new character in EverQuest II… due to quirks of the early game old hands are a year ahead on anniversary items…  but I can go get it at need.

Anyway, there is enough bag space left that I can play through the tutorial and the starter area before getting to the bank and still have enough room… at least if I don’t try to open up all those boxes.  I haven’t tried, but I suspect that doing so would take up all my inventory and then some.

And I have to leave some room because the game keeps filling my bags with junk.  On my Treebeard character… I was checking to see if there was a queue on either server… there was not… I noticed that the intro quests were trying to and me gear that were downgrades from the stuff the game equipped me with for just logging in.

Why are you insulting me with this item?

Unlike my bag space issue, that seems like a problem that could mess up new players, or at least highlight that perhaps SSG hasn’t been as studious of a caretaker of the game as perhaps they should have been. Seriously, this should be an easy fix.

After years of focus on the new player experience by CCP in EVE Online I might be a little more sensitive to the dumb that companies do.

LOTRO Launches the Shadowfax and Treebeard Legendary Servers

Yesterday saw the arrival of two more legendary servers to the LOTRO lineup, joining the late-2018 Anor server (and the memory of the since closed Ithil server).  Named Shadowfax and Treebeard, they are supposed to offer players faster or slower progress through the tale of Middle-earth.

Shadowfax and Treebeard

As to what “faster” or “slower” progress actually means, SSG waited until launch day to tell us what that even meant.  Over on their newly updated legendary page the differences are laid out:

Shadowfax – Fast mode

  • Get +50% XP, Legendary Item XP, and Mount XP along with +20% Virtue XP!
  • Unlocks more quickly than normal, about every two months.

I am curious as to how fast this will get you through the content.  I suspect that it won’t be the LOTRO Epic Storyline server idea that I suggested back in January, but it is getting there I suppose.

Treebeard – Slow mode

  • Get only 40% of the XP you would normally receive (-60% reduced XP).
  • Unlocks less frequently than normal, about every five to six months.

I will be interested to see which of the two servers ends up being more popular, but my money is on Shadowfax.

The Anor server also offered a slower XP experience in order to keep players from outrunning zone quest content before they finished, and that worked quite well.  And I would be more confident in Treebeard if SSG indicated how close to the Anor XP curve it was, but SSG has not yet been forthcoming.  Just saying “slow” seems likely to put players off as we saw with one of the EverQuest special servers.  Certainly people who want to get to raids or other end of expansion content will favor Shadowfax, and that crowd tends to be made up of some of the most dedicated supporters of these sorts of servers.

In addition the two new servers are getting the new “landscape difficulty” option which, to my surprise, has nothing to do with hedge trimming.  I thought surely this was a hobbit gaffer challenge mode.

Instead it lets you set how dangerous mobs are out in the world.

Sorted alphabetically because programming is hard

The settings, which I believe go Normal, Hard, Dangerous, then the Deadly range, will offer benefits, boosting XP by 10% to 20% and virtue XP by 1% to 5%.  In addition, those who boost their difficulty to Hard+ before level 11 and stick with that difficulty will earn special titles at levels 50 and 130, and those who do the same at Deadly+ will receive additional titles at those levels to commemorate their achievement.

As for how hard is “hard,” some players did an analysis of the feature when it was on the test server.  In order to allow players with different settings to play together, the impact of the settings adjusts how much damage you take and deliver.  The analysis linked above show that with the maximum Deadly +6 setting your damage output is throttled to less than 17% of normal while boosting incoming damage 9x.  From the forums:

The difficulty mostly works by making you more vulnerable to monster attacks, and reducing your damage – so that it won’t interact too badly when other players who may not be at the same difficulty are present.

There are a few enrage buffs that you can trigger on an enemy when you are in higher difficulties that other players would notice, but these shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance for players running around at normal difficulty even if they do encounter them directly.

In 3+ group instances difficulty is disabled for all participants, as we assume that most of the time you’d be upping the instance difficulty tier for a harder challenge, and we don’t want to make it hard for players with different personal difficulty settings to do group instances together.

While SSG has been hinting about the idea of a LOTRO “classic” server… or at least no longer completely rejecting, which is the same thing to some players in that “so you’re saying I have a chance” level of logic…  in the vein of WoW Classic, the LOTRO Legendary servers are not that.

The Legendary servers have reduced cash shop options, but are otherwise mostly feature aligned with the normal live servers, which means you can play classes or races that were not there at launch and the whole talent tree update from a few years back is part of the mix.

Legendary servers are more akin to fresh start servers with some special rules which unlock content as time goes by.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I found the Anor experience quite enjoyable.  Just don’t kid yourself about what you are getting.

And, as usual, in order to play on Shadowfax or Treebeard you will have to have a VIP subscription or be a VIP lifetime member.

Anyway, the servers appear to be up and active.

There they are on the list

I won’t be joining in this time around.  As much as I enjoyed the Anor experience, that was still fairly recent for me.  I am also pretty invested in WoW Classic at the moment as well.  And then there is my big monitor, which makes playing LOTRO an exercise in eye strain.  The minimal UI scaling they have is pretty bad.  Making things bigger also makes them blurry and pixelated.  So while I support the effort, I will watch from the sidelines.

What are the Prerequisites for a Retro Nostalgia Server?

The whole retro nostalgia server thing has gone from something those weirdos at SOE did once in a while to a idea that has helped sustain the profitability of titles as large as World of Warcraft.

Classic is as classic does

The idea has officially been part of the EverQuest business model since 2015 and has spread to other Daybreak titles and beyond.  Old School RuneScape has a life of its own, Aion just launched a classic server last week, and the Lord of the Rings Online team is launching two new legendary servers next week and has started hinting about a real “classic” server.

So I started wondering what it takes to make one of these sorts of servers viable.  I came up with four… I’ll call them “common threads”… that seem to be involved with successful ventures of this sort.  They are, to my mind:

  1. Player versus Environment Progression
  2. Expansion Based Content
  3. Multiple Server Architecture
  4. Some Past Era of Fame or Success
  5. A Monetization Scheme

Player versus Environment Progression

The first item on my list, PvE, is probably the most controversial.  I mean we only have to look at how many PvP servers Blizzard stood up for WoW Classic to convince just about anybody that PvP is not necessarily a detriment to the nostalgia idea.

But I am going to argue that even on a WoW Classic PvP server that PvE progression, doing quests and killing mobs and getting to the level cap, is the primary.  Getting ganked in Stranglethorn Vale or coming to an uneasy truce with somebody from the other faction when you just want to finish up a quest out in Un’goro Crater, that is some extra spicy topping on the PvE game and not an independent PvP experience.  It is PvP in a PvE framework, and that PvE framework is what you need.

Which isn’t to say that PvP can’t screw things up even with a PvE framework.  The story of PvP in EverQuest II basically consists of a few brief moments where a PvP server was fun… under very specific circumstances, like leveling locking yourself at a specific point in progression and sticking to low level zones… and most of the rest of the fifteen years of the game trying and failing to recreate or recapture the magic of those moments.  They keep breaking PvE progression to make it work, which makes it otherwise unsustainable.

Expansion Based Content

This might not be as critical as the first item.  It is more of a factor as to how long your nostalgia experience can be expected to last.  EverQuest, with 26 expansions, is the poster child for this.  You can unlock an expansion a month and still keep the party going for a couple of years.

But you might not want to drag people through every expansion.  The Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server for EverQuest ran for nine yearsEverQuest was only seven years old when they rolled out the first such server.  Nine years is long enough to feel nostalgic for the good old days of the launch of the server.

For World of Warcraft it feels like there is an argument to stop after the second expansion, if only for the sake of simplicity.

And, of course, having expansions where the game changed all in one go gives the company and the players nice, clear markers as to where the nostalgia is.  It is handy.

Multiple Server Architecture

The MMO in question ought to support the idea of multiple shards, servers, realms, or whatever you want to call them.  This seems like a bit of a gimme, but it does leave out EVE Online, where not only does everybody play in a single version of the game (except those in China), but the game itself is a success based on the critical mass of players.  Splitting off a nostalgia based New Eden would be a non-started for this reason alone… but it also doesn’t have PvE progression nor expansion based content.  No retro server for EVE Online ever.

Anyway, you should be able to roll up a new, special rules server and not kill your game or over-tax your staff.

Some Past Era of Fame or Success

Can you have nostalgia for a game nobody has heard of?  Sure, why not!  Will anybody else come and play?  No.

A big part of the retro server plan is farming your installed base, appealing to them with visions of the “good old days” when the game was new, they were young, and everything seemed much simpler.  While those who missed out on the original launch might show some interest, the success of your server is largely based on how many people have fond memories of your early game.

EverQuest does very well on this front because, while the game never achieved anything like WoW level subscription numbers, in the five years between its launch and WoW‘s launch a lot of people came and played for at least a little while.  Brad McQuaid said at one point that there were a couple million former EQ players before WoW was a thing.  These are the people who will be tempted to come back.

And then, of course, there is WoW Classic, where Blizz had to roll out about 150 servers to handle the nostalgia overload.

Even Lord of the Rings Online, which never met Turbine’s grandiose visions of popularity, did score a lot of players over the year.

On the flip side there is EverQuest II, which launched just weeks before WoW, and never achieved the kind of success its older sibling had, or Anarchy Online, 20 years old this month, which had such a bad launch it became the first title I knew of to go down the free to play path.  Both games have dedicated followings, but neither has the depth of installed base that makes the idea of a retro server a big deal.  EQII has had a few of those at this point, but they tend to launch quietly and shut down even more quietly.

A Monetization Scheme

The company isn’t doing this for nostalgia, it is doing it to farm the installed base for money.  And to get that money, they have to have a plan.  WoW Classic has the simplest of all plans.  Since you still have to subscribe to play WoW, they just included WoW Classic in that plan and they were set.

EverQuest and other Daybreak titles, which still have a subscription plan as an option, just put their special servers in a special “subscribers only” room.  Not too tough, that.  (Though can we get LOTRO and DDO on the Daybeark All Access plan now that we finally know Daybreak owned them before EG7?  or How about an EG7-wide all access plan?)

Aion Classic has… a monetization plan of sorts.  If I am reading things correctly, it consists of a special pay to win cash shop and an optional subscription for benefits, but at least that is a plan.

But I wonder if a game like Guild Wars 2 could ever pull off the nostalgia server idea.  It seems like there might be a market to re-roll the event experience of the game from scratch.  Maybe?  But their business plan is buy the box and cash shop items.  I guess they could have some special cash shops items, but I am not sure they would bring in the money needed to make a classic server worthwhile.

Anyway, those are my somewhat off-the-cuff thoughts this morning.  I am sure I missed something in the mix.

EG7 Will Consolidate MMOs onto 4Games Platform, Hints at New MMO Title

Enad Global 7 did a live video presentation for their Q1 2021 results.

Enad Global 7

Highlights from the presentation:

  • Highest revenue and profit in the history of the company
  • Live games, including the Daybreak titles, made up 50% of their revenue, with recurring revenue items making up 80% of the total
  • There are plans to consolidate all their titles to the Innova 4Games platform, which currently handles some of their European licensed IPs; this includes all of the Daybreak titles
  • Acquisitions will continue
  • There is a new AAA MMO in the works based on “one of the greatest brands in the world”

You can watch the replay of the presentation on YouTube:

There is also a PDF of the presentation available at the EG7 investor relations site here.

Related:

April in Review

The Site

Achievements.  WordPress.com introduced achievements this month, though they have had something akin to that for a while.  I’ve been getting notifications about the blog anniversary or when I get a record number of “likes” on posts in a single day for quite a while now. (43 is the current record.)  But I received an email from them announcing that they were expanding that, and on the first day they were available I received a pop up announcing my current post streak.

My first achievement

Today is, as an aside, my 398th day streak.  If I can manage to post two more days I will hit the nice round number of 400.

Anyway, that’s okay.  It is easier for me if they keep track of such things.  But starting this when you’re almost 15 years into the blog thing is also a little odd.  I am never going to surpass my all time most popular day/month, which was back in 2013.  I mean, it isn’t as bad a EVE Online introducing their Activity Tracker and just ignoring all activity that went before, but there are some peaks I am never going to achieve again.

Also, it really needs an achievements page, some place where it shows me what they’re tracking and what my current count is.  If you’re going to go for gamification, go all the way dammit.

One Year Ago

April Fools at Blizzard introduced googly eyes into Overwatch and gave us the traditional WoW patch notes, and that was about it.

I took a look back at WoW Tokens five years after their debut.  It also seemed like BlizzCon might not happen, after all, live events were being cancelled everywhere, though Blizzard was looking into alternatives.

In Battle for Azeroth I managed to unlock flying.

Over in WoW Classic the group was starting prep for Zul’Farrak by visiting the Altar of Zul and Jinha’alor.  That was sketchy enough that we spent a session just leveling up before we made our way down to Gadgetzan to start some quests there, with the expected diversion into Feralas.  I also found a crypt in the Badlands to explore.

Everybody being at home due to the pandemic led us to do a Blaugust blogging community event early.  Christened Blapril, we had a prep week, figuring out what to write week, a “getting to know you week” where I wrote about a road trip, listing out our favorite video game series, and then something about motivation.

Meanwhile, in WoW Classic news, Holly Longdale was now on the team, phase four was in place, some servers were still over populated, and Blizz was sending out some surveys about how to handle Burning Crusade Classic.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons released just in time for the pandemic and seemed to be everybody’s favorite game on the Switch for a while.

EVE Online was introducing their second quadrant, Eclipse, and kicking off The Hunt event.  The Hunt also coincided with the introduction of new implants.  There was also a PLEX for Good event for Covid-19, and the capsuleer generosity login campaign, and the Surgical Strike update that nerfed damage resistance modules.

CCP also started the ongoing daily login rewards thing, where you get some skill points every 30 days you log in.  The rewards were not great, but skill points are skill points.

And the beginning of the campaign season for CSM15 kicked off. while the monthly economic report was showing CCP’s mineral drought was raising prices.

CCP introduced a new Avatar model on the test server, so I finally got to fly a titan.  The pandemic brought players back to New Eden and the PCU passed the 40K mark for the first time since 2017.

Out in the east of null sec I was out with Black Ops dropping on PanFam ratters and miners.  And then there was a road trip north to fight the Conifers.

And, finally, I revealed my actual first computer.

Five Years Ago

I wondered about the concept of the last good day in the context of MMOs.

DC Universe Online was ported over to the XBox One, one of the fruits of the separation from Sony, which allowed Daybreak to publish on consoles other than the PlayStation.

The whole Blizzard versus Nostalrius issue blew up when the company sent the private/pirate server a take down notice.  Blizzard actually responded to things, but those hoping that they might actually get an official nostalgia server were not optimistic at the time.

We did get a ship date for WoW Legion.  And, for once, nobody complained about Blizzard targeting a competitor with their chosen date.  At least not that I heard.

The Casino War was going badly for the Imperium.  I mean, sure, Dinsdale Pirannah was predicting a Goon victory, but he was in a small minority.

The Mittani held a state of the Goonion and logs documenting CO2’s betrayal were released, but that didn’t stave off black Thursday in Tribute as TNT’s holdings got steamrolled.  The war was getting serious.  First SMA and then FCON left the Imperium.  FCON showed up in Immensea soon afterwards while Darius Johnson tried to take advantage of the war by attempting to restart the original GoonSwarm.

There was a short Russian complication in the northeast that threatened to widen the war, but which eventually blew over.  No relief for the Imperium was to be found on that front.

There was to be no last stand at VFK-IV.  We pulled back to the Quafe Factory Warehouse in Saranen and attempted to fight back against the tide while I wondered what would constitute a victory.

There was some talk of names for the war.  I did not like the names coming from either side and stuck with Casino War, the name which Nosy Gamer coined months earlier and which went straight to the heart of the conflict.

Outside of the Casino War, I took a look at two books about EVE Online.  There was a Rooks & Kings video from the Serenity server. The Citadel expansion was released, bringing Upwell Consortium structures to New Eden.  There was a Blog Banter about what the most important announcement out of Fan Fest was.  And Xenuria made it onto the CSM at last.

I also gave Pokemon Blue a try and was surprised to see how fully formed the first versions of Pokemon really were.

Google was telling me that pretty much every game was dead.

And there was, as always, April Fools at Blizzard.

Ten Years Ago

Of course, there was some April foolery both here and at Blizzard.

I also wrote something about magic quadrants.

Sanya Weathers had one of the best quotes about MMO gamers ever, made all the more amusing by its truth.

Battlefront.com released a completely new version of their original WWII Combat Mission series.

Wargaming.net released World of Tanks.

SOE’s spy themed MMO, The Agency, was officially cancelled.

We got a PlayStation 3.  And then the PlayStation Network got hacked.  At least I could still play Blu-Ray disks and stream Netflix.

The instance group got together and decided to try out EverQuest II Extended, the one-time separate free to play version of EverQuest II.  However, the game immediately began to kick us in the teeth for daring to do solo content as a group.

Being there in EQIIx also meant looking at what the cash store had to offer.  Some of this stuff is gone now in the post merger era of EQIIFlying mounts are still around.  And some idea, like selling max-level characters, would have to wait a while to come back.

And Potshot and I were still playing EverQuest.  We moved on from Unrest to Lake Rathetear and spent an evening there.  Then it was on to Kerra Island and finally we made it to Runnyeye, at which point SOE also went down due to the PSN hacking.  That pretty much ended our EverQuest adventures for 2011.

I did have to explain EverQuest to my daughter.  Her foundation in MMOs is World of Warcraft.

Fifteen Years Ago

ArenaNet released its first post-launch Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Factions. It only took them a year, too.  Right, Blizzard?  See?

Auto Assault went live, perhaps the first “troubled at launch” MMO I am personally aware of that failed to get past its issues.  The game ended up being shuttered by NCsoft 19 months down the road.  It was, for a while, the poster child for MMO launch failures.

Nintendo announced the name of their new console, slated to replace the GameCube.  Known up to that point only by its code name “Revolution,” Nintendo said it was going to call it the “Wii.”

Viacom spent $102 million to purchase Xfire.  According to Viacom: “Xfire and its users fit squarely into the Company’s multiplatform strategy to build an engaging universe of music, gaming, entertainment, news, networking and interactivity for focused audiences.”  They also thought NeoPets were worth splurging on as well.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2021 is a Very Quiet Affair
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. What Does LOTRO Need?
  5. Robbing Some Space Banks
  6. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  7. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  8. SuperData Reviews 2020 Digital Game Revenue
  9. Death on the Plains in Valheim
  10. Diablo II Act Five and some Thoughts
  11. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  12. How Close to Half Way in WoW Classic?

Search Terms of the Month

lists for a game where a man is in a village who goes put of the village to catch bulls sometimes pixels or bee or catch fish and go to the village to sell them and also have magical power like thunder,fire etc and also fight things like octopus,and trolls apk pure games
[That is some search term]

holly longdale height
[a bunch of results for this, and she is tall]

underwood champion typewriter models with tabulator and backspace keys
[Another very specific search, but I do have a typewriter post here]

can you build tunnels in valheim?
[No, you have to dig a ditch then roof it over]

Game Time from ManicTime

In April I actually played a few more things besides Valheim.  Granted, I still played a lot of Valheim, but a few other titles got their turn.

  1. Valheim – 70.20%
  2. WoW Classic – 13.48%
  3. EVE Online – 8.13%
  4. War in the Pacific – 5.46%
  5. Runes of Magic – 1.91%
  6. LOTRO – 0.43%
  7. World of Warcraft – 0.39%

My overall play time for the month was less than the time I spent playing Valheim last month though.

EVE Online

The war in Delve saw a bit of a slump for much of the month of April.  The Imperium and its allies were mostly focused on burning down the space that Legacy Coalition left in order to colonize Delve, Querious, and Period Basis.  However, things are apparently spicing up a bit now, with PAPI making some efforts to take the remaining constellation in Delve.

Meanwhile, CCP implemented its big industry changes.  Now we just need about six months for the supply chains to settle down before we can tell how much everything is going to cost.  Also, it would be kind of nice for CCP to ease up on the mineral starvation thing.  We shall see.

Lord of the Rings Online

In writing about the game again this month… and complaining about the state of the game in general… I did log in for a bit to bang my head against the legendary item mechanics just to remind myself how much I dislike being, for example, in the middle of an instanced quest mission and having the game pop up and tell me I need to go back and reforge my weapon.  That and the teeny tiny eyestrain-o-vision of their UI and horrible iconography (which, honestly, was a day one problem) on my wide screen monitor makes the game unplayable so far as I am concerned.  But don’t worry, SSG has… no intention of fixing any of that.  Oh well.

Pokemon Go

We slowed down a bit after the burst of raiding activity our group had at one point.  We also missed out on a weekend event that had a decent chunk of xp related to it.  But, the balance on that was it had an hour time limit on it and I only logged in and noticed it was happening when there was 12 minutes left to go.  I still actually still managed to capture all but two of the Pokemon needed before time ran out.  But close doesn’t win you the prize.

Level: 41 (23% of the way to 42 in xp, 2 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 633 (+5) caught, 662 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Need Eevees for the level 42 tasks
Current buddy: Eevee

Runes of Magic

I jumped in to take a look at what GameForge had going on for the title’s 12th anniversary, including the new super bonus server they setup in the EU region.  In reviving my account (I am still out a bunch of diamonds) I started getting updates from them in email again including special items… which were delivered (eventually) to my NA region characters.  I can have one or the other, but not both I guess.  Otherwise the game is still busy and playable if you’re into the F2P bag rental plan.

Valheim

We defeated Moder and set up a base in the plains.  We have harvested enough resources that I think everybody in the group can get their gear upgraded fully.  We actually have something of a dark metal glut, as it isn’t used for very much.  Otherwise things have slowed down somewhat as April got some of us outside and in the yard.  Yagluth is the only current boss left for us to slay, otherwise we have been base building, exploring, and gathering resources.

War in the Pacific

A war game in the mix!  I bought this in April and… well, there is a story to be told here.  I will have a post or three about the game I am sure.  Let’s just say that, so far, I have not bested the Empire of Japan.

World of Warcraft

Once more I went in to do Darkmoon Faire stuff and collect the free battle pets that came our way this past month… though I had a little trouble with the latter.  Maybe that will be a post.  I felt like posting about it at the moment it happened, but distance is making me care less and less about that particular transaction.

WoW Classic

After being  idle on this front for quite a while I got back out to start working a bit in anticipation of the coming of Burning Crusade Classic.  The expansion is coming, though how far away it is still remains a question.  But I will have at least a couple characters ready to step through the dark portal when it arrives.

Coming Up

May brings our daughter home from her first year of college.  Due to Covid-19 the school skipped the usual spring break stuff so as to wrap up the semester a bit early.

Meanwhile, we’ve had little rain out here on the west coast, so it is time to prepare for another summer of fires.  Last year we went from fires being in some distant part of the state to being able to see the smoke coming off of them in the middle of Silicon Valley.  This is probably going to get worse unless we get some last minute rain or everybody gets out and starts raking I guess.

It seems quite possible that we will get the pre-expansion event for Burning Crusade Classic this coming month.  The time seems ripe and Blizz has been putting up notes in the character select screen to remind us that we may soon have to choose a path forward for our characters.

In New Eden the war against the Imperium will no doubt carry on.  The current level of effort by the attackers does not portend an early exit by the Imperium.

CCP will also finish vetting candidates for the CSM16 election and we will get the final candidate list.  The election, however, does not happen until June.

Is LOTRO Effectively in Maintenance Mode?

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread

-Bilbo Baggins

There was a lot of optimism when EG7 announced their plans to purchase Daybreak Games.  It was a heady moment for many of us when EG7 gave us a bunch of data about the various titles.

Enad Global 7

There was also statements from EG7 about investing in titles like Lord of the Rings Online, including what seemed like crazy talk about a console version.  It felt like good things could be coming.

Almost five months down the road the, now that the afterglow of the announcements has passed, some of us are now getting a little impatient to see what changes, if any, the coming of the new Swedish overlords actually bring.  As with other such transactions, you only get so much goodwill time before the old problems become your problems.

Unfortunately, the message coming from the LOTRO team seems to be the usual litany of deferral and excuses.  Last week the community got a Q&A with the executive producer and to say it was a disappointment would be something of an understatement.  All sorts of things people have been asking after for years like a scalable UI or wide screen support to make the game playable on larger monitors are nowhere in sight.  They mostly seem to be on about bugs and whatever new content they can scrape together.

Most disturbing to me was the response about legendary items, a horribly grindy feature that should have been left behind in Moria:

We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue.

This betrays such a basic misunderstanding of what makes people stick with these sorts of games that I despair for any future for the game, even if EG7 decides to throw some money at it.  This is all of the worst conspiracies about MMO devs confirmed, that they make things purposely grindy to keep us with the game longer.  Have you met your players?  We do stuff just because we can.  We don’t need enforced mandatory grind, we’ll make our own thank you.

I honestly thought we were past that somewhat when WoW launched as was relatively easy to level up in compared to the industry as a whole and yet people still found things to do in the game.  I guess not.

The legendary items thing really strikes home for me.  Despite my enjoyment of Lord of the Rings Online over the years… I bought a lifetime subscription back at launch and own every expansion… I have never made it very far past Moria in the game.  Part of the reason is that Siege of Mirkwood is just an uninspired expansion where Turbine was clearly just mailing it in while they threw resources at some of their fruitless projects.  But it has been mostly due to the constant need to attend to the legendary weapon… and not the one legendary weapon I got back before Moria, but whichever drop I happened to get that was an upgrade.

Yet somehow they are worried that if they dumped legendaries that players wouldn’t be able to depend on drops to keep up with DPS… though we pretty much have to depend on drops for that anyway.  I guess maybe I should be happy they aren’t planning to make them more grindy, which was pretty much the message back in January, but adjusting the “suck” setting back 10% still means things suck.  And they’re talking about challenge modes that will make grinding your legendary even more of a requirement.  They seem 100% locked into “grind makes the game” as a philosophy.

Leaving aside my personal investment in the demise of legendaries, the whole tone of the Q&A was as depressing as any of the worst periods of the Turbine or Daybreak eras.  Even the positive bits, like the new bit of content, The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, turned out to be hollow, being made up of reused assets and mechanics.

A development team that was going to get an infusion of resources to help it along would surely be able to offer a more convincing vision for the future.  Instead I am beginning to wonder if EG7 isn’t simply perusing the Gamigo business model of buying up tired titles and milking the last bits of life out of them before shutting them down.  I previously dared to speculate as to what LOTRO needed.  Now I wonder what the game can even hope to get.

It should be a good moment for the game.  It is celebrating its 14th anniversary and a major potential competitor, the Amazon funded Middle-earth MMO, has been cancelled. (Though the LOTR series under development is still on, so there may still be a renewed interest in all things Middle-earth.)  Instead, the game is starting to feel like Bilbo at the top of the post, stretched too thin for the resources they have with no relief in sight.

What Does LOTRO Need?

Yesterday Massively OP reported that Standing Stone/Daybreak/Enad Global 7 had announced a new expansion bundle for Lord of the Rings Online which allows one to purchase the six expansions between the base game and the current War of Three Peaks expansion for one… price…. that is lower than buying all of them individually.

The headline at Massively OP declared that the bundle “smashes its huge barrier to entry,” a suggestion that made me grimace.

The LOTRO Expansion Trove if you’re were interested

While not exactly a “people aren’t wearing enough hats” level of analysis, if I were to make a ranked list of problems that keep people from playing the game, buying all the expansions would be far down the list, as it is something I suspect never becomes an issue for the vast majority of the people who bother trying the game.

The problem there is that, as with my list about EVE Online from a few years back, there are lot of things that are simply outside of the scope of reality to address.

Yes, thanks to EG7 giving us a peek behind the curtains, we know that LOTRO is a viable, money making concern, but its income is more in the range of “sustain the status quo” rather than “rebuild and revamp.”

Page 15 – Year to Date numbers as of Sep. 30, 2020

That number is only through Q3 2020, so we might be able to assume that the game brings in maybe $13 million a year.  That is sustainable, but there is no bonaza of cash for updates in that number, and it falls well short of the estimated $100 million the game was reported to have made back in 2013.

I was honestly a bit surprised when SSG decided to upgrade the client to 64-bit, though that was more of a long term survival plan than something that would make things better.  At some point in the not too distant future Windows will stop supporting 32-bit apps, so better to get that done before it is a critical item for survival.  Certainly that move did not improve the client’s actual behavior in any noticeable way.

And I fear that anybody who is holding out hope now that EG7 is running the show that they will pour a bunch of money into the game is going to be disappointed.  The idea of there being a console version seems so far from reality that the only answer could be a completely new game build for modern consoles, which would leave the current game out in the cold.

So LOTRO is likely going to stay pretty much as is, a cranky old fantasy MMORPG from 2007 with a difficult to read UI (at just HD resolutions, don’t get me started on how it looks on my new monitor) and a lot of mindless repetitive game play.  Has anybody ever counted how many bears, board, and wolves you slay following the quest chains to level cap?

What can they do?

They are stuck because at their current revenue they clearly cannot make any large changes to the game.  And they are even more restricted than some comparable MMORPGs because they have to stick with approved Tolkien lore and have a game that tells a linear story so the expansions are not independent.  EQ could copy Blizzard’s parallel expansions idea is they had the mind and the budget, but would LOTRO be allowed to even tinker with having Moria and Rohan as parallel experiences on the way to Mordor?

The EQ version would have 26 parallels

Without something dramatic… and I have my doubts about what would even qualify… making money off of new players seems unlikely, so they’re left with the MMORPG standard policy of farming the installed base.

One way to do that is via expansions.

The SSG team can’t simply crank out more expansions for revenue.  I mean, the are trying, but they have trouble keeping up their current pace, have made some customers wary due to lightness of the Battle of Three Peaks expansion, and they’re running out of places to expand into in any case.  They do have another expansion coming this year, but the next thing needs to be in planning.

The other way to farm the installed base is special servers.  LOTRO has played this card once already, and successfully so far as I can tell, with the LOTRO Legendary server of late 2018.

They can always just play that card again.  I am sure there would be a decent response to a fresh start.  But if they want something different, I have an idea.

I’m grabbing this idea from something Star Wars: The Old Republic did a few years back.

I call this the LOTRO Epic Storyline server.

Turn off the side quests… if possible… and tune the xp output/curve so that players can level up through the story just running the epic quest line.

Maybe you don’t even need a special server for that.  Maybe you just have players buy a token for a character on a live server that boosts xp for the epic quest line.  It would be a nice way to catch up and get past some of the less inspired content that lays astride the path to level cap. (Looking at you Siege of Mirkwood.)

There are problems to be solved with the idea.  You would have to have a mechanism to keep player gear up to level along the way.  And then there are the special mechanics like legendary weapons or mounted combat that players would need to be guided through.

But it seems like a possible, reduced if not low effort way to attract some players and boost revenue a bit.

Or is there something else they can do?

Addendum: I mean, besides irritating their installed base by making the awful legendary system even worse.

A Timeline of SOE and Daybreak Games

We are entering a new era for the games of Daybreak which made me think it might be a good time to review the story so far.  We’re around the 25 year mark for when the seeds of the company were planted and, with the Enad Global 7 purchase, the time seems ripe.

  • The House that EverQuest Built

First there was EverQuest.

Firiona and friends at launch, 1999

At some point around 1996 John Smedley, working at Sony, managed to get Brad McQuaid, Jeff Buttler, Steve Clover, Bill Trost, and a host of others together to create a 3D online multiplayer fantasy game loosely (or not so loosely in places) based off of Sojourn MUD / TorilMUD.

Launched on March 16, 1999, a variety of Sony organizational names were connected to the game at different times including Sony Interactive Studios America, Verant Interactive, 989 Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Pictures, and Sony Online Entertainment.  My original disk and manual both display the 989 Studios logo prominently and names a couple others in the fine print.  As I mentioned in my 20 year anniversary reflections post about EverQuest, one magazine referred to the company running the game as Sony, Verant, and 989 in different parts of the same issue.  It was a confusing time.

Clarity came eventually though when EverQuest exceeded all expectations for success.  That was a bit of a surprise.  March of 1999 pre-dates the age of influencers and social media.  The internet wasn’t seen as a serious news source, though Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal had at least made a few start paying attention.  But a lot of us were still getting our gaming news via glossy monthly magazines where full page ads at the covers were the best way to gain attention.

I don’t recall any such ads for the game back in early 1999.  I only knew about the game because almost everybody then active on TorilMUD got invited to beta, usually by Brad McQuaid’s Aradune character in game.  I declined the beta invite, but came for the opening.

Not only were ads scarce, there wasn’t a lot of background to draw attention to the game.  Compare that to what most see as its direct competitor of the era, Ultima Online.  The Ultima franchise had been rolling along for more that 15 years when UO launched in late 1997.  The series spawned a studio, Origin Systems, that created other well known games.  And then there was Lord British, who ended up living in a castle and going into space on the proceeds of his Ultima empire.  UO had the fame, reputation, and lineage that EQ lacked.

And yet, at their respective peaks, EQ would have more than double UO’s subscribers.

EQ seemed to spread by word of mouth.  After buying it at Fry’s on my way home from work on launch day, I came into the office and told a bunch of people about it.  They all went out and bought copies and we ended up playing together.  And they told people and I told more people and others who played told people and soon the people I was telling already knew about it and there was a song “Has anybody seem my corpse?” being passed around and the whole thing had become something of a minor social phenomena.

And its success cemented the idea of online gaming at Sony so that the plethora of names was eventually pared down to Sony Online Entertainment.  25 years down the road from Smed collecting a team to get the ball rolling, this is all still the house that EverQuest built.

  • A Timeline of Events

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am not going to try to piece together things that came before March 16, 1999 or betas for various games.  Early access though, that is another story. I am also going to try not to editorialize, which won’t be easy for me.  If I have missed anything important, drop me a note or a comment and I’ll update the post.

  • 1999
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest launches, servers are quickly overloaded and a long series of new servers kicks off
    • Jul 28 – MMORTS Sovereign announced
  • 2000
    • Apr 24 – The Ruins of Kunark, the first EverQuest expansion, launches
    • Oct 5 – SOE acquires Infantry
    • Dec 5 – The Scars of Velious, EQ expansion #2
  • 2001
    • Apr 17 – Cosmic Rift launches
    • Dec 4 – The Shadows of Luclin, EQ expansion #3
  • 2002
    • Oct 29 – The Planes of Power, EQ expansion #4
  • 2003
    • Feb 11 – Sovereign MMORTS officially cancelled
    • Feb 11 – EverQuest Online Adventures launches on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 25 – The Legacy of Ykesha, EQ expansion #5
    • May 20 – PlanetSide launches
    • Jun 24 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition launches
    • Jun 26 – Star Wars Galaxies launches
    • Sep 9 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath, EQ expansion #6
    • Nov – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga launches
    • Nov 17 – EverQuest Online Adventures: Frontiers expansion launches
    • Dec 1 – Lords of EverQuest, a single player Windows RTS, launches
  • 2004
    • Feb 10 – Gates of Discord, EQ expansion #7
    • Feb 10 – Champions of Norrath launches on PlayStation 2
    • Mar – EverQuest subscribers hit a peak of 550K
    • Sep 14 – Omens of War, EQ expansion #8
    • Oct 27 – SWG Jump to Lightspeed expansion
    • Nov 8 – EverQuest II launches
    • Nov 12 – A second round of EQII servers are launched to absorb the surge of new players
    • Nov – SOE introduces the Station Access plan that gives players a combined subscription to EQ, EQII, and Planetside for $22 a month
    • Nov – EQII subscribers who opt for Station Access get two extra character slots on their account and access to the EQII Players stats page
    • Dec – EQII is down for almost two days as an update breaks the live servers
  • 2005
    • Jan – SOE Announces SWG is being added to Station Access
    • Feb 7 – Champions: Return to Arms is launched on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 8 – EQ server consolidation starts with the four PvP servers being combined into the single Zek server
    • Feb 15 – Dragons of Norrath, EQ expansion #9
    • Feb 17 – SOE temporarily adds the /pizza command to EverQuest II as a cross promotion with Pizza Hut allowing players to order a pizza from within the game
    • Mar 21 – The Bloodline Chronicles, the first EQII adventure pack launches
    • Mar 22 – Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, a PSP title, launches
    • Apr – SOE begins a series of EQ server merges to bolster the populations, which runs on until the end of June
    • Apr – EverQuest II – East, developed for China, Taiwan, and South Korea, launches
    • May 5 – SWG Rage of the Wookies expansion launches
    • Jun 28 – The Splitpaw Saga, the second EQII adventure pack launches
    • Jul 20 – EQII gets new servers, Shadowhaven, The Bazaar, and The Vox PvP under the Station Exchange program, which allows players to sell in-game items for real world money; players are allowed to transfer characters there from other live servers
    • Aug 15 – SOE takes over operation of The Matrix Online
    • Sep 13 – Depths of Darkhollow, EQ expansion #10
    • Sep 13 – Desert of Flames, the first EQII expansion
    • Nov 1 – SWG Trials of Obi-wan expansion launches
    • Nov 8 – SWG New Game Enhancements update lands, changing character progression
    • Nov 9 – The “SOGA” character models from EverQuest II – East become an available option in EverQuest II
  • 2006
    • Jan – SOE announces they will be merging 10 low population EQII servers into 10 medium population servers because players are “too spread out” on the low population servers.
    • Feb 17 – Shadowhaven Station Exchange server is merged into The Bazaar server
    • Feb 21 – Prophecy of RoEQ expansion #11
    • Feb 21 – Kingdom of Sky, EQII expansion #2
    • Mar 28 – Untold Legends: The Warrior’s Code, a PSP title, launches
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest II – East is shut down, with all Chinese accounts transferred to the Mistmoore server, all Taiwanese accounts to the Najena server, and all Korean accounts to the Unrest server
    • Jun – EQ launches the first progression servers for the game, The Combine and The Sleeper, which let players play though all of the game expansions in order
    • Jun 14 – The Fallen Dynasty, the third EQII adventure pack launches
    • Sep 19, The Serpent’s Spine, EQ expansion #12
    • Nov 13 – Echoes of Faydwer, EQII expansion #3
    • Nov 15 – Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a PSP title, launches
  • 2007
    • Jan 30 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 13 – The Buried Sea, EQ expansion #13
    • May 9 – Legends of Norrath collectible card game is launched, running within EQ and EQII
    • May 15 – SOE takes over operations for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Mar 21 – The Sleeper EQ progression server is merged into The Combine server
    • Apr 30 – The EQII Darathar– UK PvP, Gorenaire– FR PvP, and Talendor– DE PvP servers are merged into the Venekor – RP PvP server
    • Jul 11 – The Agency is announced
    • Jul 19 – EQuinox, the official print magazine of EverQuest II is announced with issue #1 featuring Rise of Kunark information and beta access
    • Oct – Station Access pricing peaks at $30 a month for subscription access to all SOE titles including The Matrix Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Nov 13 – Secrets of Faydwer, EQ expansion #14
    • Nov 13 – Rise of Kunark – EQII expansion #4
    • Dec – SOE is caught after moving the level 60 Unholy Trinity guild off of the test server to a live server, an action against stated company policy and not something ever made available to the average player, causing a fierce reaction from players
    • Dec – A false rumor spreads that Zapak Digital Entertainment is planning to purchase SOE and its games for $300 million, an amount close to what the company will sell for in December of 2020
  • 2008
    • Jan 22 – Pirates of the Burning Sea launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 14 – EQuinox issue #2 is announced, featuring Legends of Norrath cards
    • Apr 16 – LiveGamer is brought in to run financial transaction for the Station Exchange RMT servers The Bazaar and The Vox PvP
    • ~Sep – EQuinox issue #3 is cancelled and the magazine idea is scrapped
    • Oct 21 – Seeds of Destruction, EQ expansion #15
    • Oct 24 – The EQII Venekor– RP PvP is merged into the Nagefen, the final remaining PvP server
    • Nov 18 – The Shadow Odyssey, EQII expansion #5
    • Dec – SOE introduces Station Cash, a virtual currency, and an in-game cash shop in EQ and EQII
  • 2009
    • Jan 23 – SOE games become available on Steam starting with EverQuest and EverQuest II
    • Apr 28 – Free Realms launches
    • Jul 31 – The Matrix Online is shut down
    • Dec 15 – Underfoot, EQ expansion #16
  • 2010
    • Feb 16 – Sentinal’s Fate, EQII expansion #6
    • Mar 4 – The Combine EQ progression server is merged into the Druzzil Ro live server, ending the first retro server run for the company
    • Apr – SOE tries a new EQII Passport subscription plan where for just $5.00 a month you can play for three consecutive days during a single month
    • May 5 – SOE announces The Agency: Covert Ops, a free to play title on Facebook
    • Jun 10 – Tanarus, a title that predated EverQuest was shut down
    • Jun 22 – EQ server merges come again, paring down the server count by ten as low population servers are merged into more populated ones
    • Jul – EverQuest II Extended, a free to play version of EQII launches
    • Aug – Plans for EverQuest Next announced at FanFest
    • Sep 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures launches
    • Oct 12 – House of Thule, EQ expansion #17
  • 2011
    • Jan 11 – DC Universe Online launches on Windows and PlayStation 3
    • Feb 15 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server launches, with the Vulak’Aerr server being added soon thereafter to handle the crush of players (I have a whole timeline for those servers)
    • Feb 22 – Destiny of Velious, EQII expansion #7
    • Mar 31 – The Agency is officially cancelled
    • Apr – Flying mounts introduced into EQII
    • May – SOE games are down for almost two weeks as part of the PlayStation Network security breach in which personal data from a reported 24.6 million accounts were compromised
    • Jun – At E3 SOE announced that pricing for Station Access, now called SOE All Access, would drop from $30 to $20 a month, but extra character slots for EQ, EQII, and Vanguard would no longer be part of the plan
    • Aug – SOE finally gets a unified server status page
    • Nov 1 – DC Universe Online goes free to play
    • Nov 15 – Veil of Alaris, EQ expansion #18
    • Dec 6 – Age of Discovery, EQII expansion #8, which also ushers in the free to play era of the game as EverQuest II Extended is folded into the live server list
    • Dec 15 – Star Wars Galaxies is shut down
    • Dec 18 – The Vox PvP Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Nagefen server
    • Dec 21 – The Bazaar Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Freeport server ending the Station Exchange program
  • 2012
    • Feb – SOE announces it is selling its EU customer accounts to a German media company, ProSiebenSat.1
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest goes free to play
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest Online Adventures shuts down on PlayStation 2
    • Mar 29 – Infantry is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Cosmic Rift is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga is shut down
    • Aug 7 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes goes free to play (a week earlier than planned)
    • Aug 7 – SOEmote is introduced to EverQuest II
    • Sep – SOE introduces Player Studio for EQII, which allows players to create cosmetic items to sell in the in-game cash shop, for which they will be paid a cut of the sale
    • Nov – SOE introduces Krono for EQ and EQII, an in-game item that can be redeemed for 30 days of subscription time, which users can purchase for real world cash and sell at the broker to other players for in-game currency
    • Nov 13 – Chains of Eternity, EQII expansion #9
    • Nov 20 – PlanetSide 2 launches
    • Nov 28 – Rain of Fear, EQ expansion #19
  • 2013
    • Jan 30 – SOE publishes the import Wizardry Online as a F2P title
    • Jan 31 – Pirates of the Burning Sea ceases to be published by SOE
    • Aug – A new vision/plan for EverQuest Next is announced at FanFest, which includes the involvement of Storybricks
    • Aug – The FanFest presentation mentions a dev tool EverQuest Next called Landmark
    • Sep 23 – SOE publishes the import Dragon’s Prophet as a F2P title
    • Oct 8 – Call of the Forsaken, EQ expansion #20
    • Nov 12 – Tears of Veeshan, EQII expansion #10
    • Nov 13 – SOE starts selling early access packs to EverQuest Next Landmark
    • Nov 15 – DC Universe Online launches on PlayStation 4
    • Nov 18 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition is shut down
  • 2014
    • Jan – Station Access/SOE All Access pricing drops to $15 a month, the price of a single game subscription, but keeps the 500 Station Case stipend after the forums erupt when Smed suggests they may remove that benefit
    • Jan 24 – SOE announced they will be shutting down Free Realms, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which is seen as the reason they have cut the price of SOE All Access
    • Mar – EverQuest Next Landmark becomes just Landmark
    • Mar 31 – Free Realms is shut down
    • Mar 31 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures is shut down
    • Apr 10 – H1Z1 is announced, a zombie horror title oddly dedicated to SWG players
    • Jun 18 – The ProSiebenSat.1 experiment ends and all EU accounts are transitioned back to SOE
    • Jul 31 – Wizardry Online is shut down
    • Jul 31 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is shut down
    • Oct 28 – The Darkened Sea, EQ expansion #21
    • Nov 11 – Altar of Malice, EQII expansion #11
  • 2015
    • Jan 15 – H1Z1 releases as early access
    • Jan 22 – The class action suit for the PlayStation/SOE security breach of May 2011 is resolved, awarding the lawyers $2.75 million and each affected player 450 station cash… but only for US players and only if you filled out a form and could prove you were affected
    • Feb 2 – Sony announces it has sold SOE to Columbus Nova and the organization will be known as Daybreak Game Company going forward
    • Apr 28 – The Rum Cellar, the fourth EQII adventure pack launches
    • Apr 30 – Daybreak acknowledged and blessed the existence of the Project 1999 EQ retro server being developed by a private group, with the P1999 team and the Daybreak EQ team coordinating updates so as not to overlap each other
    • May 22 – EQ opens the Ragefire progression server, the start of a regular run of special servers that help boost the game’s popularity by pulling back many lapsed players
    • Jul 24 – Daybreak announces that long time studio head John Smedley is leaving the company
    • Jul 24 – EQII launches the Stormhold progression server and Deathtoll PvP server, the first retro servers for the game
    • Aug 21 – EQII announces the Drunder server, where rule breakers will be sent to play and no customer support will be available
    • Oct – Nine of the lower population EQII servers, including the final PvP server Nagefen, are merged down to three PvE servers, all with new names (Maj’dul, Halls of Fate, and Skyfire), while the Antonia Bayle server remains unto itself
    • Nov 16 – Dragon’s Prophet is shut down
    • Nov 17 – Terrors of Thalumbra, EQII expansion #12
    • Nov 18 – The Broken Mirror, EQ expansion #22
  • 2016
    • Feb 8 – H1Z1 King of the Kill the battle royale game and H1Z1 Just Survive, the co-op zombie horror game, are split into two products, both remain in early access
    • Mar 8 – The EQII Deathtoll PvP retro server is shut down
    • Mar 11 – EverQuest Next officially cancelled, leaving Landmark the remaining active part of that project.
    • Apr 29 – DC Universe Online launches on XBox One
    • Jun 10 – Landmark leaves early access and goes live
    • Jul 1 – PlanetSide is shut down
    • Aug 17 – Legends of Norrath is shut down
    • Nov 15 – Kunark Ascending, EQII expansion #13
    • Nov 16 – Empires of Kunark, EQ expansion #23
    • Dec 19 – Daybreak acquires Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online from Warner, setting them up under the name Standing Stone Games, never mentioning in public that they are the actual owners
  • 2017
    • Feb 21 – Landmark is shut down
    • Jul 31 – LOTRO launches the Mordor expansion
    • Sep 22 – The Vulak’Aerr EQ time locked progression server is merged into the Fippy Darkpaw server
    • Oct – H1Z1 King of the Kill renamed H1Z1 again due to a desire to release the game in China, where having “kill” in a game name is frowned upon by government censors
    • Nov 28 – Planes of Prophecy, EQII expansion #14
    • Dec 12 – Ring of Scale, EQ expansion #24
  • 2018
    • Feb 28 – H1Z1 leaves early access and goes live
    • Apr 24 – In response to a question about Russian sanctions Daybreak issues a statement declaring it was never owned by Columbus Nova, in open contradiction to three years of information, and was always solely owned by Jason Epstein
    • Apr 24 – Daybreak removes all references to Columbus Nova from its web site and attempts to edit the Wikipedia page about the company to hide any Columbus Nova connection
    • Aug 7 – H1Z1 launched on PlayStation 4
    • Sep 4 – The EQII progression server Stormhold is merged into the Antonia Bayle server, ending its run
    • Sep 6 – Daybreak announces a deal with NantWorks to create NantMobile G which will take over H1Z1 on PC with a plan to revitalize it, starting by rebranding it as Z1 Battle Royale
    • Sep 6 – NantMobile G project also proposes mobile versions of Z1 Battle Royale and EverQuest
    • Oct 24 – H1Z1 Just Survive is shut down
    • Nov 13 – Chaos Descending, EQII expansion #15
    • Dec 11 – The Burning Lands, EQ expansion #25
    • Dec 14 – Planetside Arena is announced, an attempt to bring battle royale to PlanetSide 2, with pre-orders for early access for sale
    • Dec 18 – Daybreak offers 4,000 lifetime subscriptions for sale at $299 each
    • Dec 24 – Daybreak announces that they have sold out the 4,000 lifetime subscriptions
    • Dec 28 – Daybreak puts 6,000 more life time subscriptions up for sale through Dec. 31st
  • 2019
    • Feb 18 – PlanetSide Arena launch is delayed until summer, allegedly to have a simultaneous launch on PlayStation 4, all pre-orders are refunded
    • Jul 11 – After over a year being offline, Daybreak announces that Player Studio for EQII has been shut down
    • Apr 6 – NantMobile G hands Z1 Battle Royale back to Daybreak having failed to revitalize the game, after which little is heard about the PC version
    • Aug 6 – DC Universe Online launches on Nintendo Switch
    • Aug 30 – A PlanetSide Arena roadmap is released with plans for early access soon, with an official launch in 2020, PC only
    • Sep 19 – PlanetSide Arena arrives in early access just barely making the declared “summer” launch plan
    • Oct 21 – A PlanetSide producer’s letter states that PlanetSide Arena is a stepping stone towards PlanetSide 3
    • Nov 5 – LOTRO launches the Minas Morgul expansion
    • Dec 14 – Daybreak announces that PlanetSide Arena will be shut down in January
    • Dec 17 – Blood of Luclin, EQII expansion #16
    • Dec 18 – Torment of Velious, EQ expansion #26
  • 2020
    • Jan 10 – PlanetSide Arena is shut down
    • Jan 21 – Daybreak announces a series of sub-studios, with Darkpaw Games responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II, Dimensional Ink handling DC Universe Online, and Rogue Planet Games handling PlanetSide 2
    • May 20 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server ends its nine year run as it is merged into the Vox live server
    • Oct 20 – LOTRO launches the War of Three Peaks expansion
    • Dec 1 – Enad Global 7 (EG7) announces plans to acquire Daybreak
    • Dec 2 – EG7 presents an unprecedented array of previously private information about Daybreak to its board, shareholders, and the general public proving, if nothing else, that the company made money
    • Dec 8 – Claws of Veeshan, EQ expansion #27
    • Dec 15 – Reign of Shadows, EQII expansion #17
    • Dec 23 – EG7 completes the acquisition of Daybreak Game Company

And that brings us up into the new year.  We shall see what 2021 and beyond holds for the company

  • Sources

The joy of me blogging the way I do is that I have a blog post that corresponds to most every item on the above list that happened in the last decade.  I considered linking to each and every one, but decided against it.  You can use the search box at the top of the page if you want to find posts here about things like EQII Passport.

Before 2010 I was more chaotic in my blogging and, of course, before September 2006 there was no blog, so nothing to reference.  Fortunately, I had done a post about SOE and its MMORPGs back in 2016 where I had recorded the status of their games, and had researched a bunch of other items in the past.  This blog isn’t all just about Blackrock Depths and World War Bee.

And, where that failed, Wikipedia remains a wonderful source.  There are well maintained pages about most of the games and lists of all the expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II that helped me quite a bit.  And over at Daybreak there is even a server merge page for EverQuest and another for EverQuest II servers deep in their site.  There are some errors, but the dates seem solid.

As for what to include, I am obviously biased towards the games I play or played.  I did try to include every paid expansion for games, as those were generally pretty easy to find.  Game content updates are more obscure, though somebody has charted all of the episode drops for DC Universe Online on that Wikipedia page.  I just wasn’t that dedicated to the post.  I started getting into special servers, but decided once they became an annual thing in 2015, I declared them as such and moved on.