Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

A Decade on the Road to Mordor

Ten years ago today Lord of the Rings Online officially went live.

Happy Anniversary

LOTRO was one of the first MMORPGs to go through beta and launch while I was blogging, and certainly the first one I jumped into at launch during the reign of the blog. (I was watching Vanguard during beta as well, but was dissuaded by my experiences there.)  One of my earliest posts was a response to the idea of such a game trying to tell the story of the books.

Yahoo Headline 2007, before Yahoo became malware

The path for LOTRO from beta through launch and to today has been somewhat symbolic of the post-World of Warcraft era for MMORPGs.  It was driven along initially on the wave of WoW-subscription number induced euphoria, where the sky seemed to be the limit.

Then there was launch and the rush to play and the problem of the game simultaneously being too much and not enough like WoW.  There were some fun little quirky features, like titles you could earn for actions… though the fact that those were secret (or at least not documented or traceable anywhere in the UI) meant most players never knew about them.  It is hard to sell yourself as different when you hide things I suppose, and a decade later I don’t think I have a single one of those special titles yet.

Meanwhile, for those who rushed ahead, there was bemusement as content fell of a good ten levels before the cap.  Subscriptions fell off, complaints mounted, changes and updates went in, and Turbine went forward with plans for an expansion; The Mines of Moria.  That was an amazing and ambitious expansion.  I pre-ordered that as well back in 2008, though I did not actually get into the content for a few years and it was several years after that before I was out of the far side of those caverns.

LOTRO was also a leader in the conversion to a free to play model citing a huge boost in players and revenue to accompany the change.  They were also ahead of the curve when it came to the grim reality of such conversions.  Player expectations as to what “free” really means can be harsh, that initial surge of new players never lasts, and once you start down the cash shop path, forever will it dominate your destiny and development time.

More expansions came and again Turbine was in the lead with pre-orders and special editions with cosmetic fluff thrown in to entice more money out of players.  But eventually expansions stopped and all revenue focus went into the cash shop and new items and new currencies showed up.

Then they began to fall behind the curve of the industry.  They were not too late to the game with insta-level boosts, but they failed to grasp that people want such boost to get to the latest content, the NEW stuff.  Turbine thought boosting people to the first expansion and level 50 was enough.  That was a worst of all possibilities idea for me.  Moria was nowhere near the current content and the first 50 levels that get you there are some of the best, most charming, most memorable content in the game.  Skipping The Shire and Bree and the Forsaken Inn and Weathertop and Rivendell and the beautiful scenery of Middle-earth to head down into a cave for ten levels seems like insanity.

Eventually they figured that out and now you get jumped to Rohan with your insta-level boost, but I remain dubious about the idea as a general plan.  A seasoned player advancing an alt might take full advantage of the jump, but a new player is likely to be out of their depth.

And then there was the spin-off, where LOTRO and its sister, Dungeons & Dragons Online were folded into their own company by Warner.  Spinning of MMORPG divisions has been a thing, from Daybreak Games and its Norrathian legacy to Broadsword Games which keeps Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot going.

It has been a strange trip these last ten years.

But all of that was in the future back in April of 2007.  Ten years ago today I was in Middle-earth playing the game, having pre-ordered it.  That was back when pre-ordering could be done by buying a pre-order box off the shelf at Fry’s.  I still had to follow up and buy a retail box, but the pre-order box got me a head start and kept my account active for a while until I got the real game key.

And then, of course, there was the choice to be made as to which founder’s bonus to take.

Founders Choices

I went with the $199 lifetime subscription over the $9.99 reduced monthly subscription price which, looking back over a decade and more of MMORPG time, was probably the most sound investment I have ever made.  I have received more value for that money than I ever expected.

At the eight year anniversary I mocked the game a bit, pointing out that even by the longest measure… Frodo is warned by Gandalf to leave the Shire through to Bilbo and Frodo departing from the Grey Havens… the events of end of the Third Age in Middle-earth being reproduced in the game only took three and a half years.

At that point Minis Tirith was on the horizon still.  Two years later… again, more time than it took Frodo to get from the Shire to Mount Doom… and Mordor is in sight.  Update 20 brings players to the battle of the Black Gate.

Gandalf blazing in bleached white

I read about that and the tenth anniversary events and such and I feel like I should log in and take a look.  But then I read about the mix of joy and frustration with the anniversary events and remember that I am, as always, stuck behind several layers of content and I pass on to something else.

Look, could you just point me towards Mordor? I’m a bit behind.

This is ever the problem with MMORPGs that evolve through expansions and updates and levels and rigid layers of content.  I think I have patched up a few times since I opted for the Blessing of the Valar level boost, but every time I log in I look in my bags and cannot figure out what half the stuff in there is (the icons haven’t gotten any clearer in ten years while my eyesight has gotten worse) and the legendary weapon that the boost handed me… which isn’t ready to use, you have to find a vendor and go through some gyrations to make it work… and I wonder if I might just be better off rolling up yet another new character and playing through the first 30-40 levels yet again.  I think I must be close to 20 characters past level 30 at this point.

But Middle-earth yet abides, waiting for my return.  Some day that ring will be tossed into Mount Doom.  Of course, then we will have to get back to the Shire.  The tale isn’t done until the Shire has been scoured.

At Loose Ends on the Fantasy Front

I seem to have fallen off the fantasy MMORPG wagon once again.  This seems to happen every so often.

I stopped playing WoW a couple months after the Legion expansion hit.  My Winter foray into EverQuest II kept my interest for about a month, which seems to about par for the course.  I poked my nose into Lord of the Rings Online long enough to buy the level 95 Blessing of the Valar upgrade.

Two blessings, depending on your need

Two blessings, depending on your need

That got me a pile of stuff and whisked me off into a different place where I met up with Eowyn.

Yeah, about you and Strider... he's not that into you

Yeah, about you and Strider… he’s not that into you

However I soon lost interest there.  Well, “lost interest” might imply I logged in again after that, and I did not.  Of course, I might have been influenced by wanting to start out on something only to be hamstrung by the legendary weapon system.  I had to choose a weapon, which I then received.  But you cannot just use the weapon yet.  You have to find the special NPC to identify it and then choose a bonus and then something else.  I forget.  I am sure, as with every aspect of every MMO, that legendary weapons are somebody’s favorite part of LOTRO.  But it ain’t mine. I just wanted to grab it and run not worry about reforging.

So that fell apart.  I might go back, but the fact that I haven’t felt any need to do so for a couple weeks is pretty telling.

At some point in the last few weeks… erm, months… I also made a RuneScape account, played for a couple of hours, then never went back.

The fantasy MMORPG thing just isn’t holding me at the moment.  But the habit of at least the last decade and a half… or more if you count the TorilMUD, in which case we start to reach back past 20 years… makes something inside of me think something is missing if I am not playing one.

So my eye wanders down the list of possible other choices.  Do I try out The Elder Scrolls Online, which just added in housing and seems to be doing well enough to be secure?  Do I give GuildWars 2 another try?  Is there something still in Rift that I might enjoy?  Is it time to start digging into Project: Gorgon yet?  What titles on my 2017 MMO Outlook post are even live yet?

But should I bother.

EVE Online doesn’t fill that niche for me certainly.  But I continue to play Minecraft, which does much to fill the world and building and housing drive I might have.  And right now Pokemon Sun seems to have a lock on the RPG… or maybe just the collecting and achievement… aspect.

And there is also something I will call “virtual world weariness” in me that feels the essential sameness of all of these games so that they blur together into a gray, uninteresting mass.  It might be time for a longer break from such games.

Time to Log into LOTRO

Since the Standing Stone Games announcement Lord of the Rings Online has been in transition from one company to another, including tapping Daybreak to be their publisher. (Still wondering on that one.  A follow on from SOE publishing the Asheron’s Call 2 expansions?)

This month we get another change.  It seems that the billing system is moving over from Turbine.  In order to charge VIPs… subscribers… they have to log in and agree to new terms.

This is a dangerous time, financially.  There are always a group of players out there who just stay subscribed even when they are not playing.  SSG stands to lose subscribers unless they can get people to log in and click the button enabling the new terms.

So they are offering up a free horse.

Also, thank you for paying your bill!

Also, thank you for paying your bill!

To get this special mount you will need to log into LOTRO between today… once the maintenance period is over… and March 13th.  According to the small FAQ on the announcement page, you must log all the way in to a character in order to receive the mount.  All of your characters, and any future characters you create, will then have access to this mount.

Lifetime subscription VIPs also get the mount if they log in a character during the February 6 through March 13 time frame.   That lifetime subscription I bought back in 2007 might be the best MMO deal ever for me.

A great deal even discounting the fact that I bought the next three expansions (Mines of Moria, Siege of Mirkwood, and Rise of Isengard ) and have only really played my way into Mirkwood.  I left off over a year ago in Mirkwood which, true to the books, was a dank locale, if somewhat more densely populated that I recalled.

Sure, that must be it...

Sure, that must be it… delusional dwarves

Nothing like a bleak zone to kill your appetite for a game.

I still log in about once a month, if only to keep the clunky patcher from having to work forever should I decide I want to play and, of course, to make sure I get my 500 LOTRO points every month.  That stipend has collected over time, allowing me to purchase both the Riders of Rohan and Helm’s Deep expansions.

So I am as up to day on purchased content as I can be.  I am just stuck in motivation-sucking Mirkwood, so any hope of catching up to the tip of the story is vanishingly remote.

What I need is something like that boost that SWTOR gave players at one point where you could level up at the right rate just playing through the story line as opposed to having to do all of the side quests and grinding a bit on the side.

An epic-only path through the game being unlikely, I am considering the finally useful

Two blessings, depending on your need

Two blessings, depending on your need

A little over a year back the LOTRO team finally got on board with the insta-levels idea and upped the boost from level 50… which seemed comically low… to level 95.

The blessing comes in two flavors, one for a character under level 50 and an upgrade version for character over level 50, some of whom may have used the previous version that only got players to 50.  Fortunately, I have plenty of LOTRO points and a selection of characters over level 50, so I can go with the upgrade.  It offers:

Instantly become level 95! Includes many extra boosts and buffs.

Receive a blessing from the Valar that makes your character powerful enough to pass through the Paths of the Dead and beyond. After using the Blessing of the Valar, your character will instantly be raised to level 95! Delivers a package that contains the following: *Blessing of the Valar Item, *A set of level 95 gear, *3 Third Age LIs, *Instant access to Mounted Combat and Legendary Items, *1 Gold piece, 800 Silver pieces, *4 ranks of each virtue, *The Riding skill, *A Steed of the Citadel, *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, *Three single-use maps, one each to Rivendell, Aldburg, and Snowbourn, *25 Mithril Coins. This offer is discounted and can only be used by characters that are already level 50 or higher.

That will at least get me the hell out of Mirkwood.  The question is, where will I end up?  As I have noted, not all insta-levels are equal.  If you get a level 100 boost in WoW, you are guided into the latest content and can start there without concern as to what came before.  However, if you get that level 100 (or 95) boost in EQII, the game pretty much laughs at you as you press your nose against the glass separating you from the new stuff.  Go back and do the prerequisites loser!

So I will be interested to see how LOTRO handles the level boost transition.  Will I be pointed in the right direction or left standing at a stable master… the Middle-earth equivalent of a bus station in the bad part of town… in some random settlement?  Either way, I might as well give it a go.  I am sitting on a pile of points and am unhappy where I am, and at least I’ll have a new horse to tool around on.

2017 – Predictions for Another New Year

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

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

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

kidpixtigerredraw2017

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

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

Previous runs at this sort of thing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others forecasting events of 2017:

 

Daybreak Now in the LOTRO EULA

I heard that changes were already under way with the switch to Standing Stones Games running Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.  Their logo has already replaced Turbine’s in the splash screens.

A dark logo for dark times

A dark logo for dark times

But I had heard that the deal with Daybreak was already making its presence known with an new EULA agreement.  So I kicked off the launcher… and then realized I had made a huge mistake because I hadn’t logged in for three months so the whole patching process was going to take at least an hour.

Seriously, if Daybreak can do something for SSG it is teach them how to make a launcher.  I know it took SOE a few tries, but their current launcher/patcher for EQII is pretty good.

Anyway, once the patch dance was finally done, I found that it was true, that I had to accept not one but two Daybreak

Terms one

Terms one

Terms two

Terms two

So the merger… um… union of these two companies is under way.  Of course, this is just a start.  Once you are actually in the game and go to the LOTRO Store, you can find the old Turbine terms of service still lingering, last updated at some point in 2011.

Turbine still reigns inside

Turbine still reigns inside

The first changes are there.  I am sure a lot more will follow.

Looking Back at 2016 – Highs and Lows

Lord, what did we do to deserve this year?  I’ll just steer away from politics, the world, and celebrity deaths for this if you don’t mind.  Wow, 2016.

Blog2016

Still, it is time for this post, where I look back at the year gone by and look at some aspects over it, a tradition going back to 2010.  Past entries:

This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head.  No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
  • Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
  • Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
  • the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
  • Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
  • Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
  • WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
  • Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
  • Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
  • Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
  • Diablo III is getting some new stuff
  • Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs

Lows

  • If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
  • If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
  • The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
  • Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
  • BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
  • Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
  • WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
  • Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
  • The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
  • Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
  • Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
  • Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
  • The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
  • Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?

Daybreak Game Company

Highs

  • Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
  • DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
  • H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
  • Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
  • Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new

Lows

  • EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
  • Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
  • Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
  • “Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
  • If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again!  This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
  • Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
  • H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
  • If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
  • Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
  • Good-bye Legends of Norrath
  • No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
  • No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
  • With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
  • Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
  • Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
  • DDO still seems to be in good shape

Lows

  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
  • With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
  • As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
  • LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
  • Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
  • Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
  • Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
  • Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?

CCP

Highs

  • They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
  • Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
  • A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
  • Citadels everywhere!
  • Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
  • We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
  • CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
  • Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
  • The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year

Lows

  • DUST 514 went dark
  • Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
  • Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
  • F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
  • Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
  • After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
  • Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
  • Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
  • Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
  • Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
  • Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
  • Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
  • RIP New Eden solo industrialists
  • Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
  • Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?

Nintendo

Highs

  • 20th Anniversary of Pokemon
  • Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
  • Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
  • Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
  • Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch

Lows

  • End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
  • They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
  • Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
  • Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
  • The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.

Other Games

Highs

  • Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
  • Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
  • Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
  • Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
  • Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
  • Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
  • WildStar lives yet!
  • Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
  • No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
  • Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game

Lows

  • The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
  • A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
  • Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
  • ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
  • Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
  • Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
  • Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year?  Camelot Unchained? No!  Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No!  Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet.  Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
  • While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
  • If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
  • Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
  • The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
  • No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
  • Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
  • The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
  • The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
  • Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there

Media

Highs:

  • Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
  • Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
  • Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
  • I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh

Lows:

  • The end of Downton Abbey
  • Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
  • Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
  • Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
  • The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
  • I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
  • So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?

The Blog and Blogging and The Internet

Highs:

  • Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
  • I still enjoy writing
  • I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
  • Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
  • Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
  • Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits

Lows:

  • My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
  • My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
  • I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
  • Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
  • I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
  • Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
  • Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
  • AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
  • Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
  • /r/eve

Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016.  I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.

A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.

Others looking back at 2016:

A Standing Stone Gathers No Momentum

Well, today’s big announcement in the MMO world has to be this bombshell about the development teams formerly part of Turbine.

All it does is spin...

All it does is spin…

I am going to quote the text in full lest the site disappear next week.

Today we have some momentous news! The game teams responsible for The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) and Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) are now moving from Turbine to Standing Stone Games, a newly formed indie game studio. In addition, we’ve partnered with Daybreak Games to provide global publishing services. They’ve had a long, successful history developing and publishing MMOs, and we’re happy to lean on their expertise.

With the announcement out of the way, I wanted to talk to you about what all this means.

We’re embarking on an exciting adventure as Standing Stone Games, a newly-independent studio staffed by people who have been working on DDO and LOTRO for many years. The teams remain very much committed to both games and are thrilled to continue development and operations of these games as an independent studio.  This is an opportunity for us to bring about our dreams while still working on two of the biggest licenses in video games. It’s a huge honor, and for you this means your games will continue to grow and improve. We love to focus on games with a high level of depth and scope, and we can’t wait to show you what the future brings.

Although a great many exciting things are happening on our end, you’ll be able to continue playing the game(s) you enjoy with as little interruption as possible. Our development continues on track, and the plans we have already announced remain firmly in our future view. Again, although we are a new studio, we are also the same developers who have been and will continue to work on our games.

Our success has always been possible because of your support. As we move forward, this is more important than ever. The ultimate goal of our new studio is to continue to bring you amazing experiences. We are excited for the future, and we’re thrilled to have you with us on this journey.

Here’s to great games, epic adventures, and memorable times with friends!

~Sev

Momentous news indeed.  That is a lot to take in, so let my try and parse it out into bite size pieces, for my own benefit at least.

  • Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online are no longer part of the WB owned game studio known as Turbine.
  • Those two remaining money making online properties from Turbine will now be part of a newly formed studio known as Standing Stone Games. (SSG? Like the Strategic Studies Group?)
  • The studio is alleged to be “independent,” but doesn’t really describe what that means.  I am pretty sure Warner isn’t just letting them go without any financial interest or compensation.
  • SSG is partnering with Daybreak Games Company, our favorite lovable band of west coast cowboys, to provide global publishing services.

There is a whole FAQ that goes with this, which I can summarize as “Don’t Panic!” as it doesn’t really add much in the way of details.  We won’t know what all this really means until some time passes and things shake out.

What it sounds like WB is doing is getting LOTRO and DDO off the books the way that EA did with Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot when they handed over to those two properties to Broadsword, a studio that they probably had a hand in creating.  Rather than having the headcount and servers and what not counting against margins… and Wall St. is obsessed with margins, so if you’re a public company you are as well… the whole things becomes a licensing deal that just generates income.  And the fact that “Standing Stone Games” appears to be a trademark of “Standing Stone Games, LLC” certainly makes it sound like it is fully spun off.

All of which probably means that we are pretty much done with any big investments in either game.  They have to survive on their own.  But they just got new servers and upgrades over the last year, so they should be set there.  Now the team will slowly move towards Mordor in the case of LOTRO, and something else in the case of DDO, getting bug fixes and updates so long as the money keeps coming in.

In the end, this is probably a good thing for both games.  They seem much more likely to carry on over time than they would in a company where accounting is looking to chop under performing assets.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 however are probably going to disappear for good.

The strange bit is the Daybreak tie-in.  Why would you go to a company that has no significant presence outside of the US for your “global publishing services?”  Didn’t SOE/Daybreak spend a couple of years trying to ditch their European customers by selling them off to ProSiebenSat.1 before finally giving up on the whole thing and bringing as many resources back to the US as possible?

What does a deal with Daybreak bring to the table?  Unless the SSG team didn’t get the billing department for the games and needs somebody else to charge credict cards for them, I can’t see the logic.  Will Daybreak be running their data centers?  Or will SSG be moving into Daybreak’s data centers?  What else could Daybreak do for them as a “publisher” for a game you download directly?  They can’t even run their own physical game card sales without problems, why would you go to them?

We shall see.

I don’t think this is going to mean LOTRO and DDO will end up on Daybreak Access, but stranger things have happened.

Addendum: And, as predicted, AC and AC2 will soon be gone… or sunsetted… or whatever the current term of art is.

Others on this bit of news: