Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

May in Review

The Site

I often start writing these monthly review posts well in advance.  They have a structure and a formula and very little of it requires me to be at the end of the month.  If I want to write but don’t have a topic I am invested in, I will often start in on one of these, filling out the framework.

Such was this month where, back on the 20th or so, I wrote this section, having felt that the big site event of the month had come and gone.

For this month it was when somebody linked an old post I did about voxels back when EverQuest Next was re-announced, in relation to something called Minetest, which is something like a voxel Minecraft I guess.  That generated a lot of referrals and I figured the most viewed post of the month had been set, it having passed the 800 mark already, when most months any post that passes 400 views is almost guaranteed to be the top of the list.

Aiming at a distant tower guard in Delta Force

Then, for whatever reason, my About page became popular… with bots no doubt… for about a week.  Enough to vault it into the top Most Viewed Posts this month, as you will see below.  It is, technically, a post.  That gave me something for this section.  I even took a screen shot to accompany the whole thing, but felt I should take one later in the month, when the final results were closer to set.

Then I wrote that one post in a fit of pique about Alta Fox trying to bully Enad Global 7 to set forth wrecking the company, draining its coffers for stock buy backs, so they could be enriched with no possible upside to the health or long term viability of the company.

Then that took off.  I ended up with a 2,000 page view day with that one.  There was a time when I was getting more page views than that as a daily average, but that was a decade back.  Now it is a good month when the average approached 500.  That is still more than I ever expected, but it hardly registers on the internet.

Basically, looking at my most viewed posts this month, the internet seems to be telling me that if I want traffic I should spend more time critiquing the excesses of late stage capitalism and reminiscing about voxel based 3D game engines.

One Year Ago

Blizzard, attempting to get into the mobile game space on its own, announced Warcraft Arclight Rumble.  Meanwhile, Diablo III turned ten years old.

On the flip side, Enad Global 7 and Daybreak announced that they were cancelling the previously hinted at Marvel based super hero MMORPGEverQuest did get two new progression servers, Vaniki and Yelinak, and EverQuest II got the Varsoon server.

In Valheim we built the grey pit to harvest grey dwarves.  This has become a semi-popular post for people trying to do the same.  We were also in search of silver, which meant building a mountain base, and looking to defeat Bonemass.

I had a list of five problems that I felt CCP was never going to solve in EVE Online.  I also wrote about damage meters in the game, which are alike and different from other MMORPGs.

But that was just a warm-up for EVE Fanfest.  We had been promised a lot, but the opening keynote didn’t deliver.  Overall, Fanfest just made a lot more promises without delivering anything substantial.  The return to expansions sounded nice… but the first one was months off.

CCP did, however, finally relent on the prices of capital ships.  Another of their economic theories dashed on the rocks of reality.  Meanwhile, the final days before the subscription price increase saw people buying in to save some cash and EVE Anywhere became available for Alpha Clones, but the announcement was so confusing that some news sites reported that the feature had entered alpha.  Also, CCP was being called out for still betting on an FPS as its future.

CCP did promise us something special for alts as long as we consolidated all our accounts to a single email address.

CCP also announced the candidates list for CSM17.

Actually in New Eden, the GEF headed to war in southeast null sec, first hitting Omist then pushing into Tenerifis.  That led to some real fights.

I brought up Wordle-like games that focused on the movies.

Josh Strife Hayes went and played LOTRO as the game turned 15 years old.

This American Life did an episode about NFTs, which were a plague at the time.

I got paid for the ads on the site for the very first time and we were still binge watching at our house.

Five Years Ago

My other blog turned ten years old, so I did a retrospective… here… since my other blog is a picture blog.

There was the big rumor post about plans at Daybreak that included winding down EverQuest and EverQuest II in favor of a new EverQuest game.  While some items on the list did come to pass ( Just Survive did not and PlanetSide Arena is effectively PlanetSide 3), the old school preservationist faction won out in Norrath and it looks like we’ll be getting expansions for some years to come.  Meanwhile, they were also giving out level 100 character boost in EQII again.

While I was on a WoW break of sorts, Blizzard seemed to be doing well enough in the financial report for Q1 2018.  Of course, they were feeding us tidbits to keep us interested while we waited for Battle for Azeroth, with pre-orders available since January.

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, an RTS from the turn of the century, was still getting expansions.  You cannot keep a good game down.

I objected to a silly post about making the MMO genre “more accessible.”  It was all either blindingly obvious or too specific to be practical as a general rule.

I was still mucking about in Rift Prime, having made it into Scarlet Gorge, though it felt like something was missing.

Microsoft was planning to discontinue support for Minecraft on some older consoles after the Aquatic Update was released.

On the Kickstarter front the was big success for the Empires of EVE Vol. II campaign and a huge flop for the ill advised Flower of Knighthood campaign.

CCP was celebrating the 15th anniversary of EVE Online and I was going on about the importance of all the tales that make up the ongoing story of the game.

I was over on the test server trying out the upcoming Abyssal Space content, which I likened to dungeons.  Why not?  CCP calls things dungeons in their patch notes.

At the end of the month we got the Into the Abyss expansion for EVE Online and people were losing ships to Triglavians almost immediately.

That was preceded by what I called the great third part apocalypse as CCP shut down the old API interface, killing any number of third party applications that depended on it.  I was also on about their New Eden Store scarcity policy.

We got an update on when the elections for CSM13 would be held, while with the MER I was wondering if anybody would challenged the might of the Delve economy.

And then, actually in game, we were still running ops against GotG in the north, exchanging citadel kills and chasing after them into Venal and mounting some ops from there before returning to Pure Blind.

Ten Years Ago

I celebrated the five year anniversary of a blog.  No, not this one.

EVE Online turned 10 (I even made a movie) and reminded us of its true nature, while DUST 514 finally went live for real.

Somebody was saying that there had only ever been two successful MMOs, EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

I checked up on the Newbie Blogger Initiative to see who survived their first year of blogging.

Camelot Unchained made its Kickstarter goal one day before their campaign ended.   Success at the last minute is still success.

The project code named Titan was rumored to have been pushed out to 2016. Meanwhile Activision-Blizzard announced that WoW had shed 1.3 million subscribers, dropping to 8.3 million total.  And then there was the problems with the Diablo III economy.  Rough times.

The XBox One was announced.  Or the name was.  I didn’t like it.

I made a chart about the relative natures of MMO economies.  I was also musing about dangerous travel.

We were starting to peek into NeverWinter as a possible game for the instance group, in hopes that we might have a hiatus from our long hiatus.  We also played a bit of Need for Speed: World.

Rift, ostensibly the game the instance group was playing (and which I was still playing a bit of), announced it was going free to play, which made me mutter about revenue models again.

Our EVE Online corp decided to go play some Lord of the Rings Online, and so my relationship with Middle-earth continued and I was quickly in the Lone Lands.

And finally, I wrote a bit about the first computer game I ever played, which led to some charts about my video gaming timeline.

Fifteen Years Ago

My daughter and I were finishing up the final battles in the base game of Pokemon Diamond as well as staging our own gym battles.

In EVE Online CCP gave us a date for the Empyrean Age as well as giving us all a gift on the five year anniversary of the game.  I still have that gift in my hangar.

Meanwhile I was building battleships, working the regional price variations, dealing with the realities of production, refining my Drake fittings, and laughing at a the EVE Online guide to talking smack.

Oh, and I was being propositioned in a standard Goon scam.  Damn Goons!

In World of Warcraft the instance group was doing some quests to level up a bit because the Mana Tombs were proving to be a challenge.  We also did some mucking about with alts.

And, in the industry in general, Turbine got $40 million dollars to play with (I wonder where that ended up?) while Age of Conan launched amid immediate declarations of success and failure.

Twenty Years Ago

Internet spaceships become serious business as EVE Online launches.

SOE launched PlanetSide, their MMOFPS.

3DO laid everybody off and filed for bankruptcy, leading to the end of the line for it and its subsidiary New World Computing, best known for the Might and Magic series.

And the WordPress blogging platform was first released in May of 2003.

Fifty Years Ago

In May of 1973 Bob Metcalf wrote a memo at Xerox PARC with the title “Alto Ethernet” that contained the basic schematic for the networking hardware that would come to be known as “Ethernet.” This was just one of the many designs and innovations that Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center would create, which Xerox would then completely fail to capitalize on but which would go on to become the foundations of modern computers.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Late Stage Capitalism Ruining Things: EverQuest Edition
  2. Delta Force: A Memory of Voxels
  3. The LOTRO 2023 Roadmap – No Consoles, No UI Updates
  4. About
  5. Changes at Netflix, HBO, and MTV
  6. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  7. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  8. How Many Skill Points are Enough in EVE Online?
  9. Another Chance to Get Your Name on the EVE Monument
  10. Twitter Alternatives as Elon Continues to Elon Fiddle
  11. The Viridian Expansion is Coming to EVE Online in June
  12. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II

Search Terms of the Month

wow zul’farrak can’t talk now trolls sergent bly
[ZF be like that mon]

using chatgpt with everquest
[Don’t let me stop you]

buying omega with plex
[Yes you can]

exiled kingdoms patch
[Haven’t actually played that]

website template wow
[Oh no, another potential blogger]

Game Time by ManicTime

Didn’t I say I wasn’t going to do this anymore?  I lied, though whether it was to you or myself is up for debate.  But apparently I find some usefulness in this section, so here it is again.

  • WoW Classic – 54.88%
  • LOTRO – 35.66%
  • EVE Online – 9.21%

Overall, since I was away for a good 10 days of the month, the total hours played in May were the lowest monthly total for the year… or since I started using ManicTime.

EVE Online

It was something of a quiet month in New Eden for me.  With the war in the north winding down into a more contained “content” conflict and having moved all my stuff back to Delve, I didn’t have a lot to do.  I went out and harvested my PI, I went on a couple of fleets, I got on my minimum of one kill mail for the month, and I logged in daily to redeem all my 20th anniversary goodies.

Lord of the Rings Online

The Lossless Scaling experiment started me off in Middle-earth.  I have made it through into the Lone Lands once more, and ought to be a shoe-in to make it through Evendim if I remain enthused.  After that though… well, Evendim is the last zone I think of as fun.  We’ll see if I get beyond there.

Pokemon Go

Nothing much went on for us in Pokemon Go, except for me having a Pokemon in a gym in rural Oregon for nearly two weeks before they got kicked out.  Level 44 is closer, but still a ways away, and Niantic seems keen to screw with our routine.

  • Level: 43 (77% of the way to 44 in xp, 1 of 4 tasks complete)
  • Pokedex status: 770 (+3) caught, 785 (+4) seen
  • Mega Evolutions obtained: 24 of 35
  • Pokemon I want: Three specific Scatterbugs; Sandstorm, Icy Snow, and Meadow
  • Current buddy: Krokorok

WoW Classic

Northrend was starting to wear on me a bit as we entered May.  Then I was playing LOTRO for a while.  But then the Joyous Journeys xp bonus hit and the group was using it to get everybody to 80 and to work on some alts and we all started doing the Argent Tournament, so that come the last week of the month it was my main game again.


Not a good month for riding the indoor bicycle.  I was away for two weekends and had an injured leg for a third, leaving not much activity in May.

  • Level – 18
  • Distanced cycled – 1,629 miles (+27 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 62,297 (+735 feet)
  • Calories burned – 50,470 (+723)

Coming Up

There are a couple of big things coming up in June.

Probably the biggest, at least relative to topics I cover here, is the Diablo IV launch.  It goes live on June 5th or 6th depending on where you live for the world wide launch, with early access for the special pre-orders as early as tomorrow.  Blizzard is “confident” that the servers can handle the load they expect at launch.  I am “confident” that this optimism will age poorly.

Meanwhile, over in New Eden CCP will be launching the Viridian expansion for EVE Online.  So far we have been told that will bring Tech II capital ships and graphics upgrades to the game.  I am sure there must be more to it, but we shall see.

We are also getting the next phase of Wrath Classic.  Maybe I will be able to build Jeeves.

There will also be some more AI stuff next month.  You know it is the buzzword of the moment because over at VentureBeat literally every other headline is related to AI, it having replaced Metaverse, which in turn replaced Crypto/Blockchain in their obsessive focus on the latest hotness.

Progress in LOTRO with Lossless Scaling and Related Items

Last week I posted about Lossless Scaling as a possible work around to SSG’s ongoing plan of just ignoring that the Lord of the Rings Online UI remains stuck in 2007… though, given its relationship to past Turbine titles, I might extend that back to 2002 and Asheron’s Call 2.  So it is time for a bit of an update on how that is going and the game in general here in 2023.

Lossless Scaling works pretty well.  I played every day for the last week for at least an hour and found it to be a decent work around.  It has its quirks.  As I mentioned, there is the whole cursor loss thing (which, according to a comment on my post, can be solved by hitting Alt+Enter twice) and it does occasionally decide to stop scaling because some background operation kicks in, reducing me to the smaller windowed mode.

It is not a perfect solution.  A lot of text, like the quest helper below the mini-map, remains too tiny for me to read without picking up my reading glasses and leaning into the screen.  That isn’t a huge issue early in the game, where I remember so many of the quests, but should I succeed in my goal and make it to and past Mirkwood, it will be an issue.

Overall Lossless Scaling is just a bandage.  It is a nice and effective bandage, but it is still covering a wound in the game that may prove more debilitating, if not fatal, as time marches on.

Meanwhile, OneLauncher, which is faster and lighter than the official launcher, still won’t patch the game for me.  I haven’t quite figured that out, but when patch day hits I have to go to the old launcher and let it do its ponderous thing.

As for my brawler in Middle-earth, he has been moving right along.

I got him out of The Shire pretty quickly because, and I am being honest with you here, I am not a big fan of the quests there.

Yes, I love the place and that I can go visit Bag End and the Party Tree and Michel Delving and more places from the books.  But I am not a fan of fetch and carry quests, even cute ones involving the various inns spread out over the landscape or the ones about pies.  I’m here to defeat Sauron, not deal with your hobbit bs!

Fortunately, the changes to the leveling curve over the years meant that I got through The Shire pretty quickly.  My only goal was to stick to the epic book storyline quests and whatever other things I could do pretty easily along the way.

I was pretty quickly across the Brandywine… though maybe a bit too quickly.  I was nervous about taking on quests too far above my level.  But I shouldn’t have been.  Under level 20 my hobbit brawler basically punched his problems away.  He kept getting new combat skills, but I found that the first four he acquired were good enough to punch on through any conflict.  I should probably go back and learn his skills at some point, but for now I have mettle building punch 1 and punch 2 and finisher 1 and 2.

I don’t even know what the skills are called… though that is, in part, because the text is so small and the iconography is still in the same crappy, uninformative style it was back in the day.  (See this post from 2009 about skill icons.)  Seriously, they should be twice as big on the bar, in .svg or some other vector format so they scale well, with a much subdued background color (every brawler combat skill is on a bright blood red background that overwhelms the actual graphic, hindering visual identification), and of something that makes a lick of goddam sense relative the actual skill.

I lump this into UI updates that the game needs along with support for higher resolutions.

Anyway, my little hobbit punch buggy managed to punch his way through the old forest, around the barrow downs, and into the great barrow without much effort.

I will approach… and punch you too!

As you can see, I have also been trying to live up to my plan to keep the celebration pig in tow during my adventure.  I forget sometimes, but when I hit some key point I usually remember to get him on scene.

One disappointment is that the pig goes away when you mount up.  However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that riding the mounts between stable masters does not hide your pet.  So the pig races behind you, fountains in full bloom.

Go piggy, go!

Anyway, I made it into my 20s, and got what I think is the last title for going undefeated.

Pig there to help me celebrate

Of course I am the “undying” here.  Nobody dies.  Nobody has health.  You have a morale bar and when you run out of morale you merely retreat.  Do you even play the game… game?

Yeah yeah, and “item use succeeded” to you too

Anyway, on wrapping up the great barrow it was off to Bree to get the next destination in the story line… which, is the Lone Lands of course, one of my favorite places.  Getting into Bree on Landroval can be a bit taxing on your GPU if you’re trying to get to the Prancing Pony because bands are literally lined up around the place at peak hours.

Look at them all… and they’re just waiting their turn

Anyway, you get in to talk to Strider, but he’s gone… so the he and the hobbits have left town so Barliman sends you to speak to Gandalf, who completes the current quest chain.  But for some reason Gandalf has two paths forward.  One gets you around to Weathertop in the Lone Lands.  And the other one teleports your ass to Rivendell for reasons I still can’t quite grasp.

And there was much rejoicing

I know, they threw in some lore related quests to get you into the spirit of things and make you feel like you’re part of the story.  Somebody decided that players wouldn’t stick with the game if they didn’t meet Elrond, Boromir, and Legolas at that very juncture.  But then you’re kind of stuck in the Trollshaws, which you are not high enough level to deal with, so you need to thumb a ride back to Bree to get on with the actual main storyline.

So I did that and got back to the Lone Lands.  I once wrote here that one of the reasons I like the Lone Lands is that I’ve played through the quests so many times that I know them by heart, so for a brief juncture I feel like the hero of something, not an out-of-towner trying to read the map to figure out where this spider or that half-orc live.

Then there are my old favorites, like Pengail, the most aggressive escort quest NPC ever.

Pengail will not be satisfied

If you have been reading my work for a while, I reference Pengail now and then because he and Sarah Oakheart are literally legends in the pantheon of escort quest NPCs.

Pengail rescued for what must be at least the 20th time

And then there is Candaith, the ranger, who starts you off in the whole zone, if you have followed Gandalf’s path and haven’t just gone directly to the Forsaken Inn, which I tend to do.  For a ranger though he spends a lot of time just sitting around in his camp waiting for you to finish up the heavy lifting.  And even once he commits to going with you up Weathertop, he finds a dodge at the very summit of the quest.

I swear his limp changes sides

I remember this fight at the summit of Weathertop being pretty tough back in the day.  Something requiring a fellowship to be sure.  And even after they made a solo version, it wasn’t a walk over back in the day.

This time, however, I just punched my way through it.  Minions of darkness, hill troll, whatever, the punch-punch time sent them packing.

Who says “Unh?”

Then it was onward through the Lone Lands to Ost Guruth, where Radagast the Brown was waiting to carry on the tale.  He always looks slightly off his rocker to me… probably intentionally.

The White Hand stole the strawberry ice cream!

And that is how far I have made it, playing a bit each evening.  Some day I am going to open up my guy’s talent tree and apply those skill points he keeps collecting.  Have to find it first though.  Damn UI with such tiny print.

My Singing Monsters Continues to Dominate Enad Global 7 Revenue in Q1 2023

The Enad Global 7 financials dropped last week and, as was the case in Q4 2022, Big Blue Bubble’s title My Singing Monsters was the big draw for the company.

Enad Global 7

The investor’s report for Q1 2023 said the following about My Singing Monsters:

MSM delivered elevated performance throughout the quarter. As of the end of Q1, MSM had amassed 8.5 billion hashtags, 268 million video views, and 1.9 million followers on TikTok, continuing to expand its fanbase.

I still am unsure how the game, which has been around since 2012, took off late last year or if the social media coverage was the trigger or just an effect of the suddenly popularity.

So once again, Daybreak is relegated to second place in earnings when it comes to the EG7 games business segment.

Q1 2023 – Games segment revenue

It isn’t that Daybreak is failing to deliver.  Its titles remain as solid as ever.  It is just that My Singing Monsters has lit up and is suddenly way more popular than it has ever been over the last decade.

Daybreak remains solid while BBB was suddenly more than 4x expected

And BBB’s income has a lot higher margins, even before the big jump in sales, which probably reflects the difference in effort to support essentially one mobile/PC title versus running, supporting, and creating new content for half a dozen MMOs.

EG7 cautions that it may not stay that way, but says that it expects that its baseline performance will remain elevated going forward.  My Singing Monsters is one key brands that the company owns, the list of which was given as:

  • EverQuest, considered to be one of the three most iconic fantasy MMO brands in the world together with World of Warcraft and Ultima Online.
  • H1Z1, the very first battle royale game that was credited as one of the inspirations for Fortnite, with over 40 million life-to-date (LTD) registrations.
  • My Singing Monsters, which has over 135 million (LTD) registrations on mobile and PC, reaching top 10 in over 100 countries in the App Store games category and the No. 1 spot in more than 15 countries 10 years after its release.

I am still not sure how they can put H1Z1 on that list with a straight face.  They are doing nothing with it, have announced no plans to do anything with it, and appear to be just waiting for some sort of magic to happen.   I supposed lightning striking My Singing Monsters gives them hope.

Aside from the caution about My Singing Monsters, when it came to Daybreak the report mostly emphasized the EverQuest 24th anniversary, the DC Universe Online 12th anniversary, and next year’s 25th and 20th anniversaries for EverQuest and EverQuest II respectively.

Mention of other Daybreak titles was limited to pointing out that some of them represented strong licensed IP opportunities.  Lord of the Rings Online, specifically, received no special mention.  The timing of the earnings release put it before Amazon’s announcement that they are working on a Middle-earth MMO of their own once more, so there was no expectation that we would hear anything about that.  It may, however, get some notice with the Q2 2023 results.

Overall it was a positive report.  It opened with record earnings.  Also the company reports it remains debt free, has cash on hand, and is focused on long term profitability.  The joys of being a modest sized public company registered in Sweden I suppose, because if some Wall Street investment group was running the show they would be demanding stock buy backs and stripping it for quick cash boosts without thought towards the long term.


Amazon Renews Plans for a Middle-earth MMO while LOTRO Abides… for Now

News this week included the announcement that Amazon Games, which had previously scrapped a development partnership with a company later purchased by Tencent for a Lord of the Rings title, had returned to the Middle-earth well, this time with the company that purchased Tolkein Enterprises, the uncomfortably names Ebracer Group.

Here they come again

This would have been a bit of a “wake me when it actually means something” sort of story for me… after all, we have heard this tale before from Amazon… except for the fact that it showed up just as I was attempting to launch back into Lord of the Rings Online, the one title in the universe most likely to be threatened by this Amazon venture.

Of course, none of the involved parties are saying that right now.  In fact, they are saying the opposite.  The LOTRO team declared that the game isn’t going anywhere in the forums and the Amazon Games studio VP Chris Hartmann is allowing that the games can “co-exist.”

That said, he also seemed pretty sure elsewhere that LOTRO players would simply migrate to their new title.

Even the most likely scenario is… for people just to move over, because the other one is an old game.

Part of me feels the hubris that seemed to infect New World, where Amazon seemed to feel that lessons learned in the industry could be disregarded because they were smarter than that.  The saving grace for New World was that they did have something fun and a bit different, even if Amazon had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way about things like having a test server.

Among the lessons of the last 30 years or so is that people invested in one title are not likely to move on to another merely because it is new.  I think a very direct lesson in this regard was EverQuest II, which SOE seemed to assume people would migrate to from EverQuest.

And EQ players certainly tried it out, but many just went back to the old game after their initial experience, while a good many moved on to World of Warcraft.  That left EQII, the newer and, in some mechanical ways, the arguably better title forever in the shadow of its predecessor.

The combination of the world and its setting, its familiarity, the fond memories, and the sense of community conspire to hold people in place even when other newer and possibly better options appear… which is the lesson of pretty much every fantasy MMORPG launched after WoW, including LOTRO.

The general chat of every new MMORPG beta or launch since 2004 has included a litany of comparisons to WoW and how it did x, y, or z better than this new title, something supported by the gaming news, which just loves to brand things as a simple “WoW clone” so they can look insightful and move on.

That isn’t entirely without merit.  If you pull back far enough, if you aren’t interested in details, distinctions, or lore, all fantasy MMORPGs look about the same.  The same could be said for four door family sedans or mid-sized SUVs… they’re all about the same in the end if you just glance at the general spec.

For those who get deep into the games, for those for whom the details matter, for the connoisseurs of the MMORPG genre, the games are often dissimilar as to make such hand waving comparisons seem bizarre.  LOTRO is NOT like WoW, nor was Warhammer Online just like WoW, Richard Bartle comments aside.  Fans of WoW run off to try new titles and find that they still really like WoW due to the details of the game and not the general pattern of the primary game play loop of the general art style. This has been repeated enough to be a trope of the genre.

Likewise, if you are invested in the nuances of LOTRO and all that the development team has built up over the last sixteen years, then some new title that is only superficially similar… it is an MMORPG… or maybe it is… and it is set in Middle-earth… has an extremely high likelihood of not being satisfying for all of its shiny newness.

And I strongly suspect that anything Amazon produces will bear only a superficial resemblance to what LOTRO offers today.  I opined eight years ago, as we passed through a past LOTRO anniversary, half the game’s lifetime ago now, that the era of making anything as sprawling and chaotic as Turbine’s vision of Middle-earth seemed done and gone.

Who would ever fund such a thing?  Sure, LOTRO is a financial success, if a modest one.  But it never lived up to its potential or promises or reach that Turbine internally assumed it would.  So the question is who would thrown a lot of money into a similar investment?

Yahoo Headline 2007

Nobody.  I believed that eight years ago and I think that still stands.  Amazon is not going to make something that feels at all like LOTRO.  I will be genuinely surprised if they get anywhere close. (I’ll even be modestly surprised if they ship anything at all honestly, but that is another opinion piece to be written)

So good news for LOTRO then, right?  Unless Amazon and Embracer gives it the (completely predictable) SWG treatment, declaring that there can only be one Middle-earth MMORPG, things should be fine.  And, while everybody is saying LOTRO is safe, the news is still hedging a bit on the long term prospects of the title, with Game Developer throwing this line into the mix:

Standing Stone will continue to keep its Lord of the Rings MMO up and running as Amazon’s separate Lord of the Rings MMO is being developed.

Yeah, and what happens once it has been developed and is ready to launch?

That is tomorrow’s problem though.  We’ll set that aside for a few paragraphs and assume that LOTRO will carry on as before and things will be great, even when Amazon launches its new game.

Except, of course, this news comes just as I am returning to LOTRO and… oh boy… the game is a mess.  Leaving aside the playability issues at resolutions above 1920×1080 and the muddle that is (and always has been) the UI and the long encroachment of free to play into the game mechanics where nearly every alert has something you can buy with a mithril coin or five, the game needs some serious work.

And we can start with the launcher, move through into client performance… 64-bit did not give the game any help it seems… and then drive straight through into ongoing and very noticeable lag issues in game.

For the latter, I’m not just talking about Bree when there are half a dozen bands lined up on a Saturday night ready to play when you walk out of the Prancing Pony and the world takes a deep breath and says it will get back to you in a few minutes leaving you stuck in place until it can figure everything out.  I am seeing some bad moments with annoying frequency while out and pretty much alone in the Midgewater Marshes and the Lone Lands.

It is not a good look.  And I know I put the UI in the category of “leaving aside,” but I feel I need to reneg on that and say that the UI, even when scaling isn’t an issue, leaves a lot to be desired.

But, as I said, that does not impact the current, dedicate base of users.  If you’re in a band that stands outside the Prancing Pony on a Saturday night waiting for your turn to perform, some new title… which probably won’t support anything like the LOTRO music system… isn’t going to interest you.  The problems of the game are already baked into your decision as to where you want to spend your time.

However, when we get to 2028 or whenever this new Amazon Middle-earth title that will completely not like New World at all arrives on the scene (and I don’t know why they insist on saying it won’t be like New World, since a lot of that title seems pretty solid, so clearly Amazon is still smarting from something on that front if they’re disavowing it in their own special way), then the option for any NEW players who want to run around in Middle-earth will be the 20+ year old LOTRO and all of its problems, or something shiny and new where they can get in on the ground floor and it probably plays well on their 20 Core i17 CPU or PS7 or XBlizzBox BS or whatever.

And that is where LOTRO‘s slow walk into oblivion gets accelerated.

Because that cuts off most of the potential new players, and while the old players remain, they eventually tire of move on, and eventually the game will fall below the level of profitability if there isn’t some replacement for those who leave.  And the threshold for profitability is higher for LOTRO than a title like EverQuest because Tolkien Enterprises… or Middle-earth Enterprises, as Embracer has renamed it… needs to get paid for the license every month.  Probably off the top.

All of which brings me back to something I wrote in Monday’s post, that being crap at higher resolutions and generally being problematic to play is an existential threat in the long term, and that threat only gets larger if there is another Middle-earth out there.

Though, honestly, I think Embracer is going to give LOTRO the SWG treatment when the time comes.  I mean, they can do the same math I can.  And they might even convince themselves that if they shut down LOTRO and force people to move on, Amazon’s title will benefit to some degree.

And if it is that obvious, then EG7 will be do those same calculations as well, which means that investing in any major upgrades will seem futile, so there will be no wide screen support and new users will taper off and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They will, as a business, opt for maintaining profitability for as long as they can, which will mean only working on things that will directly bring in revenue (expansions and cash shop items) while ignoring ongoing problems and trimming back staff to keep the books balanced.

The future is, as always, grim.

So who is working on a LOTRO pirate server already?  It is never too early to start on these things because if sure feels like the writing is on the wall.


An Anniversary Celebration Pig in Middle-earth

As I wrote yesterday, I am attempting to dive back into Lord of the Rings Online.  The game, however, was still in the midst of its 16th anniversary celebrations.

LOTRO turns 16 years old

That meant a whole bunch of things were going on in the game, including a few things for my new character.

Of course, there was a new title.

Been here like a day, already have a dozen plus titles…

And then there were some more gifts to fill up my bag space.

First Goal: Find the damn bank

There was also a pet Corgi, because Corgis are to fantasy MMORPGs what Shiba Inus were to the web in 2013.

Corpulent little fellow… also, a corgi

But the biggest surprise was the Anniversary Celebration Pig.

Where did this pig come from?

The pig was a surprise because, for whatever reason, it showed up with me already out and following when I started on the game tutorial.  So there I was, investigating dark riders in the Shire and assisting Strider and adventuring in and around Archet with this barrow pulling fireworks pig following me the whole way.

The pig in tow as we battle in Archet

Yes, fireworks.  That is the celebration aspect of the pig, in case a pig pulling a pony cart wasn’t celebratory enough for you.  It is an almost constant source of rockets and fountains and the like, along with the occasional grunt or oink, as it follow you around Middle-earth.  And its timing is impeccable.

We’re spying on some Blackwolds

My initial reaction to this pig was a bit disdainful, though I had to admire its determination to continue spewing fireworks no matter the situation.

The fireworks, they are water proof

But the absurdity of the whole thing sort of won me over.  When I logged out and back in later on I found that the pig was no longer with me… and then I found the skill to summon him in my list and brought the pig back again to continue with me through the tutorial.

And there was much rejoicing

And I am glad I did, because the pig did give me some insight into how the game is built.

The quest chains in the tutorial area appears to have been slimmed down quite a bit, no doubt to accommodate the quicker pace of leveling in a Middle-earth where the level cap has risen from 50 to 140.

It has also changed up a bit from my memories, with a dream sequence… here is a quest where the first step is “go take a nap”… that brings you before Galadriel.

Oh, she knows my name… but does not acknowledge the pig

I forget when this was added, but it is meant to explain, for those a little slow at keeping up, that your character’s story will be intertwined with that of the fellowship as they travel through Middle-earth.

Even from launch LOTRO‘s cut scenes were rendered with the game engine, the early ones, with voice over narration, looking pretty rough these days.  But later they started putting your character into these cut scenes, which is pretty much what this dream sequence is.  You can’t do anything, your character just sits there as things unfold around them.

What I did not know is that in these later cut scenes, your character is always there, even when the cut scene doesn’t involve you are show something where you couldn’t possibly be.

For example, in Galadirel’s dream sequence, a greatest hits run through of “here are cool Middle-earth places you’ll visit,” we see the fellowship in Moria.

They are not looking happy either

Everything is frozen in place, or seems to be.  But as the camera panned out to a wider view of the scene, I saw some fireworks go off.  The pig and I were IN MORIA with the fellowship, just off to the side behind some scenery.

The pig betrays our location again

And that was the selling point of the pig for me.  As Galadriel’s visions changed, the pig seemed determined to pump out fireworks to make sure I knew where we were hiding.

That moved me from, “WTH is this pig?” to “Haha, pig is ironic!” to “Pig now must travel with me  where ever I go!”

Sure, I get frowns from the occasional person in Bree because Landroval is the cool kids RP server, and sometimes I forget to get the pig out.  But I am now determined to see as much of Middle-earth as possible with the pig in tow.  I want to get screen shots of the pig and I in as many of the iconic LOTRO scenes as I can.

And one of the first for me is the confrontation with Amdir, something I have taken a screen shot of with every run through the game. (Here we are 16 years ago with Amdir.)

The pig is not affected by dread, and even lightens our spirits with a green rocket

We shall see how this works out.

Making LOTRO Playable for Me in 2023

If you’ve been a regular reader for a while you may have seen me moaning about how LOTRO looks and plays on my widescreen monitor.  It is not that I want to complain about the game, it is that I want to play it now and then and I find the wide-screen experience keeps it from being enjoyable.  3440×1440 was not a thing back in 2007, but it is very much so now.

It irks me that Turbine, then Standing Stone, have known and acknowledged this since 2016 and have done very little to address the issue.  At some point this is going to become an existential issue for the title.  At some point new players are going to be put off by a game where the UI really looks bad above 1920×1080.

And yes, if it doesn’t bother you I am happy for you.  I always seem to find somebody who believes things are perfect the way they are right now.   But I find the UI where you have to try and scale every bit by itself and some bits look awful scaled while others fail to persist their scaling between sessions to be such an annoyance that it is effectively a barrier to me enjoying myself when playing.

Anyway, enough of that.  This post is about finding a way past that.  I do want to play and am going to experiment with some potential third party solutions that Scott Jennings posted to Twitter last week.

The second item he posted was OneLauncher, which is an improved unified launcher for LOTRO and DDO.  If there is something I have complained about for almost as long as the UI (and I was complaining about some poor UI design choices back in beta) it is the launcher.

The launcher isn’t make or break for me.  I am old and have developed some level of patience over the years, but it is still a rough spot in the game where you have to set aside 15 to 45 minutes for the game to patch after a big update because the launcher goes through and checks and downloads each file one by one.

OneLauncher fixes that and just works.

OneLauncher set for LOTRO

The only thing that annoys me about it is that SSG hasn’t done this themselves.  Seriously, if the community can build a better launcher… shit, if the community can build something that replaces your launcher… I have a lot of questions.  But it works… you just have to point it at your install directory… so we’ll let that stand.

The other, and more important of the two items is a utility on Steam titled Lossless Scaling.

Lossless Scaling

This utility uses video card magic, to use the technical term, to try and scale up your game to a full screen usable.  It basically takes a smaller version of the game and scales it up bigger on your screen.  This, among other things, means that dealing with scaling up the fiddly UI of LOTRO is all done in one fell swoop.

How do you make this work with LOTRO?

Bring the game up, go into the options, and put it in windowed mode if it is not already.

Then you need to pick the windowed resolution you want to work with.  Lossless Scaling will take that resolution and scale it up to full screen, so the smaller the resolution you pick in windowed mode, the bigger everything will be when you kick in the scaling.

The catch here is that things look best when you find a resolution preset in LOTRO that matches the aspect ratio of your monitor, only smaller.  Otherwise things will end up being stretched out, like SD TV on an HD screen.  Since we have pretty much established that I am fussy about such things, that was a baseline requirement.

And it was a bit of a trick because 3440×1440 is a 21:9 aspect ratio and there were not a lot of options that matched that.  Fortunately there was at least one on the list.

LOTRO Resolution Options

As it turns out 2560×1080 is on the list, which is 21:9 and small enough to make scaling up worthwhile.

You then get Lossless Scaling launched and set it up for scaling up.

My settings

There isn’t a lot going on there.  I have an NVidia card, so I chose that for my scaling type.  There is also an option for AMD.  I notched the sharpness up one position, preferring a bit more jagginess over blurriness, and otherwise left things alone.

Then you put LOTRO in the foreground, hit the key combo to invoke the scaling (control-alt-s by default) and bang, there was the game in full screen with everything scaled up.

My initial reaction was… this works pretty well.  But that was just looking at a character and not going out in the field to actually play.   And being able to play reliably is the real test.

So, as is the norm for any return to LOTRO for me, I rolled up a fresh character.  As I wanted to do something new I continued to follow Scott’s advice and rolled up a hobbit brawler on Landroval.

I had to buy the brawler class, which was 1,000 LOTRO points, but as a lifetime subscriber who has been getting 500 points a month since then went free to play back in late 2010, I wasn’t too worried about the price.  The brawler showed up as a class in October of 2021, so is both new to me and somewhat new to the game.

So I have a punching hobbit.  Now to get out in the world and see how far I can take him… and what has changed with the game since I last played.

These guys are still hanging around the Mad Badger in Archet

My initial reaction has been pretty favorable.  My main problem has been that the cursor disappears unexpectedly at times.  Also, if you’re on a Discord server with me you won’t see that I am playing LOTRO and Discord favors the Steam title, so it looks like I am spending time playing Lossless Scaling in the evenings.

It is lossless, so I never lose

Expect further posts both about how this solution works and my latest attempt to play through Middle-earth.  Past attempts have been thwarted in Mirkwood, a zone that has put me to sleep on previous runs.

LOTRO Offers a Limited Time Level 140 Booster

Turbine, and later Standing Stone… or Daybreak, as we found out… has done some odd things with their LOTRO level boosters, starting with them boosting past only the first fifty levels when there were a couple of expansions still ahead of that.  And they stuck to something like this routine for a quite a while, which I will sum up as follows:

  • Every other MMORPG: Our level boost gets you into the latest content
  • LOTRO: Our level boost gets you… most of the way there… maybe…

They have gotten better with this over time, but still their reputation is still that of being a bit goofy on the level boost thing in my book.  It is like they hang out with the EverQuest team, which is the other MMORPG with a level boost plan that Bhagpuss has explained to me but which I still don’t quite get the reasoning around.

For a limited time… you have until April 13th to buy this… LOTRO is offering a boost straight to the level cap, which is currently level 140 if I am reading things right.

Available until April 13th

This I had to see in person, so I brought the LOTRO launcher up… and then went and did something else because it had to patch, which is another thing that certainly hasn’t gotten better or faster as the game has aged… so I could log in and see what the actual deal was.

Are you kidding me here?

This update felt like it took twice as long as it probably did because I kept coming back to check on it.  But 30 minutes or so down the road… it has been 7 months since I last patched and I guess there was a new content drop since then… I was able to get in and start looking around the LOTRO Store to find this special boost.

Of course, on the main store page there is a big banner about boosts being on sale, but if you click on it the level 140 boost is nowhere to be seen because, technically, it is NOT on sale.  You can, however, find it under Featured Items or, if you go drilling into the store, under Character Upgrades and Level Skip, which is I guess the new term of art in Middle-earth.

Skip this

There you will find the current range of level boosts available.

How much do the Valar love you?

I had to crop together two pages of the in-game store to get that all in one image.

Level 140 will run you 6,695 LOTRO Points, which is about $70 or so given the current pricing of the RMT currency.

April 2023 LOTRO Points pricing

If I was paying cash out of pocket I would let this deal pass.  I love LOTRO, but until they do some work on the UI to make it playable on wide-screen monitors, it is on the back burner waiting for my return.

However, back at the end of beta, I bought a lifetime subscription to LOTRO for $199, which remains the best money I have ever spent on an MMO.  That means I am an eternal VIP and I get 500 LOTRO points a month and they don’t even make me log in to claim it like EverQuest and EverQuest II do.  So I had over 300K LOTRO Points on my account when I finally logged in.

So I immediately grabbed the boost, only to realize I was on my level 95 captain on Brandywine, which I had previously used a level 95 boost on.  That left him with full bags on the wrong side of the Paths of the Dead with gear not up to the job of getting him into any further content without going back and working on his new legendary weapon.

Still a bit salty about that.

But the main point of that is his bags being full… well, three open slots, so effectively full… because I knew once I clicked on that Valar boost box I would need inventory space to deal with all the stuff that no doubt comes with the boost.  There was a vendor close by, so I could have juggled it, but I didn’t have the patience.

So I logged off and first rolled up a new character, whose bags would only be half full because of all the crap I get handed every time I start a new character.

At least there are six bags

It is probably more than that now… but I didn’t want to do the tutorial, so I picked a level 25 hunter I had laying around.  His bags were also full… literally this time… but he was in the Esteldin crafting hall, which has bank.  So I dumped all his stuff in the bank… buying 6 bank slot upgrades along the way… until he was clear, then bought him the upgrade.  I opened the box and there were a few sub items, including a box of gear.

The magic dingus that gets me to level cap

So I clicked it, and all sorts of things blew up over his head.

336,180,086 experience please!  There is probably some Easter metaphor in this…

He was already level 25, so didn’t need the full 336,391,144 xp that the level chart says you need for 140.

He was also, as noted in the tool tip, teleported to Carn Dum to begin whatever the tutorial is.  I skipped that for the moment.  But, while I was there I did go back to the LOTRO Store and purchase the content I was missing.

I was missing two

If nothing else, I took about 150K LOTRO Points off of the company’s balance sheet.  I know I didn’t straight up buy them, but I know from my accounting background that they are still counted on the books as an obligation.  If you want to help the game you love you can’t just buy the RMT currency, you have to spend it.

Now, some day when they make the game usable to me at 3440×1440 resolution, I’ll be ready to explore quite a bit more of Middle-earth.  Unfortunately, UI work is never on Standing Stone’s list of things to do.


The LOTRO 2023 Roadmap – No Consoles, No UI Updates

The Daybreak thing now is to have an annual roadmap… and, to actually deliver on the roadmaps they publish.  I am very much in favor of that.  Not everything on a roadmap needs to be startling or new.  Sometimes a confirmation of the existing flow of events… like an annual content expansion… is comfort enough.

But if you’re waiting for a game to do something, like make their UI playable on higher resolution monitors, it also means that you get your disappointment up front and can write off another year of the game as unplayable.

And so it is with Lord of the Rings Online.  They put out a producer’s letter with a roadmap and I immediately went there to see if there was anything on the list that might make the game viable on my 34″ 3440 x 1440 monitor.

And the answer was “no,” no changes on that front at all are planned in 2023.

The LOTRO 2023 Roadmap

There is also no mention of a console version of the game, but I have made pretty clear that I felt that was a pipe dream fantasy that was never going to become reality.  But I did pin a bit of hope on the fact that if they WERE going to support consoles, they would have to at least make the game playable in 4K resolution, which might mean the PC client getting some benefit from that.

But it is not to be.  Not in 2023.

I get that they don’t have the resources that WoW has, that they can’t redo things that are working for most of their current players (and that even mentioning this in the forums gets a very hostile response from current players), and that they, above all, need to feed the content engine to keep their current players happy and spending money or the whole thing will fall over and die.

But I also know they have to keep the game viable for more modern configurations for it to survive.  They didn’t put in the effort to get the client to 64-bit for nothing.  Eventually making resolutions up to 4K viable for players is going to be a requirement for survival.

And it isn’t as though the team is unaware of this.  They they were looking into it back in 2016, but doing something is another matter it seems.  Also, its stable mate, EverQuest, is doing work on UI updates, so maybe the LOTRO team could get on board with this some time this decade.

I am happy that the game carries on, that it is getting updates and content and looks good for another year.  But I am bummed that it is literally unplayable for me as it stands.  The UI seemed poorly thought out in 2007 when the game launched… something I wrote about at the time… and it has not aged well.

What did I Play in 2022 and how does 2023 look?

Did I mention 2022 was kind of a crappy year around our house?  Nothing tragic happened.  Nobody died and the house didn’t burn down or anything.  Instead it was just a wearing down of the spirit as one dumb thing after another happened.  It was a year of reacting to problems.

2022 is what we get

This resulted in me spending about 33% less time in 2022 playing video games, at least as tracked by ManicTime, the app I use to spy on my computer time.

ManicTime – For your app time tracking needs

And things started with me being laid off at the end of 2021, which probably boosted my time played in January, because you can only spend so much time on the job search before you are crippled with anxiety because the job you got a decade ago with a Business degree now lists a Master Degree in Computer Science as the preferred education.  This is how HR aids and abets the bottom line, by inflating required qualifications so the company can complain that there are not enough qualified candidates so they need more H1B visas please.

But I digress.  Job searching is a part time thing, but once you have a new job then the work of figuring things out is just beginning.  So the new job starts in April, then my mom falls and has to come and live with us over the summer and I spend a lot of my free time trying to figure out her finances (still not there yet) and getting her into assisted living, so October is about when I come up for air from that… and then the holidays hit but I don’t have enough vacation banked up to lounge about, otherwise November and December would have been the high points of the year, as they have been in past years.  The last two weeks of December are traditionally a very big gaming time for me.

Time spent playing games in 2022

So quite a year.

And what did I play?  ManicTime tracked 21 titles played on my PC, broken out as follows:

  1. WoW Classic – 29.02%
  2. Valheim – 18.70%
  3. EVE Online – 16.62%
  4. Lost Ark – 9.44%
  5. EverQuest II – 7.04%
  6. Minecraft – 4.39%
  7. Stellaris – 3.42%
  8. Pokemon Shining Pearl – 3.03%
  9. New World – 2.49%
  10. Combat Mission: Red Thunder – 1.50%
  11. Solasta – 1.23%
  12. RimWorld – 1.22%
  13. FreeCiv – 0.35%
  14. Raft – 0.33%
  15. LEGO Star Wars – 0.25%
  16. Diablo Immortal – 0.24%
  17. World of Warcraft – 0.22%
  18. V Rising – 0.20%
  19. EverQuest – 0.17%
  20. LOTRO – 0.09%
  21. World of Tanks – 0.05%

For those more visually oriented, I have a pie chart, which breaks out the top ten, with a slice to cover everything else.

Games played in 2022 pie chart

96% of my tracked gaming time consisted of those ten games, so it seems pretty safe to focus on them.

Now, for purposes of tracking, when I played things is almost as important as how much I played… at least to me, and all the more so given that first chart.  So I am finally down to the usual chart that breaks out the top ten titles by when I played them in 2022.

2022 in gaming for me

EVE Online is the usual all year title.  It may only be in third place on the percentages, but it is a title I did go in and play every month.  I am on a kill mail and have at least one fleet participation credit for each month.

WoW Classic in 2022 really translates into Wrath of the Lich King Classic, along with the pre-patch to get ready for it.  We tired of Outland well before we got very far, but once Wrath was looming we were back in business.  We hopped into Outland to get our characters and a few alts to level 68 to be ready for Northrend.  It is the most played title for me, though it covers a bit less than half of the year.

Then there was Valheim, which we went back to try again with a fresh world in order to see what had changed since we last played.  That was a pretty focused play time, but Valheim is very good at that.  With the release of the Mistlands biome I got our world back online, but we’re still pretty tied up with Wrath, so it might be a while before we seek a foothold there.

Lost Ark was where we landed after New World.  That went okay for a bit.  It was fun, but kind of silly and not really our thing.

EverQuest II was me playing the Visions of Vertovia expansion, which wore out once I got to the end game stuff and needed to get on the gear and skill upgrade grind to be able to managed any further content.

Minecraft was an attempt to fill the void after we reached the end of the plains biome.  But after all the work we did in that world my daughter and I started back in the day, I feel like I might have worn out Minecraft.  It always feels like I am redoing things I’ve already done.

Stellaris and Forza Horizon 4, both titles I want to go back and play, were there because I had lots of time over the holidays and into January, and then reality began to sink in a little more firmly.

Pokemon Shining Pearl, the remake that my daughter and I had been waiting for, saw quite a bit of play around the Holidays… and is the one item on the list that ManicTime doesn’t track.  But the Switch gives you some play time numbers and Pokemon games themselves always have a timer for how long you’ve played.  That was good fun, until I beat the main game, after which I fell off the title.  I wasn’t going to catch ’em all.

New World was the end of our stint there.  They’ve since merged servers and removed our company and what not to the extent that I am not sure we’ll ever return.  It is go back to that mess or go back to queues on a fresh start server… until those servers die and get merged again.

Finally there is Combat Mission: Red Thunder, which was an attempt to relive a bit of my gaming from 20 years ago.  It isn’t Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin, but it was okay.

So that was what I played.  I am not going to go as deep into charts as Belghast, but I have a summary of sorts.  Maybe at some point I’ll try and wrap up a five year view.

And what does the new year look like?  What do I think I will play in 2023?

Likely Candidates:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  • Valheim

Those all seem safe since I am literally playing them already.  LEGO Star Wars… we’ll see how far I get with that one.

Strong Possibilities:

  • Pokemon Scarlet
  • RimWorld
  • Dwarf Fortress

Those feel like things I might get into.  My daughter got me Pokemon for Xmas, RimWorld has the Biotech expansion to explore, and Dwarf Fortress is finally available in a comprehensible form on Steam.  I should try it.

Seems Likely:

  • Diablo IV

I think I will be in for that, if it ships this year.

Things I will want to play, but probably won’t:

  • Forza Horizon 4/5
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Solesta
  • Civilization
  • EverQuest
  • Project: Gorgon
  • Most of my Steam library

It just seems to work out that way.  I have a limited amount of time and a hierarchy or titles I am in the mood to play.

Negative Interest:

  • WoW Dragonflight
  • New World
  • EverQuest II
  • Minecraft

Not saying they are bad games, but my own mood isn’t there for them.  I’m sour on New World and, in something of an odd twist, the previous expansions have put me off of both retail WoW and EQII for now.  And I think I covered Minecraft above.

But, in the end, my ability to predict what I will end up playing is somewhat limited.  I have a whole history of these post and my looking forward statements about what I might play have often not aligned with the reality at the end of the year… to the point that I stopped writing a separate forecasting post.

Anyway, that is another wrap up post for 2022.  We shall see what 2023 really brings.

Reviewing My 2022 Predictions

We are back once again for another review of some really bad predictions I made at the start of the year.  I have engaged in an almost annual experiment in proving how wrong I can be about the future for a good fourteen years now.

2022 is what we get

While we are still a good two weeks shy of the new year in my book, if it hasn’t come to pass by December 15th, it probably isn’t going to happen.  So it is time to see how off base I was.

As usual, I will score by giving myself 10 points for each correct prediction, with partial credit available… because I often write rambling predictions with multiple points of contact.

Looking back at the questions from the start of the year… well, I seemed to be in something of a mood, especially about EVE Online.  Though not without reason on that front.  After declaring an “age of prosperity” they went and announced a plan to keep the economy strangled going forward.  “Prosperity” was nowhere in the cards they were dealing out.  But I was also moody about a few other companies.

Anyway, let’s get to the scoring.

1 – Activision-Blizzard will drop “Blizzard” from the Corporate Name

I backed myself into this one, having made a declaration about this in August of 2021, when it seemed as though the company could sink no lower in its scandal ridden tales.  It seemed like they had run the name through enough mud that it might be time to go back to Silicone & Synapse.

But it did not come to pass.

Now, I could make excuses about how the Microsoft acquisition, which showed up less than three weeks after my predictions, locked everything in place, so no major name change was likely to occur… but, in hindsight, no name change was likely to happen either way.  When you have Bobby Kotick at the helm, Blizzard would have to work a lot harder to eclipse the stink on him.

Zero points.

2 – No WoW Expansion in 2022

Man, I was not on a hot streak for 2022 was I?

Okay, this one did not look that outrageous a year ago.  Blizzard seemed to be in disorder, Shadowlands was flailing about without content updates, and there was some word about retooling their approach.  It seemed likely that they wouldn’t get out an expansion this year.

But they managed it.  The jury is still out on Dragonflight… I mean, I loved Shadowlands for about a month, before I found the quick trip to level cap meant and endless endgame treadmill… but it launched at the end of November and is still running along.  I haven’t seen the traditional glowing “current expansion exceeds all past expansions” press release about any sales metric yet.

In the end though, even if it dies in a month, they still shipped an expansion.  Zero points.

3 – The Arthas Hail Mary

I’m going to have to quote this one, just to avoid having to recount it point by point.

Wrath of the Lich King Classic will be announced to great fanfare.  This will be the big 2022 announcement for the WoW franchise, and it will be as stale as you expect.  While I love the whole retro server scene, and WotLK as well, there is a reason that Daybreak doesn’t put out a press release every time an EverQuest progression server unlocks a new expansion.  And it will be tainted by the same things that hurt Burning Crusade Classic, like a special deluxe package with a horrendous mount to single you out for ridicule.  It will be more popular than whatever is going on with Shadowlands, an admittedly low hurdle, but it won’t launch until Q4 so we won’t see any financial impact during the 2022 calendar year.

I mean, sure, Wrath Classic, big fanfare… but Dragonflight was probably the bigger announcement, if only because it was new and unexpected.  We all had no doubt Wrath Classic was going to show.  It also made it into Q3, just barely.  But it counts.

It did, however, get the ugly mount that singles you out and it was sure as hell more popular than Shadowlands this year.

I am going to give myself 4 points for this one.

4 – Immortality is Overrated

Okay, I am getting a little better as we go along here.

Diablo: Immortal will finally ship in time for summer… after all, NetEase is the one doing the work here.  It will get a lot of hype from the company because WoW Classic and Hearthstone updates can only carry so much water for them.  It will be briefly popular, because we do in fact all have phones, combining as it will everything Blizzard promised (something like Diablo) and everything fans feared (cash shop from hell), but the Q3 2022 financials will only mention it in passing.

I mean, isn’t that pretty much what happened, right down to shipping in time for summer?

You can split hairs on that one, but I am giving myself the full 10 points.  I rarely get this close to the mark.

5 – Activision Will Settle with the State of California

Okay, after that riding high on that last one I am brought low again.  I, not for the last time I am sure, invoke the Microsoft acquisition to explain this away.  Zero points.

6 – Bobby Kotick Will Remain in Charge at Activision

And, just to switch things around, the Microsoft acquisition pretty much made this a lock.  Not that I thought Bobby was going anywhere otherwise.  He has set himself up to suckle at the company’s teat, sucking down a huge amount of cash while he runs an entertainment sweat shop.  Why would he step away from that?  10 points.

7 – Enad Global 7 will Announce Marvel Universe Online

Oh EG7, you had such a potential winner here.  Even the hint of this project got the company more press than it had seen in a decade.

Massively OP declared Blizzard’s problems with its NetEase contract the biggest MMO company blunder, but when we measure the potential upside lost relative to the size of the company, this one dwarfs the NetEase deal.

Yeah, in case you hadn’t heard, all they announced was that the project was cancelled.

Zero points.

8 – H1Z1 Will Remain in Limbo

Sometimes I need a gimme.  H1Z1 is Schrodinger’s battle royale, neither dead nor alive.

10 Points.

9 – LOTRO Old and New

I was predicting a split in the product, with a new branch to support the console plans that EG7 kept talking about.  But we didn’t get anything really about the whole console thing.  I suspect the tepid response to Amazon’s Rings of Power, which was supposed to ignite more Tolkien interest, might be on the list of reasons.

Zero Points.

10 – Nothing New in Norrath

EverQuest and EverQuest II rolled on as before, and no new Norrath titles were launched, announced, or even hinted at.  Kind of a gimme.  But I need all the help I can get.

10 points.

11 – Ji Ham Confirmed as CEO of Enad Global 7

This is a complicated one.  Technically I think Ji Ham is still “acting” CEO of EG7.  His linked in profile still has “interim” on display.

On the other hand, the Daybreak team completed their reverse acquisition and now pretty much run EG7, so the idea that he is going to be asked to step down from the position seems pretty silly.

I am going to give myself 4 points because he is the CEO and they aren’t going to replace him.

12 – CCP will Circle the Wagons to Defend Against Player Feedback

Yes and no.  CCP management certainly came into the new year saying they knew better and would do whatever they wanted.  But push back from players got them to declare against crypto in EVE Online (for now), and they eventually began to relent on some of the things dragging down the New Eden economy, like capitals and battleships being too expensive to bother producing and the stranglehold on minerals… things that were pointed out as problems the day they were announced.

The economy is still not perfect, but things are at least better now… a year later than they could have been… should have been… but better.  I’m giving myself 2 points for the beginning of the year.

13 – New Eden Economic Times

This is basically part 2 of the previous item, only more about the in-game economy.  CCP eventually relented on many things that players had been complaining about since they were introduced, so I feel like I would be double dipping if I gave myself more that zero points.

14 – New World on Consoles Announcement

Sorry, no.  They spent most of 2022 trying to fix the game so people would play it again.  Their expansion saw a brief spike, but fresh start servers are really what brought people back because they could at least play on worlds that had not been screwed up economically by the company’s bumbling management of the game for the first few months.  Zero points.

15 – New World Store Update

None of these things came to pass.  Zero points.

16 – Crypto Mania will Continue and yet Yield Nothing of Value

I mean, unless you can assign value to schadenfreude I guess.  10 points.

17 – Metaversary Rhymes

Part two, the whole crypto metaverse idea of being able to bring your car from Mario Kart into Forza or whatever.  It didn’t go anywhere either.  10 points.

18 – Non-Fungible Fiascos

My ongoing bets against crypto seemed solid, but my guesses as to which company’s we beshit their games with it… well, this was the list:

  • EVE Online
  • Star Citizen
  • Black Desert Online
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Wild Card: Some Gamigo Title

None did however… which, given the talk a year ago, means crypto must have really taken a dump in 2022.  I was never happier to get zero points.

19 – Chapter and Metaverse

I was predicting that Zuckerberg’s own personal metaverse, Horizon Worlds, would gain no traction.  They were making managers force their employees to log in.  Hell, it was all they could do to announce legs… and even then they didn’t show the actual in-game legs, but specially rendered ones on the virtual Zucks.  10 points.

20 – A Better Metaplace

Raph and Playable Worlds did not deliver anything in 2022.  Zero points.

21 – Non Starters

My usual gimme list of games that won’t ship.  Basically 10 points for free.

Extra Credit

These are bonus, usually outrageous guesses for some additional points.

The first guess was that CCP would get fed up with players electing the CSM and just appoint their own council, the way Blizzard did.  Like I said, I was in a bad mood.  That did not come to pass, so zero points of extra credit there.

Meanwhile, I also guessed that Blizzard would get bored of their own WoW Player Council, thank everybody for their service after a year, and forget about the whole thing.  While the WPC has been a giant nothing burger so far as I can tell, I just went to check its special forum and it still exists.  So zero points of extra credit there as well.

The Final Score

I had a total of 210 possible points for my main predictions.  From my scoring above, I managed to get a total of 90 points.  That gives me a nearly 43% success rate, which is far better than I have done in some past years.  I guess the lesson here is always bet against crypto.

That is all I have.  Another year down.  Now I have to decide what I will do for 2023.  Predictions?  Questions?  Demands?  Something else?  I have two weeks to figure it out.