Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

Enad Global 7 Cancels Its Daybreak Marvel MMO Project

Say farewell to any dreams about a Marvel Universe Online landing with Enad Global 7, as they announced in a press release that they were giving up on the project and writing of the money invested in it so far.

Enad Global 7

The press release was short and to the point and surprisingly not released at 4pm on Friday afternoon.  But they had an earnings announcement to do, and you have to get the bad news out with that.  The actual text for posterity:

EG7 plans to reinvest Marvel development resources across multiple long-term projects

EG7 today announced it will be discontinuing the development of the Marvel project at Daybreak Games. Based on the re-evaluation of the development risk profile, size of investment, and the long-term product portfolio strategy for the group, the board has decided to change the development priorities and reallocate resources within the group to focus on alternative long-term projects. The company had planned to invest more than SEK 500 million in the Marvel project over the next three years. The company will now diversify this investment across multiple, smaller size projects within the group, including the previously announced major upgrades to The Lord of the Rings Online and DC Universe Online, and new game opportunities with our first party, original IPs. Along with this reallocation, the company expects a write down of approximately SEK 230 million in project related assets in Q2 2022. As one of the long-term investments, the change to the Marvel project plan will not impact near to medium term revenues and profits other than the balance sheet and P&L impact related to the write-down.

You will note the not very subtle spin about investing in other projects… projects they already said they were investing in previously.  Does that mean they are investing more in things like LOTRO and DCUO?  I don’t know.  Maybe?

The assumed reason for the cancellation of the project is the departure of Dimensional Ink studio head Jack Emmert, whose history with super hero MMOs is the stuff of legend.

EG7 even called him out

His leaving, along with whoever he took with him to go work at NetEase, was apparently enough to scuttle the project.  That is always a hazard if a project depends on specific individuals.

This is pretty much a calamity for Daybreak as it continues their lifetime streak of bringing no new projects to launch since the SOE era.  Seriously, H1Z1, EverQuest Next, and Landmark were all under way before Daybreak, so the sum total of Daybreak initiatives looks like the spectacular failure of PlanetSide Arena.

Not only that, but the Marvel project might have been the most widely covered thing that Daybreak has ever announced.  My Google alerts about the company were lit up for days following the tease that they were making a Marvel IP based MMO.

Of course, what I was already calling Marvel Universe Online should have been a slam dunk.  DC Universe Online is already the most popular title in their stable and generates the most gross revenue. (EverQuest, so very cheap to maintain, and such a pillar of the genre, matches it for net profits though.)  Daybreak would have had to go really, really wrong to mess this up.

And yet, here we are.

Then there was the Q1 2022 quarterly report, where they noted income was up year over year, largely through acquisitions, the stock price was down, Daybreak is still the largest single contributor towards revenue, Ji Ham is still acting CEO, and that Innova, a Russian company, is no longer an issue, double pinkie swear.

There wasn’t a lot of new in there, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it, save for this slide.

EQ7 Q1 2022 – Looking Forward

You can see they are still betting on a boost from Amazon’s second age Middle-earth show and that they still want to invest in the things they have said they wanted to invest in previously.  At least H1Z1 isn’t being promoted quite so vigorously… and I say that only because they appear to have no plan for it, so they shouldn’t be promoting it.

So it goes.  The high hopes of 18 months ago seem to have fallen, sapped by the reality of Daybreak at the gaming industry in general.

Related:

Josh Strife Hayes Plays Lord of the Rings Online

Josh Strife Hayes first came to my attention for his videos about New World, which was then going through the many problems… and poorly considered fixes… that seemed to plague its opening wave of popularity.  In particular, his What Went Wrong? video, which chronicled the timeline of the game and the problems and responses was a real eye opener.

It was enough to get me to click “subscribe” and keep an eye on his other videos.

Among his videos is a long running series called Worst MMO Ever, where he attempts to play a wide range of titles allegedly in search of the titular worst of the genre.  I have watched a few of the entries in that series, and they are generally pretty fair and charitable, as opposed to being a quest to tear down every title he plays.

Still, I was a bit nervous when I saw Lord of the Rings Online come up as the focus of a recent video in the series.  Something to spoil the 15th anniversary?

The fifteen year celebration

This was because my own relationship with the game is somewhat mixed.  There is a lot in LOTRO to like and even love.  There is a reason I still care about the game despite having spent 99% of my play time in the base game and Moria, and I feel keenly the failings of the game despite my investment… or because of it, take your pick.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I went into watching the video.

Here’s the thing… I really liked it.

He has a very upbeat approach to titles and he took a lot of time to recognize, up front, how much charm the game has and how good some of its early player experiences are and how the story isn’t strictly in the mold of the genre.  There were aspects of the early game he mentioned that I had forgotten about.

I mean, sure, it does dig into some of the issues… things like the responsiveness of the UI… but people have been harping on that since 2007.

And I felt for him and how lost he was when he used the free level boost he got.  It is definitely not something for new players without high level friends around to help guide them.  My one level boost, back when it sent you into Rohan, was pretty much a disaster, a character dead ended and never to be played again.

But it was still a good look at the early game and a lot of the pluses that it has going for it overall.  It made me want to go back and roll up a new character and enjoy the early game.

In the end, clearly not the worst MMO ever.

April in Review

The Site

It has been a busy month.  I was away for 8 days and have been dealing with elderly parent issues even when I have been home.  Then I started a new job mid-month, which is always a huge change and brings its own fresh dose anxiety.

And yet, somehow I found time to write 33 blog posts this April.  Is my hobby really video games, or is it blogging?  Also I managed to keep up the daily post streak, which I said I was going to probably let go of at the 500, 600, 700, and two full years marks.  And yet here we are at day 761.  Go me.

As for the blog itself, it continues to chug along under the weight of my words.  Traffic has been down since the big Google Page Experience change back in February, when the altered their algorithm to favor sites that met their “good experience” criteria.  That led to a noticeable drop in traffic from Google.  Before that Google was sending me 300+ referrals a day, since then their referrals have broken the 200 mark only once.

You get used to the new normal pretty quickly though, and it can be interesting to see what still grabs Google’s attention and what does not.  For example, I apparently jumped on the Antiwordle bandwagon just in time.

Google Search Console Says

Also, if you get the blog updates via email you may have noticed a change.  WP.com started sending them out formatted for mobile devices.  But not for everybody  I get the daily update sent to two different email addresses just to keep an eye on it.  The more recent of the two gets the new format, while the older one… does not.

The older one dates back to the start of the blog and seems problematic overall.  For years it used to get an update of posts from the previous day at about 5am local time very reliably.  Now the update comes at all hours, or not at all some days.  It will go a week with nothing and then an email will arrive a 2pm with a week’s worth of posts in a single email.

The new one isn’t free from issues.  It seems sporadic on the delivery time and it misses a day now and then, and there is never a make up email.  So something isn’t perfect in the email delivery.

One Year Ago

April Fools was a quiet affair at Blizzard.

I put up a poll asking what part of the month in review posts people liked the most, and this section topped the results.  So I guess I’ll keep it up.

We got the word that Nielsen was shutting down SuperData Research, which it had acquired a couple of years earlier.  There would be no more monthly revenue charts to argue about.

Raph Koster was talking some more about his latest project, giving us an unreadable chart to illustrate a point about player economies.  He was also talking about cloud computing, which got me to write about the pros and cons of the thin client idea.  Raph came even came by and left a comment on that post.

The instance group was still hot on Valheim.  I was out scouting for base locations out in the plains biome.  Once we slew Moder, we started working on an island base on the coast of a plains area.  We were becoming good at dealing with deathsquitoes.

The plains has its own residents to take on. Meanwhile, we kept expanding our base, setting up a farm in it.  I was also out exploring even more.  I also got to battle Yagluth, the final plains boss, on another server.

Runes of Magic had their “biggest server ever” setup for the 12th anniversary of the game.

I was wondering if Lord of the Rings Online was in maintenance mode.  But EG7 has renewed their commitment to it since.  Over on the EverQuest front, the Mischief random loot server was coming online.

I also logged in and played a bit of WoW Classic.

In EVE Online World War Bee was still carrying on after 10 months.  However, CCP chose to introduce industry changes that made capital ships so expensive to produce that nobody was willing to go “all in” on another M2-XFE type battle.  PAPI would not commit its supers and titans to anything  besides structure grinds under a cyno jammer until the retreat from Delve a few months down the line.  The EVE Online posts from April 2021:

On the media front I wrote about Godzilla vs Kong and watching The Walking Dead.  I also wrote about out PS3, which turned 10 and had been used mostly for playing BluRay disks and streaming.

I was on about how throwing money at bogus MMO Kickstarter campaigns was no way to fight “big dev.”

And, finally, in a Friday bullet point post I mentioned the Diablo II Resurrected Alpha, EG7 completing its purchase of MMO publish Innova (which, a year later, they found themselves divesting themselves from), more about Runes of Magic, and CCP talking about the FPS shooter they said they weren’t talking about.

Five Years Ago

There was, of course, April Fools, but Blizzard didn’t seem up to its usual level of effort.

Blizzard did make the original StarCraft free to play, no April Fools there.

I was wondering if the plan to make mobs scale with your ilevel was going to make going back to World of Warcraft a chore.  It seemed like a bad idea, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter much.

I was going on about the 3K Blissey problem in Pokemon Go.

Meanwhile I was finishing up Pokemon Sun and still felt like playing Pokemon, so went back to Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.

There was the Lord of the Rings Online ten year launch anniversary.   We would finally get to Mordor later that year.

Daybreak announced the Agnarr server for EverQuest, a retro server designed to stay retro as it would not progress beyond the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion.

In EVE Online Reavers were out camping Circle of Two in Impass, shooting their ratters and such.  Asher later told us that this was to have us in place as they had a CO2 director ready defect.  This was before The Judge did his thing.  However that did not come to pass.

I was going on about corpses in New Eden, which have their own special place in the game.  I was also on about force auxiliaries and titan losses.

In Iceland EVE Fanfest was under way.  They had a presentation that gave some interesting data about what happened in New Eden over the last year.  CCP also announced the winners of the CSM12 election and when/where EVE Vegas would take place.  And there was a talk on the plan to convert Null Sec stations into citadels.  We’re still waiting on that last bit.

I also started looking at the New Eden Monthly Economic Report as a regular monthly item, something set off by how much ratting and mining was being done in null sec.

I sharpened up my scanning skills, all the better to hunt MTUs.  Also, according to CCP I lost 5 billion ISK in space wealth since the month before.

In Minecraft I finished up the long road to the northern forest mansion; it took an hour to ride it on a fast horse.

And then there was the crazy story of the Nintendo NES Classic, which they stopped producing even though it remained sold out everywhere.

Ten Years Ago

April 2012 set a daily page view record.  What is it about April?  I know you are going to say “April Fools,” but the record was actually set because of the Burn Jita event.

Yeah, the Burn Jita event.  It made for my most popular YouTube video ever.  And it lead right into Hulkageddon V and its OTEC connection.

Elsewhere in EVE Online, the LEGO Rifter got 10K votes, the War in the North seemed to be winding down with RAZOR back in Tenal and six fleets stalking Venal. Raiden managed to lose a bunch of sovereignty, by accident, which finished that up.  All that was left was to say we didn’t want that region anyways.  We also made conga lines, experience time dilation, and followed DBRB through high sec to kill some super caps.  And Seleene became the chairman of the Galactic Student Council.

I was also syndicated occasionally on EVE News 24.  I don’t think I got paid for all of that.

I made a list of small features I wanted other MMOs to copy.

Lord of the Rings Online hit the five year mark.

Potshot and I were wandering around EverQuest again, looking for lost dungeons.  We were not buying any $25 bags though.

In Rift, the instance group was driven out of King’s Breach.  But Trion added in fishing, so we could do that instead.

And it was April Fools at Blizzard.

Fifteen Years Ago

Back in April 2007 we were wondering what was going to happen with Sigil Games Online after their less than stellar Vanguard launch. (*snort*) I threw out a few paths that the game might follow going forward, one of which proved to be correct.  Soon we would be free from the rambling posts of Aradune.  There was a failure of vision to be corrected.  But I bought a copy all the same.  It was marked down.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Windows Vista, which launched the same day as Vanguard, was facing failures of its own, with Dell having to reintroduce Windows XP as an option for customers.  I know my own company was buying XP systems until Windows 7 came out… and became the new Windows XP.

In EverQuest II Gaff and I visited Emperor Fyst, I ran around in Nektropos Castle with the Everling clan, and complained about experience in Splitpaw.

While our WoW group was winding down for the summer, with Earl off to Broadway, the remaining four of us went off to Middle-earth with the launch of Lord of the Rings Online.  We had been playing in the beta, but eventually it came time to buy the game and sort out the founder’s options.  I had my first impressionsTitles were a thing!

I answered the musical meme question, “Five Reasons Why I Blog.”  Remember when those were “memes?”  Also, that seems awfully early in my career to be answering that sort of question.

I was also on about the pros and cons of player wipes, the requirement that one be able to solo in MMORPGs, and the problem of translating mechanics between games.

Van Hemlock was leet.

Nintendo launched Pokemon Diamond & Pearl in North America at last.  The EU would have to wait until July to get their copies.

Our Wii finally came out of the box.

And, finally, I had a problem with a video card that eventually had to be RMA’d, which sounds a lot like this April. I hope this won’t turn into a yearly thing.

Sixty Years Ago

One of the earliest computer video games, Spacewar! came into being, being initially playable on a DEC PDP-1 minicomputer at MIT.  This would evolve and move onto other platforms over the years, including an arcade version that I used to play in middle school in the late 70s.

As I wrote back in 2014, you can play the original Spacewar! in emulation over at the Internet Archive.  You can also play the Valve reproduction of the arcade game on Steam, if you know how to install it.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. CCP Raising the EVE Online Subscription Price to $20 a Month Starting May 17th
  4. The Trainwreck of 21st Century Lord British
  5. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  6. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. April Fools at Blizzard 2022 in the Shadow of Many Things
  9. The One with the Lawyer from BASF
  10. Wordle and Things Like Wordle
  11. What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?
  12. The Coming of Wrath of the Lich King Classic

Search Terms of the Month

Another all Russian edition.  I guess the war hasn’t stopped search terms.

дайсон сфер программ
[I think they have those in Stellaris ]

моды на бамбук
[Things pandas like]

ферма призмарина
[Aaron made one of those in Minecraft for us]

космические корабли ив онлайн моделька
[Not really sure on that one]

фон майнкрафт особняк
[I have a few screenshots here that might serve]

Game Time from ManicTime

Well, you can see where I spent most of my game play time this month.  Granted, as I said above, I was away and busy for quite a bit of the month, so the sum total of hours is the lowest of any month so far this year… half of what it was in January… but it is still a non-trivial amount of time spent messing around.

  • Valheim – 91.76%
  • EVE Online – 6.41%
  • LOTRO – 1.15%
  • Lost Ark – 0.69%

I was actually a bit surprised to see that I had logged into Lost Ark in April.  It feels like a long time since I last touched it.

EVE Online

It has been a bit of a month for CCP.  I have more posts talking about the game than about actually playing the game.  But, then, I haven’t been playing too much of the game, so maybe it isn’t all on CCP.

The deployment to the southeast of null sec carried on.  There are fights now and then, but I wouldn’t call it a war.  I managed to go on a few ops, got on my kill mail for the month, and basically did the minimum participation thing due to being busy.

The campaign does not sit still because I am busy though, and the staging stations keep moving forward, so I am behind one staging system and have ships strewn across three old ones.  My hope is that I’ll be able to get two expensive ships back home some day and then YOLO or asset safety the rest.

Lord of the Rings Online

Hey, it turned 15 this month.  Imagine that.  I did log in for a bit, though I probably spent more time patching up, and collected my anniversary gifts on what was probably the wrong server in hindsight.  Whatever, my bags were nearly too full to collect the gifts in any case, laden with gifts from previous years as they were.  There were some nice and generous items for 15 year veterans.  Maybe some day I will use them.

Lost Ark

Well, that ended quickly.  The sure fire sign that I wasn’t really all that into a game is that I simply stop even thinking about logging in.  And it isn’t like Lost Ark is out of sight.  It is there on my favorites list in Steam and I am in there every day to play Valheim.  I just don’t click on Lost Ark anymore.

Valheim

Back to ValheimAs Potshot noted, its worldliness is a draw for our group.  So we’re back with a fresh start, and doing a slow roll forward, not in any hurry to get to the next boss or whatever.  Ideally we’ll get the update for the Mistlands before we’ve tapped out again.  We got another tease about that biome, but it is still in the distant future.

Pokemon Go

Some Pokemon was played, though not so much as past months.  The mega evolutions might be a bigger deal going forward as Niantic has finally figured out that an expensive, temporary evolve isn’t all that viable for any but the most dedicated players.  That sure isn’t me.

Level: 42 ( 43.5% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 706 (+9) caught, 730 (+9) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 21
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Lycanroc

Zwift

I fell off the bike this month, though at least it wasn’t literally.  I was away and then the new job meant trying to craft a new daily routine where I still need to find a spot for exercise.  I did manage to peddle a little bit on the weekends, but I am definitely off my stride for the moment.

  • Level – 14 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 937.9 miles (+37.7 miles)
  • Time – 2d 1h 37m  (+2h 12m)
  • Elevation climbed – 39,216 (+5,316 feet)
  • Calories burned – 31,059 (+983)

Coming Up

As I understand it, on Tuesday Blizzard is supposed to officially announce its long hinted at Warcraft mobile game.   Will it get a PC version as well to stop people from playing it in phone emulation mode on their PCs the way Diablo: Immortal did?  I guess we’ll find out.

Then, by this time next Saturday we’ll know all the things that CCP has planned to announce at EVE Fanfest.

Otherwise a lot of things will just carry on as before.  I suspect that Valheim will continue to dominate what play time I have when it comes to May.

Lord of the Rings Online Fifteen Years Down the Road

It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.

-Gimli, Return of the King

It has been fifteen years since the journey to Mordor began in Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online, and it has been a journey of both highs and lows.

The fifteen year celebration

I want to say, up front, that the game is a charming and very special look into the world of Tolkien’s works and unlike any adaptation we have ever been able to experience or will likely see again in my lifetime.  Turbine brought Middle-earth to life in an open world environment that you could spend a lot of time simply exploring.  It is a wonder and has given me much joy.

I will add that as somebody who opted for the lifetime subscription launch back in April of 2007, I have gotten way more than my money’s worth out of that investment, even including the fact that I own every expansion as well.  It was the gaming deal of the century for me and nothing else comes close in value received for that price.

And the game also occupies a special place on the blog, being one of the first games to ship after I started writing here back in September of 2006.  I was writing about it along with Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and pre-Cryptic version of Star Trek Online back in the day, and at least one of those panned out for me I guess.  I had a post about the potential, and potential problems, of the game back in that first month of the blog.

I was posting about beta and the launch and the instance group, which took a couple of runs at Middle-earth when WoW wasn’t popping for us.  I have been back a number of times, the last time being for the LOTRO Legendary server experience, a fresh start/special rules server meant to let people work through the content again in a mass.

All fine stuff… but I didn’t choose that quote at the top because everything has been rainbows and lollipops with LOTRO.  The history of the game has been marred by hubris, bad decisions, poor design, half measures, and a game engine that was awkward, unresponsive, and looked like it was a few years behind the curve on launch day.

I guess the hubris I can understand.  Given the popularity of the source material, the proximity to the theatrical releases of the first three Peter Jackson movies,which finished up just a few years before the game launched and introduced many new people to Middle-earth, and the MMORPG market being at about its peak, LOTRO should have been ten times more successful than it was.

Where else were you going to be able to literally walk around in Middle-earth?

Yahoo Headline 2007

I realize you can’t have everything you want when you launch a new product, and especially a product as complex as an MMORPG.  You got to Middle-earth with the engine you have, not the engine you want.  And you could see how Turbine’s engine had improved from Asheron’s Call to Asheron’s Call 2 to Dungeons & Dragons Online to LOTRO.  But being better than its predecessors didn’t make it feel current and, while the character models have been updated, they still look awkward and wooden and all the more so since launch as most of us have upgraded our monitors.

Google tells me that 1024×768 was half the monitor market in 2007.  Now, unless you but a laptop, a 1080p monitor… which is 1920×1080 resolution… is the minimum standard, and many of us have much larger screens.  I currently have a 3440×1440 monitor, on which the game is barely playable because, while bits of the UI do scale up, most of the text doesn’t.  And even the UI that does scale up looks like garbage at useful sizes on my monitor.

So when Enad Global 7 talks about how their going to put LOTRO on consoles and I am briefly able to set aside the sheer complexity of moving the mess that it the game engine onto a PlayStation 5 or an XBox X, I still stumble over the fact that you really have to support 4K video… 3840×2160 resolution… to be seen as a modern, competitive game.  It makes me think of the speedometer on my Camry, which suggests I could go 140 MPH.  The expense of making that a reality would quickly exceed reason just as the expense of refactoring LOTRO into something that would even look good on a console… let’s leave aside the playability issues… would probably require a greater investment than the company could hope to recoup.

And then there is the UI, the iconography, the responsiveness on controls, and a host of other little things that wear on you as you play if you’ve, for example, played WoW where Rob Pardo once spoke about how much effort went into making sure button presses had not lag.  A problem since launch and one that has sometimes gotten worse rather than better.

The world though, that remains a bright spot in the game.  I can forgive a myriad of sins because the world is a critical feature of the game to me and, while avatars look rough and the UI is less than ideal, locations are often beautiful.

If, of course, you can get to them.

When it comes down to it, I have not been many places in LOTRO.  I may own all of the expansions, but I have dead ended in Mirkwood largely due to it being a barrier of dullness comparable with its reputation in the books.  I have been through the base game half a dozen times at least… and many more times up to 40 or so… and through Moria a couple of times, but Mirkwood is just so uninteresting that even the promise of what lies beyond it cannot sustain me.

I did boost a character into Rohan, only to find that the character boost leaves you nonviable against the mobs you’re sent to face immediately unless you visit the cash shop and invest in your legendary weapon.

The legendary weapon system is another roadblock in the game, a non-optional requirement to care for a needy baby of an item that you constantly have to take back to camp and deal with.

My hope was that the studio would create a special rules server that would let you just do the main book story line quests to advance through the game, letting players tour the world.  That seems to be the only way I’ll get past Mirkwood.

But the game is still there, fifteen years down the road and is owned by a company that says they have plans to improve it.  One of the side effects of the console plan, if that is even viable, should be to make the game better on PC as well.  Or so one would hope.

It has been a bumpy ride this last 15 years, but as I said at the top, I have enjoyed most of the time I have spent in the game.  I’ve logged in to collect my anniversary goodies, though my bags and bank are so full of stuff from anniversaries and expansions at this point I am not sure I should keep redeeming stuff. (I still have unopened gift boxes from the 12th and 13th anniversaries… I must have skipped logging in for the 14th.)

I’d go play the 1-50 game again if were practical on my current monitor.  We will see what the future brings and live in hope of a better tomorrow for Middle-earth.

Addendum: In an effort to prove some points above SSG has given me a corgi, jumping on the MMORPG corgi bandwagon, which is also perhaps the most awkward looking corgi model I have seen in a game.

Chestnut Corgi chonk

He isn’t horrible, but he isn’t good either, and it feels like another attempt to copy more successful titles.

Discord as a News Source

One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow.  I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.

You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.

That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing.  There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.

Social media has made things a bit better.  At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers.  Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.

The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines.  Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.

And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.

And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.

That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.

Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged.  That is literally the base function of their positions.  If you can only do one thing, do that.  But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.

Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be.  And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.”  (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)

Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.

Unity through Discord

I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.

And it has worked pretty well.

It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it.  But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.

For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games.  I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.

Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever.  They seem committed to the platform for now.

Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion.  The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.

Amazon Games is a little iffy.  They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game.  They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for.  Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?

And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.

So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me.  The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.

I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them.  LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago.  Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)

Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.

CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.

And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us.  I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove.  I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.

Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news.  It is out there, though your mileage may vary.

What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?

Over at Massively OP they had a daily grind question about which MMO housing was the most “usefless.”  That elicited a lot of opinions, many of which with I agree, and even another blogger response, but I still felt like there was some cross purposes in some answers, because “useless” is something of a loaded description.  We all know at least one pedant who will argue that it is all useless by definition because video games have no practical use or some such.  But even among the more sensible, there is a wide range things that make housing something they will use in an MMO, so I thought I would explore some of the items that came to my mind on that front.

Personalization

Basically, can you make the housing your own, or will it always look like everybody else’s place?  This can mean a lot to some, but doesn’t necessarily influence the other items on the list.

I would put Rift and EverQuest II at the top of the list, as both allow free form decor and have crafting that can create house items.  EQII would be my top choice because it allows you to convert things from some special quests into trophies for your home, which is what I tend to display.  Also, there is a ton of wall art.  But Rift gets the nod for overall flexibility and being able to go nuts constructing things.

New World isn’t too far behind, mostly because it doesn’t feel like there as many general “things” in the world for basic decor.  The housing options also feel a bit more constrained.  But it is also new, so it may catch up.

Then there is EverQuest… my list is not exhaustive, I am just going through the titles I know personally… which has borrowed a lot of ideas from its younger sibling and has free form placement, including out in your yard.

Lord of the Rings Online is a bit behind that, largely due to limited items and the fixed hook system that puts a rather low cap on the things you can actually put in your house.

Then we get down to WoW and Warlords of Draenor garrisons, which I am declaring housing for the purposes of this discussion, and not simply to dunk on it because it ranks highly in some regards.  But for personalization it had a very limited range of pre-set options you could unlock, so every garrison felt very much like every other one.

Then, finally, I am going to bring in the captain’s quarters from the EVE Online Incarna expansion, specifically to dunk on it and provide a bottom end of the range for comparison.  The only thing that made the captain’s quarters unique was the presence of your avatar shambling about it awkwardly or sitting on the couch.

Captain’s Quarters

It was otherwise identical to every single other one until they introduced a couple of basic faction options, and then they were identical to everybody who chose the same faction as you.  Not that you could tell, because you were the only one who could enter.  We can argue over whether or now a POS or a station or a citadel counts as housing, but this actual attempt at player housing in the game was absolutely the suck.

Asthetics

Is it pretty?

I am going to be down on LOTRO housing in a number of these categories, but I will say that if you like the art style of the game, then their housing is very nice.  And the limited customization that I mentioned above means that in the neighborhood housing concept that the game uses, you can’t really end up living next to that horrible person who fills their yard with crap that spells out obscene words or political symbols.  The Valar giveth, and the Valar taketh away.

I am going to put New World up high on the list too.  Again, despite its limitations, the housing looks good and is well integrated into the settlements.

Since I brought WoW into the mix, I will say that garrisons look find, fit in to the game, and actually have some fun aspects in their look.  Once more, huge limitations on how much you can customize, but it doesn’t look like crap relative to the rest of the game.

I am a bit iffy on EQII on this front.  It isn’t that there are not some wonderful, pretty housing in the game.  But there are also a lot of dingy little spaces.  If you are a new player and get your first house anywhere save Halas, it probably sucks.  I remember my first one room cracke rbox apartment in Qeynos.

Likewise, Rift has so much potential, but a lot of the new player starting dimensions just look like work rather than a place you want to own.

I am also going to put EQ down here.  While it uses the neighborhood concept like LOTRO, its neighborhoods are kind of shabby and there is always the person who has their decorations for their favorite holiday out in the front yard all year around.  Plus vacancies are very obvious.

And the, finally, just to see if Bree at MOP reads this, I am going to drag the Tatooine trailer park that was SWG housing into the mix as an example of ugly housing in an MMO.

Looks like they had used YT-1300s on sale at QVC

I will grand practicality and integration into the game, however they looked like ass and in places stretched for as far as your draw distance would allow.

Practicality

Can I actually do something useful to the game in my home?

Or, perhaps more to the point, if I can do things in my home would I bother doing them there rather than in town or a guild hall or some other location in the game?

Warlords of Draenor garrisons could barely be personalized at all, and aesthetically it was basically part of the game, which could be good or bad, but you could do stuff there.  So much stuff.  Too much stuff in the end really, as it managed to deliver on the prophecy about housing that Blizz had used as an excuse previously, that it takes people out of the shared gaming world..  I still visit my base when I play retail WoW to craft some 30 slot bags for alts and that sort of thing.  It remains useful.

So, for all of the other knocks on garrisons, they are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to integration with the game.  I mean, you had a flight point, a special hearthstone for the place, and could have a bank and transmog vendor.  I kind of want to dig through Reddit to see if anybody wrote a post about playing the expansion without building their garrison.  Is it even possible?

And after that I guess I would put EQII which, while far behind in function, is integrated into the game in that you have to setup your store front for the broker in your home.  That was a day one item, and no doubt something influenced by SWG, so if you were looking for a compliment on that front after ripping it on aesthetics, there you go.  You can also set up crafting stations, mail boxes, and all sorts of other things in your home that may be of use.  Crafting stations in a home used to be a sure fire sign of somebody who botted their crafting back in the day, but it is still something you can do… craft, not bot.

Then maybe LOTRO, because at least the neighborhoods have a crafting hall.  I found them less than convenient to use, but they are there and you could commit yourself to them I guess.

After that… well, I think the bare minimum, the low bar, is to provide some additional storage space, or access to your bank storage in absence of that.  I think all the usual suspects and a few more that I have yet to mentions, like Rune of Magic, at least give you that.

Viability

I don’t think that is the right word, but it is the one I am running with.  Still, I will explain what I mean.

What I am driving at is whether or not any player, new or old, who wants to engage in housing as part of their play can do so without too much effort or cost.  I supposed “accessibility” might be a better word, but it is also a word weighted down with its own baggage, so I try to avoid it.

So, for example, EQII ranks highly in this regard in my estimation.  The game guides you to player housing in the first ten levels of the intro, gives you some instruction in it, and the rent for basic housing is very reasonable at 5 silver pieces a week.  That was a price that didn’t even bother me back in 2004 when SOE was trying to keep a very tight lid on the economy such that mobs did not drop coin and when I finally got my first platinum coin it felt like a huge achievement.

EQII even hands you some furniture as part of the intro.  Everybody gets that same table and mirror that they have been handing out since launch, back when having an in-game mirror that actually reflected was kind of impressive.

Rift as well, once they introduced dimensions, gave new players a shove in that direction and a basic location right off the bat, though it was not very inviting in my estimation.

Dimension by the Sea with my free items strewn about

Lost Ark, which I haven’t mentioned up to this point, also gets right in there and requires you to take on a stronghold as part of progressing in the story.   You may or may not like it, but you’re getting one… also, it is shared by all your characters on the same server, which I view somewhat favorably.

Runes of Magic also gets you into some housing pretty quickly as a new player, though it was pretty dull and pointless housing as I recall, so I set it up and never returned.

New World throws housing at you as well… but then  makes it too expensive for low level players.  Without grinding for coin specifically I could have bought a house, but upkeep would have been too expensive with all of the other day to day costs of the game.

LOTRO throws housing at you at some point… you get a quest about seeing somebody about a deed or a house or something.  But housing has so little practical purpose in the game and is so out of the way and… at least back in the day… used to be a bit pricey for any new player that it falls way behind.

Then there is EQ, which I am not even sure ever tells you directly that housing is a thing.  I think the only in-game notification I can recall is getting a reward that was marked as something to put in your house, which at least strongly implied there was housing.  I have a whole post from 2010 about the effort I went through to get a house.

Some EQ housing

Also, the EQ housing is very reasonably priced… so long as you’re a veteran playing in the current content.  If you’re a new player still selling rat whiskers to the vendor for 18 copper, housing is way out of your reach.

And then, way down at the non-viable end of the list for me sits any game where your home exists in the actual game world on real estate that only one person on the server can occupy.  So I am looking at you SWG and Ultima Online and FFXIV and a few other title that escape me at the moment.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say if you think that kind of housing is great.  I get that it is very cool that your house, and yours alone is there in that spot and everybody can see it.  But as soon as you make real estate scarcity a thing and put specific locations in demand, housing shakes out into winners and loser and most players will be on the losing end of things.  The argument that it makes the game more “real” doesn’t wash with me.  If I wanted a game with the same pain as real life I’d go play EVE Online…. wait….  Anyway that is my opinion and you are free to disagree, just know that you are unlikely to sway me.  I live in Silicon Valley where real estate PvP is a thing already.

Location, Location, Location

The tired old joke of real estate is that the top three considerations are “location, location, and location.”

In this case I am not referring to the whole “instanced vs in the world” housing which I was going on about in the previous section, though I will say that if new players can’t get a house some place useful, your game fails on this front… which means instanced housing rules for location generally.

For the purposes of this section I mean whether or not housing is some place useful, like in town or near services you might need as a player.  EQII is pretty good on this front, though some locations are better than others.  As a new player in Halas everything you might need is right outside your door, which is great… if you chose Halas.  If not, your mileage may vary.

New World is also pretty good on this front.  Housing is all in settlements.  There is some vagaries around what level facilities will be available, but you will be in town.  That makes it feel like you live somewhere worth living.

Other titles seem a bit more dicey.  EQ puts you kind of off of the Plane of Knowledge, through the guild staging area, if you know where that is.  LOTRO puts you out in the middle of nowhere, though there are fast travel options.  But I seem to recall there also being some mithril coin or other cash shop currency relation options is you need it on demand.

So What?

I’ve gotten this far kind of riffing on memories and old screen shots of housing, and have probably mislaid my point along the way.

Oh yeah, housing being worthwhile.

In this reflection, it sure seems like the genre can be all over the map on the various aspects I have picked out.  In general I am in favor of having housing in our MMOs, but I also feel like if the developers don’t have time to do it well, have it look good, be useful and integrated into the game, and have it available to users in general, then maybe they should spend their development time on other tasks.

Enad Global 7 Posts Strong Q4 2021 Results with High Hopes for MTGO

Enad Global 7 posted their Q4 2021 and overall 2021 financial results this week.

Enad Global 7

As reported elsewhere, it was a good quarter for the company, with revenue up significantly.

While services made a huge leap in revenue, with the split between services and games being 60/40 in Q4 2021, the whole revenue stack for Q4 2021 dwarfs what it was for Q4 2020 when EG7 was in the process of acquiring Daybreak.

EG7 Q4 2021 slide 8

That said, while Daybreak remains the dominant part of EG7’s game segment, and grew slightly in Q4, I do wonder why it didn’t grow more.

Q3 vs Q4 Games Revenue

Those values are in Swedish Krona, but it is close enough to equal to the US Dollar at the moment as to make no difference for a chart.  Q4 saw Daybreak launch three expansions, with Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest, and EverQuest II selling virtual boxes with price points as high as $250 for the super deluxe friends and family packs, which would at least lead me to assume that Q4 ought to see a significant bump.  I mean, you don’t ship content packages like that unless they are making you money.

Now, I don’t have the same chart break out for Q2 for a direct, ongoing comparison, and maybe they account for pre-orders in Q3 rather than Q4 (though generally you only count revenue when you deliver a product), but it is still something that makes you wonder.

Anyway, the classes I took on finance and accounting were all more than 30 years ago at this point, so my opinions do not carry a lot of weight.

Instead, I’ll move on to the forward looking statements, as there is a slide dedicated to EG7’s 2022 plans.

EG7 Q4 2021 slide 16

In the short term they have a couple of games in the pipeline.  They are also expecting Lord of the Rings Online to see an uptick due to Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power streaming series, which is slated to premier in September.

Then there is Magic The Gathering Online, which I will get to in a moment, along with some mergers and acquisitions they have going.  I wonder who is left worth buying?

While the business focus is “2022,” the last time around things in the medium term seemed more likely to come to pass in 2023.  Big updates for LOTRO and DCUO were previously mentioned, so MTGO is the new piece in that picture.

And then there is the long term, which looks somewhat different that it did in the Q3 2021 presentation, with a promise of new products based on EverQuest and H1Z1, along with DCUO.  That is new.  I am not sure what it means, and after the folly of EverQuest Next I am not about to get invested in any fantasies about what it might mean, but there it is.  And H1Z1?  They can’t let that go, but there is still nobody actually working on it either last I heard, so I don’t even know where to go with that.

Missing is any reference to the Mavel IP MMO being developed, mentioned as part of the Q3 2021 presentation, which was probably the most widely reported thing EG7 has ever announced.  It is mentioned in passing in the Ji Ham statement at the top of the interim financial report, but that isn’t exactly top billing, so that might be far enough out that they don’t want to wear out its popularity too quickly.

And then there is Magic the Gathering Online, which gets a slide all to itself.

EG7 Q4 2021 Slide 4

EG7 announced this deal back in December, and we’re getting a little more detail now.

“Acquihire” generally means to buy another company to get their development team as opposed to their product line, though given that this is being billed as a license deal with no upfront purchase (free to play acquisitions!),  “aquihire” might be the wrong term, but I am not sure what the right word would be.

But the result is that the team that was working on MTGO now works for Daybreak and are carrying on developing and supporting the live game.  EG7 is highlighting this, and it is a big deal with some revenue heft behind it.

But deals like this don’t happen when a title is doing super awesome and revenue is expected to keep growing.  Magic the Gathering Arena, which is available on mobile devices, as opposed to the Windows only MTGO, is said to be the new hotness for digital MTG fans, with a superior business model and all that.

I am not saying that EG7 is being too optimistic.  MTGO is still a substantial business and an immediate addition to their revenue stream.  They are winning on this deal from day one.  And there is no doubt a solid, core player base invested (literally and figuratively) in this title.  But there is a reason that this deal isn’t getting anything close to the amount of press the Marvel IP announcement did.

Anyway, that is 2021 for EG7.  On to 2022.

Related:

The 500 Hour Mark

I saw a question going around Twitter last week asking people to list out video games that they had played for 500+ hours.

Artwork provided by my daughter

This apparently stemmed from the developers of Dying Light II saying that the game would require 20 hours to play through the main story, 80 hours to finish the main story and all side quests, and 500 hours to “max out” the game by going down all possible choices and whatever, which generated some minor controversy and whatever.  Articles have been written, posted, and probably forgotten by this point.

I honestly don’t even know what the game is about.

But, as tends to happen, a side discussion about time spent with games came up with people listing out games they have spent 500+ hours playing.

And that is where I want to go with this.  After playing video games for more than 45 years I have to have more that a few titles with which I have hit the 500 hour mark.

Here is the thing.  I kind of want to be sure about it.  There are a lot of games I have spent a lot of time playing, but have I really spent 500 hours?  That is equal to a full time, 40 hour a week job for about three months.  And people, myself included, often wildly overestimate how much time they really spent with a game.

For example, I figured that Civilization V would make the cut.  I played a ton of that in the last decade.  But Steam clocks me in at just 425 hours played.  That is a lot, but it isn’t 500 hours.

And Civ V is the game I have the most time with on the Steam platform.  I have several games there I feel I have played thoroughly which only have 20-40 hours recorded.

But then there is something like Valheim.  I played that for a few months just a year ago.  I have 280 hours played on it, which still isn’t 500 hours, but is over half way there in under a year.  So it doesn’t have to be a title that I have played for a decade, it can be a title I focused on a lot in a limited time frame.

So I am going to break my titles out into confidence levels.  Some things I have numbers for.  My monthly ManicTime measurements enter into things as well.  I started using that to measure game play time back at the start of 2019, and there are titles I have hit 500 hours with since then.

Verifiably Have 500+ Hours Played

  • TorilMUD

I played this regularly, with a few breaks, from 1993 until late 2004.  The current running version, which represents the third one I have played, shows I have over 100 days played, which gives me 2,400 hours played at least, and that came after the last pwipe in 2002.  So there could easily be more than double that invested in the game.  Would I bet on having played 5,000 hours?  Maybe not, but it seems possible.

  • World of Warcraft

Yeah, pretty easy on this one.  Given all the time spent with the instance group, having played through WotLK from launch until Cataclysm, and time devoted to later expansions like Mists of Pandaria and Legion, I am probably past the 500 hour mark at least four times over, if not more.

  • WoW Classic

I am going to differentiate this from WoW, in part because they have different clients, but also because all of my WoW Classic time has been tracked by ManicTime.  And ManicTime puts me in at 775 hours played.  Yikes.

  • EVE Online

After fifteen years, this is pretty easy.  Once again, even my ManicTime measurement for the last three years puts me past 500 hours, and that is impressive given how much time I spend tabbed out of the game when I play.  I swear I am logged in twice as long as ManicTime tracks.

Almost Assuredly have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest II

I could probably get EQII into the above category if I went in and did /played on half a dozen characters.  I played it a lot in the first year and then have come back to it at various times.  I have a lot of alts spread over the few remaining servers at this point.

  • Civilization II

I have absolutely played more Civ II than Civ V, and since I have a benchmark for Civ V via Steam, it stands to reason that I have the hours in for it.

  • Minecraft

Have you seen how much time I spent building roads and rail systems?  Minecraft had the advantage of being something I could play for hours while listening to podcasts or audio books.

Pretty Sure I have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest

I mean, come on, I must have 500 hours in for this.  This one gets into the mists of time though.  I did play a lot back in 1999 and 2000.  But  I no longer have the account I used back then and I am fairly confident I haven’t put in that much time with my current account.  So I feel like it is over 500 hours, but I don’t have anything to really anchor it to.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

While I really never get far beyond Moria, I have been back into the game enough times now that I must be well past the 500 hour mark.  I have played through the original content many times at this point.

 

It is Quite Possible I have 500 Hours Played

  • Rift

I wasn’t even thinking about this, then I went back and looked at some old posts about Raptr and the time tracking it did, and I hit Elite in Rift for hours played.  It was the WoW replacement for quite a stretch.  Add in the Rift Classic experiment and I feel pretty sure I am there.

  • Civilization

I played the original pretty obsessively back when it came out.  I never went back after Civ II came out, but it was a few years before that happened.

  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

This came after Civ II and there was quite a stretch between that and Civ III where this was the big strategy game.  I liked this a lot more than Civ III and a bit more than Civ II, but it had problems in the long term as it was locked into a few full screen resolution sizes from the 90s, while Civ II was just a window that even today resizes to the fit my current huge monitor

  • Age of Empires II

I think I make the cut on this one just due to longevity.  I have played this off and on since it came out more than 20 years ago.  It used to be a staple at work on a Friday night back in the day, and Steam say I have about 100 hours played with the HD remaster.

  • Pokemon Go

The math works here for the most part.  My wife and I have been playing for almost five and a half years at this point, so 500 hours requires less than 15 minutes a day on average.  The only thing keeping me from being completely on board with this is figuring out what really constitutes “playing.”  Me tapping on my phone screen, yes.  But how about me going for a walk to get steps?  Does the walk require intent?  Does spinning a Pokestop make the whole duration of the walk count as playing, or just when I have eyes on the screen?

The Mists of Time are Thick, but I think I made 500 Hours

  • Wizardry

Have I mentioned the annotated, hand drawn maps I made of the game back in the day?  I have a couple of Apple II titles that probably make the cut, but this one left behind physical evidence.

  • Ultima III

The last in the Ultima series before Lord British got all moody and introspective.  I played this to death, and then bought an editor that let me make my own modded version of the game, which I then played some more.  Also, my girlfriend at the time wore makeup with the Ultima III brand, completely unrelated.

  • Lode Runner

There are a lot of Apple II games that I played for a bit, and then there are a few that I played for ages.  I played a lot of Lode Runner, solving all those levels and then making my own levels.

  • Stellar Emperor

I spent a lot of time… and money… playing this back in the day.  I won the game once.

  • Klondike

This was the first really good solitaire game that I found on the Mac back in the day.  I used to play it obsessively at times.  It had a scoring system that rewarded smart, efficient play, and I developed a whole philosophy of play to adapt to it.

  • NetHack

Maybe, sort of, if you count the time I spent digging through the code and modifying it to see if I could make the game better… better for me at least.  It was a bit of an obsession for me in the early 90s.

Missing From the List

  • Diablo Series

While I have played all the titles from the Diablo series, often intensely at times, it has tended to be in short bursts.  I might have played them all for a combined total of 500 hours, but no single title has hit that mark.

  • Pokemon

Again, my combined time playing Pokemon, by which I mean the core Pokemon RPG games on the GameBoy, DS, and Switch, no doubt adds up to more than 500 hours.  But I have not spent 500 hours on any single title.  The champion was probably Pokemon SoulSilver, when I caught them all.  My blog post of that shows I invested 243 hours getting there.  Nearly half way to 500, but half way doesn’t count.  I probably spent closer to 50 hours on most of the ones I finished.

  • Atari 2600 Games

From 1977 to 1983 the Atari 2600 was my only real home video game outlet, so I am sure I played many more than 500 hours.  But did I play any one game that much?  Maybe Adventure or the Indiana Jones game… but most likely the Blackjack cartridge.  The fourth game on that was Poker Solitaire, and I could sit and play that for ages.  But that was so long ago, I really can’t commit to saying I have 500 hour into any of those cartridges.  They were not deep games.

So that is my guess at the games I have invested 500 hours into.  But when you’re into the back half of your 50s, you’ve had a lot of time to get there.

My Games Played for 2021 and Looking Forward into 2022

It is that time again, time to look back at what I played last year and maybe try to get an idea as to what I might play in the coming year.

2020 plus 1

Past Entries

Last year I wasn’t really feeling it for what I might play, probably because the list I made didn’t really pan out, so when I made the call for 2021 I kept it short and sweet.

The likely candidates were:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW
  • Burning Crusade Classic

I also threw out RimWorld, Civilzation V, and maybe World of Tanks as possible candidates to which I might return.

So now is when I look at what I actually played.  I don’t go as into as much detail as Belghast, but my chart is more colorful!  The top ten titles, which represent the games I spent 10 or more hours with in 2021, were:

2021 in gaming for me

Overall I tracked time for 20 games, so the bottom half of the list did not make it to the ten hour mark.

  1. WoW Classic – 29.61%
  2. Valheim – 23.10%
  3. EVE Online – 18.73%
  4. Diablo II – 7.18%
  5. New World – 6.67%
  6. Forza Horizon 4 – 3.68%
  7. Forza Horizon 5 – 2.36%
  8. RimWorld – 2.21%
  9. EverQuest II – 1.77%
  10. Pokemon Pearl – 1.21%
  11. World of Tanks – 0.92%
  12. War in the Pacific – 0.56%
  13. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.49%
  14. The Fermi Paradox – 0.48%
  15. World of Warcraft – 0.38%
  16. Flashing Lights – 0.36%
  17. Runes of Magic – 0.18%
  18. Art of Rally – 0.13%
  19. Hearthstone – 0.05%
  20. LOTRO – 0.05%

EVE Online was the only title I played through all year, and even that was fairly light once World War Bee ended, which explains why it ranked in third in overall time played.

WoW Classic, which includes Burning Crusade Classic, topped the total time played, but petered out when we were reminded that we did not exactly love The Burning Crusade the first time around.  Our WoW Classic time probably peaked in Blackrock Depths, which we ran into a dozen times at least.  Leaving was made easier by having Blizzard’s behavior exposed.

Valheim, which came out of nowhere to become our obsession for a few months managed to come in second.  We got our money’s worth out of that title, though the content ran out of steam for us and the small team working on it was overwhelmed trying to just keep things going.

Diablo II Resurrected was also a good time for a bit.  New World showed up in September, but we didn’t really start playing it in earnest until more than a month had gone by and the login queues began to subside.

The two flavors of Forza Horizon were in there as well.  I combined them into one row on the chart, though they would have easily both made it on their own.

RimWorld made the cut when the Ideology expansion hit, giving your colonists their own belief systems to work around.

I wandered into EverQuest II for a bit, as I tend to do, but didn’t make a big commitment.

Once it arrived, Pokemon Shining Pearl was a hit for me, making it into the top ten for time played in just the last five days of the year.

And then there was World of Tanks, after which time played starts to drop off rather quickly on the chart.  I suppose my one regret was not being able to get into War in the Pacific, though honestly the biggest hurdle was how tiny the print was on my 34″ monitor.  It is a war game from an earlier age of small monitors with large pixels.

So of the four likely candidates, I did end up playing three of them.  Retail WoW quickly fell off the rotation for me in 2021 as the Shadowlands expansion turned into a repetitive grind for somebody not interested in raiding.  Technically I logged in for quiet a while into the year, but I am not sure you should count the monthly run at Darkmoon Faire as really “playing” the game.  I only did that because I was already subscribed and playing WoW Classic.

Which I guess brings us to the 2022 outlook.

2022 is what we get

Here is what I can see from where I sit this week.

Sure Things

  • EVE Online
  • Forza Horizon
  • New World
  • Pokemon Shining Pearl
  • Stellaris

I already have time logged for all of those this year.  I might give up on them sooner rather than later, but they will be somewhere on the list.  I certainly have much still to do in Shining Pearl and the group seems committed to New World for the time being.  And I just bought some of the DLC for Stellaris, so I’ll play a bit of that I am sure.

Likely Candidates

  • EverQuest II
  • RimWorld
  • World of Tanks
  • WoW Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I own the latest expansion for EQII and am subscribed for another two months, I’ll probably play some.  Likewise, it is easy enough to pick up World of Tanks whenever.

And, naturally,l I started thinking about RimWorld again since I started writing this, which makes it more likely that I will go back and play it.  It happens.

WotLK Classic though, that depends on Blizzard actually shipping it this year, though it feels like that is all the WoW team will manage in 2022, and Blizzard not being a complete shit show that makes me feel bad handing them money.  I am biased towards playing it, that expansion representing what is my likely peak in Azeroth, but I am also wary of Blizz and how they might screw it up or just make doing business with them so unpalatable that I’d rather just stick with the memories.

Maybe, Maybe Not

  • Age of Empires IV
  • LOTRO
  • Valheim

AOE4 is part of the XBox PC subscription, so I just need to download it.  I am just wary of another 100 megabyte download for a title that might not pan out for me.  I haven’t liked anything in the series since AOE2.

LOTRO I want to go back and play now and again, but it looks so bad on my big monitor that they have to do something for wide screen support before I will commit.  If they do that I’ll give it a shot, otherwise I’ll pass.

And then there is Valheim.  I am wary of this because any updates they ship will only apply to unexplored areas, and on the world we build up we explored a lot, including into biomes that should be getting content.  So going back for new content means started over again on a new world, abandoning all of our work.  That might be too much to ask.

Unlikely

  • World of Warcraft
  • Burning Crusade Classic
  • WoW Season of Mastery
  • Diablo Immortal

Okay, I might  try Diablo: Immortal when it arrives, having a phone and all that… though I’ll likely play it on the iPad instead.  But otherwise the theme here is clearly Blizzard games I would be likely to play in past years not drawing much appeal from me in 2021… and honestly it is as much because of their own lack of merit as much as because of anything Blizzard is up to.

And then there are the new games that might show up.  As I have noted in the past, in January of 2021 I wouldn’t have called Valheim, New World, or Pokemon Shining Pearl even being options, yet they all made the cut.  So I am open to some new things, but I cannot see far enough into the future to tell what might show up and tickle my fancy.

Predictions in the Face of 2022

We’re here again at the arbitrary start of another year.  I remember a time when New Years Day was a day of optimism, a day of resolutions about making yourself a better person.  Now… now I am reminded of a Life in Hell comic where Bongo prays every night for tomorrow to be better than today despite the fact that his prayers are never answered.

2022 is what we get

So, yeah, welcome to the new year.  It is an even numbered year which means national (but not presidential) elections in the US and some sort of Olympics… I think we get the cold kind this year, but they’re in China, so time to celebrate repressive regimes I guess.  I’m sure the year will be just dandy.

I am going to go with predictions this year, after having taken a year off with questions for 2021.  As I always point out, I have a history here, checkered and/or dubious and mostly wrong.  But as my boilerplate for this post says every year, I’m fine being wrong if the discussion is interesting.  Anyway, past events:

I was tempted to run with questions yet again, but I made a bold prediction back in 2021 and promised that I would include it in any New Year’s predictions post, so let’s get straight to that.  You will probably be able to tell from the tenor of some of my predictions that I am not exactly in a happy, optimistic, “everything will be great” sort of mood.  So be it, maybe the new year can step up and prove me wrong.  I would be happy enough to let it do so.

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

I made this call back in August, when things seemed really bad for Blizzard, and committed to making it a prediction, so here it is in the first spot.  There was a possibility that they could have straighten up and fixed their issues, but I have such confidence in the indelible nature of corporate culture… every time somebody says “we’ve always done it this way” they might as well add “because this is who we are” to it… that I remain unsurprised by the company’s inability to clean house effectively.  Even when they admit that there might be a problem, it is all they can do to keep from fighting that idea, pushing back on the state and, by proxy, all the complaints against the company.   If you cannot candidly admit there is an issue then you cannot fix it.

And the problem has damaged their brand, damaged their income, and alienated them from a chunk of their once loyal fan base.  Meanwhile, Activision, having finally figured out how to milk the Call of Duty cow year round, doesn’t really need to be dragged down with all those problems which, outside of Bobby Kotick’s connivance, seem to be focused just on Blizzard’s team.

The prestige of leading the Blizzard brand has already been downgraded over time.  Morhaime was CEO, Brack was President, then it was Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra were “co-leaders” of the studio… until Oneal left because the company sill pays men more for the same jobs.  I think Ybarra became Office Manager at that point.

All of that points to the Blizzard brand not being as big of a deal.  The only counter to this slide in the brand is how Bobby Kotick has taken center stage of late in the company issues.  It is possible that his bad behavior, and endorsement of the bad behavior of others, could draw enough heat directed solely at Blizzard so far.

Overall though the trend for Blizzard has been to be third of three when the quarterly reports come out, so even if the Blizzard name isn’t gone I’ll give myself a small partial credit win (2 points) if the company name is officially Activision Blizzard King by the end of 2022.

2 – No WoW Expansion in 2022

I am going to go out even further on a limb when it comes to Blizzard and suggest that the disruption they have been facing and the need to retool things a bit to look better when compared to FFXIV are going to slow down their development process even more than usual. As such I think we’ll be seeing the largest gap between expansions in the history of the game as the next expansion wanders out into 2023.

3 – The Arthas Hail Mary

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. (Q4 financials won’t show up until February 2023.)

4 – Immortality is Overrated

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.

5 – Activision Will Settle with the State of California

The cost of fighting on multiple fronts… the company is being assailed in various ways by the government, its employees, customers, and shareholders… will wear the company down because none of it is good for business.  Somebody on the board will eventually force the issue and make the company do something to make these problems go away… something besides denial, platitudes, and union busting tactics, which has been the Activision tack so far.

Riot, which played the same game for years, largely due to being able to turn a big profit for Tencent even as the fight went on, eventually settled and agreed to pay out $100 million, $80 of which went to compensate employees and contractors mistreated by the company.  The state is tenacious and the price of fighting eventually becomes more of a burden and it will make sense to simply not be discriminatory jerks as a matter of policy going forward.

As a public company Activision, and with Blizzard development seemingly moribund in the face of the crisis, won’t be able to diddle as long as Riot.  A year of this will be too long for stockholders.  The company will have to pony up double what Riot did, so they will have to write a check for at least $200 million in penalties and compensation, agree to mandatory training for management (though everybody VP and above will just have their admins do the training for them, so no change there), and agree to let the state keep an eye on the for a few years.

6 – Bobby Kotick Will Remain in Charge at Activision

I feel I have to remind people now and then that these are predictions, not wishes, and this is one of those times.  Bobby owns too much stock and is in too deep with the board, which has backed him all the way, to lose his seat.  Any sense of irony is completely lost in the executive suite, so the fact that he knew about and endorsed what was going on that caused the company so many problems won’t disqualify him from continuing to collect a huge compensation package for running the company.

7 – Enad Global 7 will Announce Marvel Universe Online

Maybe they won’t call it exactly that, but there will be a new MMO from them based on the Marvel IP, which Daybreak had the rights to make before EG7 purchased them, that will look suspiciously like DC Universe Online to those who know where to check.

And it will be on the PC and consoles and it will be kind of a big deal when it ships.  But I’m only saying they’ll announce it in 2022.

8 – H1Z1 Will Remain in Limbo

Of all the titles in the Daybreak portfolio, none must be as vexing for EG7 as H1Z1.  It sold a ton of copies, it was huge for a season or two, and it was the type of brand that Daybreak always dreamed of creating.  Then Daybreak screwed it up and has spent a few years now trying to catch that lightning in a bottle again.  And with Fortnite and PUBG out there still making bank, there is always that hope for a comeback, yet the chances are so sketchy that the company can’t bring itself to actually invest in it.  They simultaneously know it won’t happen and yet still believe it could.  So they’ll keep talking about H1Z1 in 2022 yet do nothing new.

9 – LOTRO Old and New

There won’t be a console release for LOTRO, but there will be news.  We will find out that, in order to support current generation consoles, the game needs to be re-written, a process that will end up with there being an old LOTRO, the current game, and a new LOTRO, for PC and consoles.  This will put old LOTRO in semi-maintenance mode, with limited updates and no new expansions, while the team focuses on the new LOTRO.

10 – Nothing New in Norrath

And that won’t necessarily be a bad thing.  Despite being the foundation of the company, EverQuest and its younger sibling will just continue on as before, with an expansion each in Q4.  EG7 talks up the original IPs it owns, but it only sees potential in the popular IPs which it has licensed.  EverQuest Next, EverQuest III, or EverQuest the small group RPG, those are all still dead until Amazon or Netflix wants to make a Norrath streaming series.

11 – Ji Ham Confirmed as CEO of Enad Global 7

His acting career pretty much demands it at this point.  The search for a suitable candidate will come up dry and he will be the default choice.  Things could be worse.

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

The last year has demonstrated that CCP will stick to its own pet theories when it comes to the game, ignoring player feedback by covering its collective ears and repeating over and over that everything is fine, that the players don’t understand, that the company can dictate the correct way to play, and blah blah blah “I can’t hear you!”  Angry players should be ignored, where “angry” is defined as anybody who disagrees with the company line.  Nice players agree wholeheartedly with everything the company says.

To further support their position 2022 I predict that we will see the company start cutting back on the data players have been using the assail the company.  The Monthly Economic Report will cease to be published.  The data feeds that EVE Offline uses to create its PCU charts will be turned off.  The current online player count will disappear from the launcher.  Dev blogs will be more message, less substance than we’ve been used to.  Then CCP will be able to control the message without having their own data constantly contradicting them.  How can you say “EVE is dying!” if you don’t have any data to back it up?

13 – New Eden Economic Times

To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.

-CCP, December 2020 Economic Outlook

While taking measures to silence dissent, CCP Rattati will continue to lead the charge against the economy.  The tenants of their economic outlook from 2020 remain unchanged.  They were:

  • Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
  • Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
  • Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

And while they appear to have had the opposite effect… scarcity ended a war for a starter… CCP will continue to fixate on the idea that if they just keep putting the screws to players and making them poor and miserable that we will all snap to and play the game the correctly sooner or later.  The idea that the game should be fun, that players might not want to fret about losing ships they can no longer afford to replace, or that the economy is the critical aspect of the game will not enter the company’s philosophy in 2022.  More of the same, the economic beatings will continue until subscriber numbers improve.

14 – New World on Consoles Announcement

One of the odd things to master in New World has been the UI, which is decidedly different that the WoW-centric UI conventions of the MMORPG genre.  It isn’t bad, though it sometimes seems a bit awkward, but for the most part it just takes some getting used to.

And then I started playing Forza Horizon 4 and 5, which is a title designed to play on Windows PCs and XBox consoles, and some similarities clicked for me… the New World UI is setup to be playable on consoles (in a way that, say, LOTRO is completely not).  They have minimized the keys used for many things, movement and positioning can all be done via the analog sticks, special combat moves map to buttons, the main attacks… I guess the shoulder controls.  It all pretty much fits.

This is probably a blinding flash of the obvious for some of you, but to a non-console player it didn’t spark until I had another cross platform title in my face.

Add to this the fact that Amazon seems fine letting Steam host its front end and the XBox or PlayStation store aren’t likely to get in the way either.

The official stance is that there is no plan for consoles, but it sure feels like it was made to be on consoles, so that might just be Amazon playing coy after getting pestered for five years about when the PC launch was going to happen.  As with above, the announcement only is being predicted, though I wouldn’t be completely surprised by a Q4 2022 ship date.

15 – New World Store Update

New World did very well on box sales in 2021, and I am sure they plan to repeat that on consoles as well, but the in-game store will still change in 2022 as the pressure to keep bringing in cash begins to mount.  Those AWS servers don’t pay for themselves.

The store has been entirely focused on cosmetic gear, the one in-game store item that seems the least objectionable.  It is kind of expensive to my mind, but some people seem to be buying the stuff.  I see it around Windsward now and then.  But it won’t be enough in the end.  Every MMORPG with a cash shop goes down the same path in the end.  So before the end of 2022 I predict that at least three of the following will be available in the cash shop:

  • Premium Housing
  • Fast Travel Tokens
  • XP Boosters
  • Faction Boosters
  • Trade Skill Learning Boosters
  • Learning Speed Boosters for Weapon Mastery
  • Cosmetic Items with Stats
  • Mounts
  • A second character slot on your server

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

UbiSoft, EA, Pearl Abyss, and a host of smaller studios and studios started for the express purpose of jumping on the bandwagon, will continue to talk about crypto, blockchain, play to earn, and NFTs.

And it will all net out to nothing a year from now because, despite the bleating of the crypto bros and the sheep following them, there is really no upside for a studio like EA to hitch its titles up to somebody’s block chain and give up income when there is nothing crypto could do that they couldn’t already do… or haven’t already done… themselves.

And the downsides? Whoa Nelly, if you think lock boxes look like gambling, I am pretty sure when they become NFTs with the intent that they can be bought and sold for real world money that even the government will suddenly agree that it is gambling.  Even skirting that, there are tax implications for “play to earn” if it gets too lucrative… and that will fall outside of the studios hands… that make the whole thing a nightmare.

The UbiSoft test case will fall flat because they will end up having to impose such restrictions to stay within the law and away from expensive entanglements as to end up not achieving any of its promise, and no studio with live games will see fit to follow suit.

17 – Metaversary Rhymes

Then there is the whole fairy tale metaverse aspect of crypto that people are on about.

The main item here are the crypto bros who think NFTs are the future and will act as transferable tickets for virtual goods so that you can buy a car in Need for Speed and drive it in Forza or Mario Kart.  That ain’t gonna happen.  Leaving aside the complexity of getting different studios with different motivations needing to get together on some sort of agreed upon standard for… well… literally anything anybody would want to move from game to game, no studio is going to buy into that.

Any game that makes money selling cars, using the example above, wants you to buy their cars.  That is how they make money.  If you can just bring all your Mario Kart stuff into Forza Horizon… again, leaving aside the huge elephant in the room issue of standards… Forza loses.  So Forza isn’t going to join that venture.

And we’ve been to the internet, right?  How long do you think it would take for somebody to mass produces knock-off cars for a buck that could be used in all those metaverse titles?  This is a dead end as there is no upside for the development studios that would need to implement it.

So this will go absolutely nowhere in 2022, despite the myriad start ups jumping on board the bandwagon trying to milk a bit of that sweet venture capital by throwing around buzzwords.

18 – Non-Fungible Fiascos

Even with the above pair of predictions I know that some company’s won’t be able to help themselves and will stick their hands in the fire and get burned.  I predict crypto/NFT/play to earn nonsense will at least get an official announcement and plan for the following titles (2 points per correct call):

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

I am not saying that any one of them will be implemented… player push back will be huge… but the blue sky press releases will go out.

19 – Chapter and Metaverse

Meanwhile, there is the other metaverse story, where Mark Zuckerberg, who apparently missed out on Second Life, wants to create a VR world that he controls.  He is so bent on it that he renamed the company Meta… and totally not because Facebook has a horrible reputation and he needed to distract from that.

In his metaverse there is none of this NFT movement nonsense, because you won’t ever leave his domain once you strap the VR headset onto your face and log in.  In Zucktopia you will see what he wants you to see, which is generally the right wing propaganda that pays top dollar.

The problem is that you can’t goose-step around with your neo-fascist buddies if you don’t have legs, which means all torchlight rallies will be limited to less than a dozen people.  Limitations of the platform I’m afraid.

And so this too will go nowhere in 2022.  At best we’ll see some more creepy demos with uncanny-valley Mark Zuckerberg… and I leave you to decide if I mean his avatar or himself… talking up his dystopian future where all the bad parts of Facebook will be injected straight into your eyeballs via a VR mask strapped to your face like something reminiscent of Clockwork Orange.

20 – A Better Metaplace

The year started out with me poking at some of the vague statements that Raph Koster was making about his own multiverse plan, wondering at how his new company was going to address some of the more obvious issues, like who would be paying for all of it.

But that was me quibbling over details.  Here at the dawn of 2022 I don’t know anybody else I would trust as much as Raph to speak of a future vision of virtual worlds.  Most of the metaverse talk is castles in the sky, next to which Raph seems to be a guy with wood, nails, and a hammer, ready to build something real.

So, to try and turn this editorial into a prediction, I am going to say Raph Koster and Playable Worlds will deliver something tangible in 2022.  Not a complete product, but enough to get past the vague teases that have gone before and cement the company as serious in a sea of pretenders.

21 – Non Starters

I have to have a couple of gimme predictions on the list, so lets run down the quick list of things that won’t ship in 2022 (2 points per correct guess):

  1. Crimson Desert
  2. Star Citizen
  3. Squadron 42
  4. Camelot Unchained
  5. Pnatheon: Rise of the whatever will get us a headline

Extra Credit Guesses

A bonus 10 points each if these come to pass

  • CCP will go really overboard on defense and decide that electing the CSM is a bad idea, since that process tends to fill the seats with people who have independent ideas.  Instead, taking a cue from Blizzard, they will let players apply to be on the CSM, picking the candidates that most suit the company needs.
  • Meanwhile, the WoW Player Council will be a one-time production.  After a year of shooting down ideas from the current council, Blizzard will thank members for their service, declare the whole thing a wonderful success, then not ask for applications for a new council as the team goes off to do whatever they were planning to do in the first place.

Scoring

As I usually do, each prediction is worth 10 points if I get it correct, with partial credit available.  I have already marked some of the predictions with “points per correct call” for multi-title guesses. With 21 predictions, that is 210 possible points.    Extra credit predictions don’t count against my win percentage, which I assume will be very low, as it is most years.

Again, I want to remind some readers that these are predictions, not wishes.  My wishes for would be sunshine and lollipops compared to what I have laid out above.  This is just what I think could happen after having been through both 2020 and 2021, a pair of years that saw fit to try and beat any cheery optimism out of me.

Which isn’t to say I don’t want to hear any contrary positions.  As I said at the top, discussion is an aspect of the whole thing and  I expect to be right on 30% of these tops, so in disagreeing with any one of my predictions you are more likely to end up correct in the end.

Anyway, the coming twelve months will reveal the truth and I’ll be back in December to count up the score.