Category Archives: Nintendo DS Hardware

Frozen Friday Afternoon Bullet Points

There is no polar vortex going on out here on the left coast, but it is raining and chilly enough that the roses might take a rest from their otherwise year around blooming.

The previous post about Steam started as a bullet point last night, then grew into its own post.  That happens.  It was pretty much the anchor of the post too.  Now I’m left with the other items hanging about.  Might as well just post them and move on.

  • A Smaller Switch

While there are no details out yet, Nintendo has said they have a revised version of the Switch they plan to launch this year.  It is supposed to be smaller so as to emphasize portability.  The hope is, no doubt, to get the remaining Nintendo 3DS/2DS users to consider it as an option.  Nintendo 3DS/2DS sales were pretty well strangled by Nintendo over the last year, undoing a sales surge in 2017.  We’ll see if the new Switch unit will hit the price, size, and durability metrics that would be required to replace the durable dual screen models.

  • Wii Unplugged

This past week saw the Wii Shop channel turned off.

Memories

This closed the door on getting any digital content onto you Wii.  Yes, the Wii has been around since 2006, and is now two generations behind, with Wii U having stumbled before Nintendo hit pay dirt again with the Switch.  But our Wii is still hooked up to the TV in the family room and still gets an occasional play.

  • New EVE Launcher Coming

CCP has a new launcher coming in February for EVE Online.  It will support new features, like “launch groups,” which will allow you to log on all your associated alts for specific tasks.  It will also make tasks like saving logins a little more obvious.  We’ll see if it remembers them, a chronic issue with the current launcher.

The 2019 launcher

Looking at the design though, the primary goal seems to have been better announcement placement.  Probably not a bad idea.

  • Esports Trying Too Hard

There was an article up in the games section at Venture Beat about how the top ten mobile esports players had roped in $8 million in prizes in 2018.  And seven out of those ten were women.

Infographic from that post

At least that was what the headline said.  Most of the article was yet another attempt to prove that esports was a legitimate competitive arena by comparing esports to various professional sports.

I was actually interested in the topic in the headline, but that was barely covered.  Of course, it is hard to blame Venture Beat, since the press release they were working from… and which they pretty much regurgitated word for word, so maybe they get some blame… was just as scant when it came to details.  If you have to spend that much copy establishing that esports are a thing, you don’t sound convincing.

  • Esports Denied

Of course, there might be a reason to feel defensive.  There was a forum to discuss bringing esports to the Olympics in some sort of exhibition capacity that fell through once the International Olympic Committee saw just how violent the most popular esports were.  Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

But then the president of the German Olympic Federation Alfons Hörmann said that esports do not exist and that people should stop using the term because esports have nothing to do with sports.  He seemed quite determined that esports should never be a part of the Olympics in any way.

While I’m not in league with Herr Hörmann, I do find the pushing of the parallels between competitive professional video game leagues and sports to reach the level of the absurd at times.  Again, the burning desire to be seen as a legitimate competitive event seems to get the best of those promoting esports.

Looking Back at 2018 Highs and Lows

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.

-James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion

We stand together again at the end of of another year; at least those of us who survived the journey do.  And, as has become the tradition here, I set aside some time to reflect and sum up the year that was 2018.

As usual, this is more of a stream of consciousness sort of affair as opposed to a rigorous study of the year.  Some things loom larger in my mind than others, especially the more recent.  I can’t really remember what happened in January, but BlizzCon was in November so my brain is still full of that.  Because of the method, and my general laziness, I don’t link out in this post (save for one exception this year).  You sort of have to know what I am talking about or else just let it pass.

For comparison… I suppose there is a study that could be done on my moods and views over the years… you can read the versions of this post that has come up in past years.

Not everything listed as a “low” is necessarily a tragedy, nor is everything listed as a “high” really something that was headline news to celebrate.  One year I inserted a “middle” category and then found I wanted to put most everything in there, so I set that aside.

There is also something of the accountant in me that tries to turn this into a balance sheet, with every “high” having a corresponding “low” on the list.  That works a lot of the time, but not always.  Some things are just one or the other.

Also, I remain undecided on punctuation in this sort of post.  To my mind, bullet points shouldn’t get punctuation.  Sort of.  They do when the bullet point is a question.  Also, I use a lot of semi-colons while eschewing the sentence ending period.  And then there is that exclamation point.  Does that wreck everything?  I think my life would be easier if I just made them sentences, but I am writing this after all the stuff below and I am NOT going back to change all that.

Anyway, on with the show.

Blizzard

Highs

  • A decent start of the year for Blizzard, building momentum for the WoW expansion and BlizzCon
  • Battle for Azeroth launched very well, with the build-up to the expansion drawing a lot of attention
  • Hearthstone did very well, even breaking into the digital revenue top ten on the PC platform
  • BlizzCon for once did not ignore any of the main Blizzard franchises
  • Blizzard showed they were very serious about getting WoW Classic right
  • There is even going to be progression in WoW Classic so the raiding is done with the right gear
  • We got an official announcement for the second of the three planned remasters, Warcraft III Reforged
  • Plans for upcoming Battle for Azeroth content
  • New expansion for Hearthstone
  • New hero for Overwatch
  • New champion for Heroes of the Storm, plus more plans to fix the game
  • New co-op commander for StarCraft II
  • New game for the Diablo franchise
  • Hey, Lindsey Stirling was one of the BlizzCon closing ceremony acts

Lows

  • BlizzCon seemed to kill fan enthusiasm for the aforementioned momentum
  • Even I am starting to feel that the BlizzCon formula might be wearing a bit thin
  • They say that all press is good press, but burning down that tree is going to take a while for some people to get past
  • After a strong start, flaws in Battle for Azeroth around gear and such began to tarnish the experience
  • Wait, as my ilevel gets higher mobs actually get harder rather than easier to kill?  And Blizz thinks this is fine?
  • BlizzCon divided up by six franchises means a preciously small slice of pie for any fan of only a single franchise
  • WoW Classic might be so authentic as to do to retro servers what WoW did to fantasy MMORPGs
  • Did you say WoW Classic would have progression?  This will inevitably lead to people wanting progression into expansions
  • Still waiting for news on that third remaster, Diablo II
  • The Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t all that exciting, even for a year with no expansion announcement
  • Unsure if the Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t exciting because the game is getting old and tired or I am… or both
  • Heroes of the Storm is losing its epsorts league and most of its devs as Blizz restructured it to keep it going with a smaller staff
  • I’m not even sure what a co-op commander is in StarCraft II
  • Complete fail on the part of Blizzard for expecting core Diablo fans to embrace  the mobile title Diablo Immortal
  • Failed to mitigate the above by not mentioning anything about Diablo VI, more Diablo III content, the Diablo II remaster, or anything else the core fan base might care about; vague references to multiple Diablo projects doesn’t cut it
  • Trifecta of Diablo franchise fails when rumors hit that they were going to announce Diablo IV but pulled it at the last minute, followed by a statement that the rumor wasn’t true, all of which will pretty much pull the punch from any future Diablo IV announcement
  • Gaming press proceeded to vilify Diablo fans, pretty much going full on “Imma let you finish…” over Blizz even as Blizz was owning up to badly setting expectations
  • Few people attended, and no press covered, the “Play Nice, Play Fair” presentation at BlizzCon which, among other things, presented evidence on how vilifying your player base as toxic tends to actually enable toxicity from your worst fans while alienating the 99% of your fan base that isn’t a problem
  • Allen Adham says senior devs at Blizzard are playing mobile games now, and Blizzard makes games they want to play by improving the games they are currently playing, so expect anything new from them to be on your phone

Daybreak

Highs

  • Company not shut down due to connection to Russian oligarchs via Columbus Nova
  • EverQuest still holding on as the standard bearer
  • EverQuest turned 19 and launched a new progression server called Coirnav
  • The Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest progression server is still running
  • Likewise, EverQuest II celebrated its 14th anniversary
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got an expansion again in 2018
  • DC Universe Online continues to hum along, getting some updates
  • As rumors indicated, PlanetSide 2 got a new map and some updates
  • Rumors also mentioned a new Norrath game, possibly EverQuest 3
  • H1Z1 actually left early access and went live, adding in a new vehicle mode along the way
  • H1Z1 became a success on the PlayStation 4
  • Some sort of joint venture with NantWorks to redo H1Z1 as Z1 Battle Royale
  • Just Survive looked to have received a last minute stay of execution
  • They finally announced a new game, PlanetSide Arena, the first since they ceased to be SOE
  • They actually sold out their 4,000 lifetime memberships at $299 a pop for a nice influx of cash

Lows

  • Not sure who is still playing on the Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest server, its been up for eight years
  • Company changed its mind rather abruptly about who owned it when asked about Russian oligarchs, deleting all references, attempting to scrub Wikipedia, and claiming that they misstated who actually owned the company for three years and on just about every document and press release they published
  •  After all that, Jason Epstein is/was still clearly tied to Columbus Nova
  • In the midst of changing its mind on the ownership question Daybreak took a moment out to lay off a chunk of their staff, showing that all is not well
  • Then, earlier this month they laid off another big chunk of the team
  • H1Z1 pretty much fell by the wayside in the market under pressure from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds then Fortnite
  • The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China also failed when the Chinese ethics review board rejected H1Z1 because of “blood and gore” and “vulgar content”
  • There went that H1Z1 esports league
  • The NantWorks joint venture, NantG Moblie, seems pretty nebulous so far, and uncertainty isn’t helping
  • The NantG Mobile plane, such that it has been stated, sounds suspiciously like “What if H1Z1 were more like Fortnite?
  • EverQuest is tied up in this deal in some way, but nobody has explained how
  • Just Survive’s stay of execution turned out to be an illusion and it was shut down
  • The new game, PlanetSide Arena, seemed to be just PlanetSide 2 with well worn shooter modes… including battle royale, of course
  • Lifetime subscribers are all people who won’t be paying a subscription going forward, so Daybreak essentially took a one-time buyout from some of its core fanbase
  • Lifetime subscriptions only apply to the four oldest games, nothing new-ish is covered nor are any console players covered
  • Not sure if NantG Mobile ought to come under the Daybreak heading
  • Not sure how many products Daybreak really has now
  • Not sure how healthy Daybreak is at this point
  • Nothing so far has really quashed the rumors from early in the year about Daybreak’s plans, for good or bad

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Found new ways to expand LOTRO and hey, it was free content
  • Raised the level cap in LOTRO to 120
  • Continued updating character models
  • High elves were added in, because we need more elves in Middle-earth
  • Possibility of a new class for the game
  • Female dwarves in Middle-earth, so now the Tolkien purists can be angry
  • Some mention of a 64-bit client in the offing
  • LOTRO Legendary server proves so popular they have to open a second server
  • A new musical instrument was added, so now you can play the bassoon
  • LOTRO lifetime subscription remains the best MMO deal I have ever made, all the more so since I am back playing
  • DDO got a new race, so you can unlock your inner wood elf; go team elf
  • DDO also got some other updates I think and sold some of those two year subscription deals

Lows

  • Nothing else on the horizon for the company at all
  • Still really don’t know who owns SSG
  • LOTRO remains difficult to pick up with an aging and awkward UI, a balky client, a patcher that is in no hurry to get you patched, and that whole legendary weapon thing which should have been left behind in Moria
  • The rise in the level cap was not universally applauded, but you have to gate content somehow
  • Managed to screw up the Shire for a bit like they were Sarumann
  • The need to make money meant more focus on lootboxes and making the in-game currency situation worse by adding “ember” currency to the list
  • An announced new Middle-earth game won’t shut down LOTRO, but it won’t help it either
  • The “legendary” aspect of the LOTRO Legendary server seemed more than a bit oversold
  • And yet SSG managed to poorly promote the whole LOTRO Legendary server thing at the same time
  • LOTRO Legendary seems most popular with those already invested in the game, so likely pulled a lot of its population from the live servers of players
  • Those LOTRO Legendary queues pretty much went away inside of two weeks
  • A second server and no more queues portends a server merge when the new server joy wears off
  • DDO news was so sparse that I don’t really have anything besides the wood elf to add
  • There was bluster about what the two year subscription might get you, but since two years of normal VIP actually cost $100 less I expect to hear some buyer’s remorse

CCP

Highs

  • CCP purchased by Pearl Abyss ends having to please direct investors
  • CCP and Pearl Abyss claim to be sympatico in their outlook on games
  • CCP says they will get to keep operating on their own
  • CCP got recognition from Guinness finally for the battle at 94P-I
  • A new war in null sec has made some additional headlines
  • Lots of people got to get their titans out and shot things
  • Lots of updates and improvements over the course of the year
  • Abyssal Deadspace was especially popular
  • It is a good time to be farming Gilas
  • In game events are generally getting better
  • CCP is FINALLY trying to fix War Decs
  • With FLEX structures the problematic POS code is almost ready to be expunged from New Eden
  • New Activity Tracker shows you what you’ve been doing in New Eden
  • New games, EVE Echoes and Project: Nova coming next year
  • Working with NetEase, their new partner, to re-launch EVE Online in China
  • Didn’t lose any major third party sites on which EVE Online depends
  • EVEMon is actually back again after the swap to ESI
  • EVE Vegas was a lot of fun
  • I gave a presentation at EVE Vegas

Lows

  • Pearl Abyss, whose reputation from Black Desert Online is that of “cash shop pay to win atrocity horror show” now owns EVE Online.
  • We will see just how sympatico the two companies really are
  • CCP trading external investors for one owner probably means a lot more direct scrutiny
  • CCP will get to run their own show only as long as the money keeps flowing, you can bet on that
  • Monthly updates, some of which can be quite meaty, do make it hard for named expansions to stand out for EVE Online
  • The New Eden concurrency number keeps slowly moving down
  • Null sec wars only last so long, then we all go home and mine
  • Peace is boring since I neither rat nor mine anymore
  • I may, in fact, be a bitter vet at this point
  • The null sec balance of power is now skewed such that the China syndrome seems a possibility, where one power bloc essentially “wins” null sec and everybody else quits
  • Faction Warfare has gone stagnant, with key players leaving it completely
  • The change from passive income to active moon mining sent some low sec groups into decline, hurting low sec even more
  • I’ve added “when will the in-game economy collapse?” to my list of concerns about the game
  • Even the people who used to bristle when it was claimed low sec was dead are starting to feel that low sec has gotten much less active
  • Abyssal Deadspace depends on RNG to stay fresh and still has become mostly a solved problem save for some very bad luck draws
  • Still can’t figure out how CCP went this long without looking into War Decs given how completely problematic the data ended up showing they were; they were pretty much universally declared as horrible years ago
  • Seems likely that CCP will muff fixing war decs, though in their defense there is no simple answer that will please everybody nor one that adheres to the spirit of the game
  • I am going to miss the good old POS bubble when they’re finally removed
  • What were they thinking with that Federation Grand Prix event?
  • Activity Tracker is essentially achievements for New Eden
  • Activity Tracker doesn’t count anything you did before Nov. 13, 2018, which kind of stings for those of us around for more than a decade
  • EVE Echoes is a NetEase mobile game completely disconnected from the main game
  • Project Nova looks nice and could connect to New Eden, but otherwise seems to lack a distinct personality and CCP wants to make it as complicated as EVE Online if they can
  • Oh, and even CCP thinks Project Nova has issues, so it has been delayed
  • Total EVE, EVE Files, and Dotlan EVE Maps all stumbled this year, making us all aware of how fragile the third party ecosystem for New Eden really is
  • There is always a period of post-event malaise for me after the excitement of an event like EVE Vegas wears off
  • In a room with seating for 800 people easy, I had 30 people at my presentation at EVE Vegas, with even some fellow bloggers blowing me off
  • My presentation was also neither streamed nor recorded, so it remains just a special moment in the memory of a very select group
  • Whatever happened to that EVE Online TV series?  I am sure Netflix would buy it

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch continues to prove itself a surprising force in the console market
  • Among titles arriving on the Switch was Diablo III
  • Pokemon for Switch looking to be popular
  • Pokemon Go revenues keep on going
  • Pokemon Go released the 4th generation Pokemon, which was a nostalgia rush for me
  • There will be a link between Pokemon Go and the new Pokemon titles on the Switch

Lows

  • The Switch version of most games cost more than on other platforms
  • The Switch isn’t up to supporting ports from other platforms for some games
  • All that Switch news is cold comfort if you’re invested in the neglected DS handheld platform
  • The Switch is not a handheld, portable platform; it is too big, too fragile, and lacks the battery life to be considered as such
  • No more Pokemon on the DS line, ending more than 20 years of the franchise’s link with Nintendo handheld platforms
  • Hilarious attempts to justify the easy nature of the Switch Pokemon games by claiming that those games are “for children” as though the past 20 years of Pokemon handheld games were not
  • Nintendo actively pushing its latest/last handheld model, the 2DS XL, while pretty much winding down the new game queue for the platform in something that feels a lot like dishonesty
  • Pokemon Go is pretty much the only winner in Nintendo’s mobile strategy
  • Pretty much have to admit that Pokemon games on handhelds were the last thing Nintendo had that interested me, in case you missed that, so they probably won’t even get a category here next year

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD made it to 25 years; long live the MUD!
  • Fortnite found its niche and conquered
  • I enjoyed some time with Rift Prime
  • Having enough leftover credits from the free to play conversion, I didn’t even have to spend a single dime on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar left early access
  • Project: Gorgon arrived on Steam
  • No Man’s Sky seemed to be finally living up to some of its pre-launch promises
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be a rock, able to carry on even as other titles falter and fall into neglect, maintenance mode, acquisitions, or closure
  • Everybody seems to be raving about Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Finally, somebody mad about loot boxes and set to do something about them
  • A ruling from the Library of Congress extending DMCA exemptions for video game archiving and study to include server/client based games like MMORPGs
  • We got a good Minecraft expansion with the Aquatic Update and Pandas are on the way
  • Steam declared they weren’t going to reject any games based on content, save for those titles it felt were just “trolling”
  • Civilization V got an update… it was only to the launcher, but the launcher needed it
  • Bomber Crew ended up being a nice little game, I should write about it

Lows

  • This section is getting harder to write every year as I rarely seem to play anything new
  • Fortnite has become popular enough to start facing backlash like a ban by the NHL
  • Battle Royale as a feature is now a requirement in all shooters
  • Rift Prime, like Rift the first time around, was guaranteed to lose my attention at Storm Legion; as it was I didn’t even make it that far
  • Trion’s games were bought by Gamingo as Trion folds up shop leaving an uncertain future for their titles; I guess I wasn’t the only one not spending money on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar then proceeded to go free while the studio laid people off
  • I still haven’t given Project: Gorgon much of a shot
  • I can’t really tell anymore, is Star Wars: The Old Republic on an uptick or a down tick this year?
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea developer Portalus Games is calling it a day, leaving it to an even smaller group to run which does not fill one with confidence
  • Wildstar and Carbine Studios are no more, victims of their own hype as much as anything
  • Tried Anarchy Online and, as it turns out, nostalgia for the “good old days” only applied to reliving your own hardships, not the hardships of others
  • Every time I see “RDR2” my brain converts it to “R2D2”
  • RDR2 is a console game and my latest console was a PS3, not counting the 2DS XL
  • Loot boxes became a political football for those looking to score points on the “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” front; actual change outside of Belgium was pretty much zero
  • Riot  Games giving the industry an even worse reputation as Kotaku exposes their caustic bro culture
  • Riot Games attempting to fix their horrible culture through platitudes and PR; I only wish I played League of Legends so I could quit dramatically
  • Library of Congress ruling is essentially useless as it only allows museums and the like to archive MMORPGs if they can legally obtain the server code, which just isn’t going to happen
  • The eventual crashing of fan euphoria as they found out the DMCA exemption also prevents remote, off-site connections to preserved MMORPGs; The Library of Congress is not interested in letting you play SWG just because you miss it
  • The last refuge of closed MMORPGs remains the pirate emulator, which live a perilous existence in the gray space between popularity and a lawsuit
  • The Civilization V launcher update seemed primarily put in place to serve as an advertising platform to push the disappointing Civilization VI
  • Just to repeat, Civilization VI was quite the disappointment so I uninstalled it and play Civilization V when I have the Civ urge
  • As it turns out “trolling” isn’t well defined and Steam pretty much rejects the same games it always has, only now that is their excuse
  • All the same, the number of new games to hit Steam every day continued to grow, leaving only those studios that can afford marketing or who have a solid reputation likely to make any money at all
  • Many game developer careers remain Hobbesian in nature (nasty, short, and brutish) as studios abuse the seemingly endless supply of young developers seeking to do what they love in order to live the dream; the dream being 80 hour weeks, low pay, and no long term employment stability
  • Gaming media, another realm where an endless supply of replacements await those who can’t generate clicks, continues to play both sides of the game as they stoke up fan expectations with uncritical assessments of studio promises and then tar video game fans with whatever negative euphemism comes to hand (e.g. entitled, man babies, entitled man babies) over any backlash when the expectations they helped set fail to deliver; but controversy gets views man
  • And yes, some fans just need to shut the fuck up; but drawing attention to them, bringing them fame, and reporting their every complaint isn’t going to make that happen… and conflating the words of a tiny minority with the views of a whole community remains asinine

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Even more Star Wars in theaters
  • Lots of new shows and movies on services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu
  • Season five of Bojack Horseman was excellent
  • The First was slow, but good; despite his personal life, about which I could stand to never hear about again, Sean Penn remains an actor dedicated to his craft
  • Still some really nice, serviceable shows on what one might still call “basic cable” these days
  • Better Call Saul might be better than Breaking Bad
  • Honest Trailers and Honest Game Trailers just never get old for me; the Screen Junkies team is awesome
  • Honest Trailers Commentaries is my new YouTube addiction
  • Somehow Zero Punctuation has stayed pretty fresh for me as well despite the fact that I still reference videos Yahtzee made over a decade back
  • Twitter, for all its faults, remains pretty useful to me

Lows

  • Even Disney now believes that there can be too many Star Wars movies now
  • Solo was there to answer questions nobody was really asking
  • Is there any series or movie so bad that Netflix won’t pick it up as an exclusive?
  • House of Cards ends on a silly/disappointing season though, like the original, the first season was all that really made it matter
  • Whoa, have you seen the Netflix earnings lately?
  • Every network now seems to think they need to get on the exclusive streaming service train to gate in their content leading to market fragmentation and, likely, eventual failure for all but the strong
  • The strong are, inevitably, Amazon and Disney, and we know what they’re like
  • There are so many options on basic cable that I often miss good stuff until a season is part way through and then have to wait until it makes it to Hulu or Netflix in order to watch it
  • Kind of starting to resent shows that only drop an episode a week; I want to binge… and binging helps me keep the plot and characters straight
  • Screen Junkies owned by yet another new company now, I hope they continue to survive
  • CinemaSins has gotten pretty stales for me; I like to hear Jeremy talk on the podcast, but the same old complaints, like “47 seconds of logos,” have been beaten to death
  • Pretty sure at this point that Zero Punctuation is all that is keeping The Escapist alive at this point
  • The Escapist pretty much broke being able to watch Zero Punctuation on their site back in July; I hope they get revenue from posting it to YouTube, because that is where I go to see it now
  • Google announced that, due to low usage and a security issues, they would be closing Google+ in August 2019
  • And then another security issue came up and Google moved the end date for Google+ to April 2019
  • That threat by people to leave Twitter made me realize how much I depend on it
  • Mastadon, a Twitter alternative, is great… if you just want to be in a tiny echo chamber of stifling conformity
  • Facebook looks worse as a company with each passing day

The Blog, Internet, and Like Items

Highs

  • Somehow, after a dozen year, here I am still
  • The month in review posts have become pretty special to me as I get to review past posts every month
  • The MMO Blog Feed in the side bar continues to function, amazing given the hack that it is and that several times the companies involved were set to make changes that would break it completely
  • A really nice Blaugust event this year, combining both the usual activity with some of the Newbie Blogger Initiative stuff
  • Blaugust was low pressure and not even gaming blog oriented, which brought in a lot of faces, new and old, to participate leading to a lot of good cross-pollination
  • Blaugust Discord was fun and has kept going as a place to chat for some of us
  • The whole thing was objectively a success on many fronts, including traffic, which ticked up noticeably
  • Traffic to this site was not only up for August, but stayed up for the months following
  • For the first time since 2012 traffic is actually up for the year when compared to the previous year
  • Average word count per post was up this year; I assume that is a good thing
  • Also, and odd metric, but “likes” were up quite a bit on the site, something I think was directly from Blaugust
  • Stalking the tags and categories feature in the WordPress.com Reader has actually led me to several new blogs, which should be a reminder that people should try to use standard tags if they want their blog to be found

Lows

  • Blogging continues its decline as an influence, remaining a hold out for those of us who prefer long form, words, and being able to collect our thoughts into a single site
  • The month in review posts are becoming more bloated and no doubt helping to inflate that average word count
  • Always somebody keen to declare any social event like Blaugust a “failure” if their own independent measure wasn’t met, even if they did not participate or understand the premise
  • Not sure traffic boost was solely related to Blaugust as search engine quirks seem to be in play as well given the specific posts that are seeing ongoing interest
  • While likes were up, comments were down for the year, and rather dramatically so; on balance, a good comment is worth a half a dozen likes in my book
  • There are days when I feel I am stuck between people who can accept no criticism of their current favorite game and those who feel that in order for their game to fully succeed somebody else must fail
  • My cynicism about new titles remains driven by the unwarranted optimism certain repeat offenders seem willing to invest in studio generated hype even after they have time and again become resentful when reality fails to meet their inflated expectations
  • So much for net neutrality
  • So much for the alleged benefits of dumping net neutrality as the promised increase in infrastructure building actually went the other way
  • So many bloggers use bad tags or categories for their blogs (e.g. “wow” rather than “warcraft” or “world of warcraft” and “eve” instead of “eve online”) which makes finding them a low percentage accident at the best of times
  • WordPress.com ads have officially crossed the line into obnoxious, proving once again that ad block is pretty much a requirement on the internet
  • My brain has started auto completing words for as my fingers type them, and the result is even worse than when my iPhone does it

Final Thoughts

My temptation is to continue to beat to death the “and so it goes” line from Vonnegut.  I read a lot of Vonnegut in college… I actually read all of Vonnegut in college, or all that there was at the time, short stories included… and it clearly influenced my somewhat fatalistic outlook on life.  Maybe “no damn cat, no damn cradle” would be better.  That might be the lesson of life in the end.

Another year has passes and the trivial pursuits of our lives continue.

Friday Bullet Points Gaze into the Future

Another Friday where I have a few items that I could probably force into full length posts, but I just don’t have the stamina to get there.  So I will pack them into one post.

Truth in Advertising?

There was a recent Star Citizen weekly update from RSI that seemed to unintentionally confirmed my suspicions.

It barely feels like it has been 25 years

The update itself was a lore item about some in-game entity celebrating its 50th anniversary, but the first glace at the top of the message made me wonder if they were admitting it was going to take 50 years to get where they plan to go.

Apple and OpenGL

One tidbit that came up at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference was the plan to deprecate OpenGL support with the Mojave release of the MacOS and in iOS 12.  This led to a panic about there being no more video games on the Mac.

I haven’t been to a WWDC since 1995…

OpenGL has been around for a long time and, among other things, its openess helped nVidia get in and dethrone 3dfx Interactive and their proprietary Glide API back in the day.  And deprecate doesn’t mean pulling it out wholesale.  It will still be there for a couple of years.  But if you find a problem or need an update, Apple isn’t going to help you.

Still, Apple will drop it eventually.  Past history says that will probably get announced in 2020 or so.  Apple would like you to use their Metal interface instead, and some companies have support for that on the way.  You can use Metal with World of Warcraft currently if your hardware and OS are current. (And probably should use it, as it fixes a crashing issue with WoW.)  But if you are a serious PC gamer you probably have a Windows partition on you Mac, if not a Windows machine already.

Blizzard and Diablo IV

It was noted that Blizzard had posted a job listing looking for a dungeon artist for an as yet unannounced Diablo project.  This led to a hysteria of complaints and the projection of personal feelings onto the idea.  Just Google “diablo iv” and look at the headlines. (And yes, I am going to call it Diablo IV at this point.)  Everything from “when are we going to get it?” to “Oh lord, no!” pops up.  So I figured I ought to note this as the week the controversy began.  We know nothing so far, but some people are already angry.

I for one welcome our new demonic overlords.

Despite the one-two punch of the auction house and the horrible itemization (the latter which I remain convinced was there to drive you to the auction house), Blizzard eventually got the game in order by killing the auction house and fixing itemization, making Diablo III a pretty decent game.  The “always online” bit is still annoying, but Blizz is hardly alone in demanding that.  And they have continued to tend the now six year old game, which is more than they ever did for Diablo II.  By any practical measure the game is a success and warrants a sequel. (It sold lots of copies on the PC and consoles.)

Hopefully Blizzard will run with what they have learned and stick with the roots of Diablo as the foundation for the next game rather than, say, making it a Battle Royale title or something.

Minecraft Subnautica

On a closer horizon, the Minecraft Java Edition 1.13 release, the Aquatic Update, looks to be slowly making its way to us.

Under the sea…

The update entered pre-release at the start of the week, whatever that means, so I think we should be getting the official release soon.  I have actually been avoiding our Minecraft server, knowing that I’ll want to go play when this hits.

Free Games for Amazon Prime Subscribers

In yet another benefit for Amazon Prime subscribers, you can now download any of five free games before the end of June.

Amazon Prime benefits

The games are Tumblestone, Treadnauts, Strafe, Banner Saga, and Banner Saga 2.  You need to have the Twitch client to download them (the Twitch client is what the old Curse client became when Amazon bought Curse… and Twitch) and you need to have linked your Twitch account to your Amazon account.  This sounds like a recurring deal, so there will likely be more games in the future as the Amazon Prime largess train continues on.

As an aside, the first version of this Amazon post I saw said it was six games.

Is it five or six?

However the image only shows five games and I didn’t click on the link until later, so I don’t know if there was a sixth game at one point, if a sixth game was planned but was removed and the word didn’t get out, or if it was always five games and somebody just messed up.  (h/t to Corr who first linked this to me and who had that second image handy.)

Pokemon Zygarde Download Event

Despite the impending end of Pokemon on the Nintendo 2DS/3DS, download events continue for the current core RPG titles.  During the month of June in the US you can go to your local GameStop for a download code for a shiny Zygarde.

Zygarde

This event is only for Pokemon Sun & Moon and Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.  Instructions for claiming the legendary Pokemon are available at the Pokemon site.

What Becomes of the Nintendo 3DS without Pokemon?

Earlier this week (or late last month, if you prefer) Nintendo hosted a big Pokemon press conference to talk about upcoming plans and titles for the franchise.

Press Conference 2018

This was kind of a big deal for me.

When it comes to Nintendo hardware there is really only one franchise that interested me.  I’ve played some variations on Mario and a couple of other brands, but I am really only about Pokemon.

And, from time immemorial… or at least since 1996… the core of the Pokemon franchise has lived on the Nintendo handheld hardware.  In addition to not being up on their other titles, I am also behind on consoles on every front save one; Nintendo handhelds.  I have a relatively new Nintendo that I got this past Christmas.  And I wanted it only to be sure I could play the next round of Pokemon games that would surely find their way to that platform.  After all, over on the Pokemon.com site, the icon for the video games category is literally a Nintendo handheld.

Pokemon video games are on the DS

So I watched the updates from the press conference and waited for an announcement aimed at me and my fellow handheld players.  We are, after all, the core of the Pokemon community.  They had to have something for us.

But they didn’t.  They spoke of Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee for the Nintendo Switch, which sound similar, if not exactly like, core Pokemon RPG titles.  There is even a pair of them being launched together.  And they spoke of how two people could play together and how you would be able to transfer Pokemon over from Pokemon Go.

Let’s Go coming November 16, 2018

They also spoke of the whimsical and blocky looking Pokemon Quest, also for the Nintendo Switch.

Taking place on Timecube Island

And, finally, they spoke of a real core Pokemon RPG game coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2019.

Not mentioned at all was the Nintendo handheld family, which left me feeling left out of the picture.

I realize that Nintendo has been very much intent on getting everybody they can to buy a Switch.  And it has been selling pretty well.  But so has the Nintendo handheld line.  The Nintendo 2DS/3DS line has been doing okay on sales.  While they the numbers are down from the peak in 2013, they have bouncing back from their decline with 2017 beating out 2016 for units shipped and 2018 so far almost equal to 2017 sales already.  (Annual sales chart)

So what is Nintendo’s plan here?  Have handheld units been effectively abandoned?  I know that there is more to the 2DS/3DS game catalog than just Pokemon, but it is pretty much the Pokemon platform, and sales of the core Pokemon RPG games both drive and are driven by handheld unit sales.

I hope this doesn’t signal the end of the line for the Nintendo 2DS/3DS line.  The durable little dual screen handheld units have served me well for a decade now.

Moving to the Nintendo 2DS XL

My big Christmas gift this year from my wife was a Nintendo 2DS XL.  I mentioned this unit previously as it seemed an attractive addition to the Nintendo handheld family.

The 2DS XL

The word “New” in the “New Nintendo 2DS XL” indicates, in one of those confusing naming schemes, that the unit is part of the current generation of Nintendo 3DS hardware that includes several upgrades, including new controls, Amiibo support, and an upgraded CPU, the last being a key selling point for me. (Also, it should not be confused with the slab-like Nintendo 2DS, a different beast entirely.)

This unit replaced my old, first generation Nintendo 3DS XL.

The buttons I was missing on my older unit

The first of the “New” generation of 3DS hardware showed up on our shores back in 2015 and I have been eyeing them since the latest generations of the Pokemon series… and all I ever really played on my Nintendo handhelds over the years is Pokemon… started to seem like too much for the older processor.  Load times, scene transitions, and points during the story when there was a lot going happening on screen were noticeably slowed down.

This has actually been the case since Pokemon X & Y, so I started to consider the new hardware once it was announced, but really stuck out with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  However, my Pokemon playing tends to be a seasonal thing… I play for a few months, finish up the Pokedex, then stop until the bug hits me again or a new release shows up.

However, the new New 2DS XL seemed liked a good point to finally make the upgrade.  The 2DS XL has all the stuff of the “new” generation, lacking only one thing, 3D support and, frankly, 3D is a very minor gimmick with Pokemon titles.  The 3D slider on my 3DS XL was set to “off” probably in excess of 99% of the time.  Meanwhile the price of the 2DS XL was a good $50 less than the same generation 3DS XL.  For $50 I was quite willing to give up 3D support.  So it was on my wish list and showed up for Christmas.

Of course, once I had it I had to move everything from my old 3DS XL to the new 2DS XL.  Nintendo has a few options for that, one involving simply moving the SD card from the old unit to the new.  However, my old 3DS uses a standard size SD card while the “New” generation uses micro SD cards, so that swap wasn’t an option.

Furthermore, as I quickly found out, I had upgraded the SD card on my old unit to a 32GB model, the largest officially supported by Nintendo, and have used up a chunk of the space by purchasing a few titles, including the new Pokemon UltraMoon, from the online Nintendo shop, so they are stored locally rather than being on a cartridge.

The 2DS XL however not only had a micro SD card (SD card in my DS?), but the factory default size was a meager-in-2017 4GB in size.  I remember seeing my first 1GB hard drive back in 1990 and it was the size of a cinder block, so sometimes I have to check myself when I complain that 4GB is “small.”  Anyway, I had to order a 32GB micro SD for the 2DS XL.

Once that arrived I set it up and started the big transfer.  I decided to do it over Wifi because that seemed to require the least intervention on my part which meant, I hoped, the least chance of me screwing anything up.

There is a built-in process that allows you to do the transfer, you just have to setup the sending and receiving systems, get them in sync, and kick off the process.

The two units warming up…

The first attempt failed… though not because the time was an hour off on the units.  Something timed out on the first attempt and it punted the process.  However, on the second attempt things seemed to get connected correctly.

Of course, because it is Nintendo, there has to be a cute progress graphic.  In this one little people “build” the progress milestones.

Building our way to the 25% mark

After that seemed to be going, I went off to watch a movie with my wife.  Of course, because it the transfer was happening over Wifi and involved gigabytes of data it took a while, running out to the three hour mark easily.

Working on the 75% milestone a couple hours later

It is definitely a process you don’t want to sit around and watch or set in motion when you have a time constraint.  And clearly it is something to do with the power supply plugged in on both units.

In the end however, the transfer was successful.  All of my applications and user information was moved over successfully.  The process then wipes the old devices, so you don’t have double versions of things, and then you are done.

After that was done I finally got to try out the unit and I have mostly good things to say about it.

It is fast, noticeably so compared to the old unit, and is physically much lighter as well.  The screens are good, the case is easier to grip than the slick surface or the original design.  I really only have two gripes after using it for a couple weeks now.

First, and the more minor of the two, is the cartridge slot.  That slot has traditionally been uncovered and on the back of DS units since at least the Nintendo DS Lite.  On the 2DS XL it is on the front left of the unit under a very cheap feeling cover.  I suspect that if I changed cartridges often that the cover would break sooner rather than later.  It is really a flimsy piece on an otherwise solid unit.  Fortunately, I don’t swap cartridges all that often.

The second gripe is about the new stylus that comes with the unit, which is smaller than the one on the 3DS XL.  I have big hands, so it took me a while to get used to the old stylus.  Swapping that out for an even stubbier little stylus is a bit of a pain.  And given that this comes up in every review of the unit I’ve seen, I suspect I am hardly alone in being unhappy with this change.

Also, because even the old stylus is a bit small, I’ve lost a couple over the years, so I bought a bag of 20 replacements a while back which work with the new unit, but which do not fit into the stylus slot.  I can use my grandfather’s bottle opener strategy out on the farm, where he made sure there was one within reach of any place he might want to open a beer.  I have enough left in my supply to put one or two near any location where I play.  I just have to worry about them getting swept up or stolen by the cats.

Other than that I have found the unit to be an excellent replacement for my old 3DS XL and would recommend it as a possible path forward for anybody on the older hardware who didn’t care about the 3D feature.  It certainly satisfies my Pokemon playing needs.

Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon Launch Today

The latest entries in the long-running core Pokemon RPG series, Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, go live today!

UltraSun & UltraMoon

Nintendo and GameFreak are returning players to Alola, the Hawaii-esque islands that previously served as the location for Pokemon Sun & Moon.

But, unlike some past generations, this won’t be a simple rework of the original story in Alola.  While the location and the basic range of Pokemon will be the same, there are new things afoot in the region for you to explore as GameFreak throws in a mix of names from past titles.  You will have a shot at catching some special Pokemon as all past legendaries be making an appearance (some on UltraSun, some in UltraMoon, because you know how it goes), so you can scoop up any you’re missing, if you are skilled and patient enough.

Legendaries from Titles Past

In addition to that they are even pulling past villains into the mix.  You will be faces with Team Rainbow Rocket, made up of the bosses from old foes such as Team Magma, Team Aqua, and Team Galactic.

The desultory Team Skull looks to be left out

Pokemon games are pretty much the only reason I own a Nintendo handheld.

However, I have not ordered either title yet.  I played a lot of Pokemon Sun earlier this year, completing the main story and running down the post-game activities as well as completing the Alola Pokedex.  But I am not feeling the Pokemon urge at the moment.

I am also a little worried about how well it will run on my original model Nintedo 3DS XL.  Pokemon Sun bogged down quite a bit on the older, slower hardware and I doubt that the new titles are going to be better, so I am waiting to see if that comes up as an issue with the new titles.

Still, I cannot wait too long.  As usual, Nintendo has some “buy now!” incentives, including giving players a master ball if they register themselves on Pokemon Global Link between today and January 29, 2018.  A master ball is guaranteed to catch even the most reluctant Pokemon in the wild.  You usually get one per game to catch an elusive legendary, but now you may have two.

Anyway, you can read more about it at the official Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon site.

 

Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon Coming plus Pokemon Gold and Silver on Virtual Console

Nintendo had a brief series of announcements early this morning.  The expected Pokemon Stars, rumored to be the first Pokemon title for the Nintendo Switch was not on the list.  Instead, the Switch gets its own version of Pokken Tournament.

On the Nintendo 3DS front, Nintendo announced that the next titles in the core Pokemon RPG cycle would be Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, which will be available on November 17, 2017.

UltraSun and UltraMoon

These titles will feature a new story line in the Alola region and will allow players to capture Pokemon not available in the original Pokemon Sun & Moon games.

This development hearkens back to the Pokemon Black & White and Pokemon Black & White Version 2, where the same landscape was used to tell a second Pokemon story.

There was also a Virtual Console announcement.  As I predicted back in January, Nintendo is carrying on with the old school Nostalgia by bringing Pokemon Gold & Silver to the 3DS via the Virtual Console.

For the GameBoy Color

The second generation Pokemon games will be available on September 22, 2017 and will, like the Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow versions of last year, be Pokemon Bank compatible.  No word on Pokemon Crystal however.

Pokemon Gold and Silver

My wish for a return to Sinnoh via a remake of Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, & Platinum will have to wait for another year it seems, though I hold out hope that we will get there eventually.

As for whether or not the Nintendo Switch will take over the core Pokemon RPG game line, that seems to have been refuted,  Nintendo seems committed to the 3DS/2DS handheld consoles.