Category Archives: Pokemon

A Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Remake At Last!

My daughter and I have been hanging on and waiting for a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for several years now, so we were both pretty hyped up when the announcement finally came.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl will be a thing in 2021.

Diamond and Pearl remade

There are a few reasons that we’re feeling some hype for this.

The first is, of course, that Pokemon Diamond & Pearl is where we started playing Pokemon games back in early 2008.  It is the foundational experience for us with the series.

Then there is the fact that the Pokemon remakes tend to be pretty good.  HeartGold & SoulSilver might be the titles I spend the most time with in the series… the one time I caught them all… and OmgaRuby & AlphaSapphire were great remakes with a ton of depth.

And, as I said, we’ve been waiting for this remake for a while now.  There has been a pretty well established pattern of remakes over the years, and Diamond & Pearl now sit as the oldest titles in the series that have not had a remake.  They are due.

We expected them to be the next title on the Nintendo 3DS hardware after Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon back in 2017.  Then GameFreak announced that they were done with the 3DS hardware… just after I bought a brand new 2DS model… and it was off to the Switch platform, where they first had the Let’s Go, Pikachu! & Let’s Go, Eevee! titles in 2018, rather light fare compared to where the core RPG stood at the end of the 3DS era, before giving us a full blown entry in the series with Sword & Shield in 2019.

I now have a Switch Lite… my daughter and I both do… and we played through some of Sword & Shield.  It was a solid entry in the series, but didn’t really grab us and neither of us finished it out.

But now, with Diamond & Pearl coming back, we’re ready to give it another go.  The ship date is currently slated for “late” 2021, which I am hoping will put it before Thanksgiving, or at least before Christmas.  Then my daughter will be home on break from college and can perhaps find some time to play with the old man.  Watching the trailer, I am surprised at how much I remember from the old game.

Nintendo also announced Pokemon Legends: Arceus today as well.  Due in 2022, it is a new style of Pokemon adventure set in Sinnoh like Diamond & Pearl, but in an earlier era.  As Nintendo put it, first we get the re-make, then we get the pre-make.  Details on that were somewhat scanty in comparison, but in its trailer it looks to be an open world style game, akin to the Legend of Zelda titles, which is not a bad thing.

This all comes as the Pokemon franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  That is covered, along with a more information about games and events, in the Pokemon Presents video from today.

So there is plenty to look forward to on the Pokemon front it seems.

My Games Played for 2020 and Looking Forward into 2021

I am a little behind on my usual end of year posts with this.  Generally I have a wrap up and a looking forward post at some point in late December… but then I found a bunch of other things to write about.  I was only reminded of it when Belghast posted his charts.

2020 banner by my daughter

There is a history here, as there is with so much on this blog.  It started with something akin to goals, a list of games I wanted to play, often very specific games.  Then it became games I was likely to play.  Then it turned into something like a long term weather forecast with some easy calls (it will be warm in the summer) and some possibilities.

And so it was that I wrote a post way back when about what I might play in 2020.

The list was broken up into several categories:

The Sure Things

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • EverQuest II

The Likely Candidates

  • WoW Shadowlands
  • RimWorld

Possibilities

  • Civilization V
  • Stellaris
  • World of Tanks
  • Minecraft
  • The Witcher

The Long Shots

  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • EverQuest
  • Diablo III
  • Elite: Dangerous
  • New World

I Should Make Time

  • Project: Gorgon
  • Grim Dawn

So, now that the year has gone by, what did I actually play?  ManicTime has some numbers for me.  I am only listing the top ten because after that the times drop down to mere minutes played.

  1. WoW Classic – 33.33%
  2. EVE Online – 32.69%
  3. World of Warcraft – 14.02%
  4. EverQuest II – 6.03%
  5. Minecraft – 5.25%
  6. EverQuest – 2.16%
  7. RimWorld – 2.08%
  8. Diablo II – 2.02%
  9. Pokemon Sword – 1.24%
  10. Minecraft Dungeons – 0.75%

At the top is a close race between WoW Classic and EVE Online, with a gap smaller than ten hours played total between them.  I guess Azeroth wins over New Eden overall, since retail WoW is in third place.  Everything else shakes out from there.

As has become the custom of the neighborhood, I have a chart.

2020 games timeline

At the top are WoW Classic and EVE Online, both of which I played throughout the year.  I also put Pokemon Go on the chart.  It isn’t tracked by ManicTime, being on my phone, but I played every day in 2020.

Technically, looking at my times, I also played retail WoW every month, but there were months where that did not represent a significant investment.  I have made those months where I pretty much just did Darkmoon Faire and some pet battles as a narrow streak.  And once the level squish came and then the Shadowlands expansion launched, I spent quite a bit of time there.

EverQuest II and Minecraft had their runs.  The former was me finishing up the Blood of Luclin expansion to the extent I felt I needed to, and Minecraft was a bit of a pandemic diversion setup by Skonk.  I played a bit of EverQuest after the anniversary gave us another heroic character boost, though I ended up mostly tinkering with the Overseer feature.

RimWorld had an update that I wanted to try out.  That was good for a bit of a run, though like so many build and conquer games, it suffers from the mid-game malaise once you get your base setup well enough.

I had a great run through Diablo II to celebrate its 20 years.  The game still lives up to its legend, though I would like it to run at a resolution higher than 800×600.

I received a Nintendo Switch Lite for my birthday with a copy of Pokemon Sword, which I played for a stretch.  I just wasn’t that into it.  For a Pokemon game to grab me I have to be in the right mood and have a real goal.  I couldn’t quite get either this time around.

And then there was Minecraft Dungeons, which is a serviceable and solid but shallow ARPG whose main attraction is being set in the Minecraft IP.  I played through the story, but it doesn’t have a lot of replay value save to boost up stats so you can face harder monsters that drop gear that let you boost up your stats further.

So that was 2020.  What of 2021?

As with last year, there are some sure things this year, games I am actively playing right now so that has already been decided.  They are:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW

And, given the news, we can add one slight variation to that list:

  • WoW The Burning Crusade Classic

After that, however, the future is a bit fuzzy, and part of the problem is hardware related.

As I wrote about last year, I have a 34″ 3440 x 1440 wide screen monitor now, and I love playing games on it full screen.  But not every game I have plays nice with it.  The three titles I am playing now all happen to work great with it, but others struggle and have issues or won’t run at all.  I actually tried to play Grim Dawn, which was on my “should make time” list for 2020, but it was not having it at all.  It would not even launch correctly with the new monitor hooked up.

And there is a further constraint, which is my video card.  I currently have a EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB card and, given the price of college and my wife being somewhat under-employed for the last year, spending a few hundred bucks on a new one is way down the priority list right now.  So whatever I play needs to work on the big screen with that video card.  WoW Classic and retail WoW both manage very well, with a few settings dialed back a bit, and EVE Online works like a champ, all settings maxed out, save for fights where the ships on grid get past the 2,500 mark.

But most newer games require a lot more horsepower to drive all those pixels.  There is no way I am getting something like Cyberpunk 2077 or Red Dead Redemption II or Black Desert Online or anything like that to run well.

Meanwhile, a lot of older stuff is a bit shaky.  As I wrote back when I got the monitor, EverQuest, EverQuest II, and LOTRO all sort of work, but have some issues, while Minecraft gives me motion sickness on the wide screen unless I dial back the field of view so far that I might as well just play it on my phone.

First world problems, I know.

Another angle is strategy games.  Things like RimWorld not only run fine, but the large screen improves the experience.  Maybe it is time for a bit of Civilzation V again. (I’m, betting Civ VI has too much going on visually to work with my video card at that resolution.  It is the way.)  Maybe I’ll pick up World of Tanks again when I need something fresh.

Of course, the lack of desire for something fresh is part of the problem as well.  I’ve been kind of okay playing the same stuff all year.  We shall see how I feel in 2021.

2021 and Questions for a New Year

Welcome to the first day of 2021.  A new dawn on a new year greeted us this morning.

2020 plus 1

Traditionally the first day of the year sees a post from me about the upcoming twelve months.  Usually it is predictions, but as the history of links shows, I occasionally diverge and try something else.

This year is going to be one of those “something else” years.  This year I have questions.

Oh, I have many questions about what 2021 will bring.  Many questions.  But for the purposes of this post, I am going to keep them focused on video games.  And, when it comes down to things, asking a question is just one step removed from a prediction.  A prediction is just an attempt to answer the question, but even formulating the question requires a bit of speculation as to what the future may bring.  You just look less wrong because, hey, you were only asking a question!

What will a return to normalcy bring to the video game industry?

I remember from my history classes that a return to “normalcy” was one of the campaign slogans of Warren G. Harding, which made it in to the word we have today.  And here in 2021, we have been offered a vision of normalcy. If the vaccines work, if the pandemic subsides, if some new horror doesn’t step in to fill the COVID-19 void, we could, come the summer, be back to some of our old pastimes.

Movie theaters. Restaurants. Sporting events. Family gatherings. Air travel.

All that and more may return.

That will leave less time for video games.  2020 was a story of success for many video game companies as we all stayed home.  Does the end of the pandemic portend a market crash and layoffs and all the other things that come with an industry down turn?

Also, some of us will likely have to go back to the office.  I know that some managers and most of HR hate having the employees out of sight.  Back to open plan fish bowls for some people. That will mean an increase in productivity for some, including in the video games industry, which has blamed the pandemic and work from home for some delays over the last year.  Will they get back on schedule or just find new excuses for delays?

Overall, what will the impact be?

This is probably the big general industry question.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Blizz made a few risky changes last year, including the level squish.  But making Shadowlands an expansion where getting to level cap is basically the intro and the rest of the expansion is all what one might call “end game” is another level.  It is a change and a gamble and we will have to see how it plays out.

Will we get more classic WoW content?

The rumors and leaks seem to indicate that we will see The Burning Crusade Classic at some point this year.  However, there are serious questions as to when we’ll see it and how it will be rolled out.  There have been surveys asking players how they should handle TBC.  They won’t want to kill off the vanilla vibe that has worked so well for them, so transfers or new servers seem likely, but we don’t know anything really.  As for when, there was a rumor that May was a launch target, but that seems laughably quick for the slow and steady Blizzard bunch.  Maybe some time in the fall?

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

It has been two years now.  More of us have phone now.  Some of us have even upgraded our phones since BlizzCon 2018.  Are you going to ship this thing or what?  If it is any good at all it will do okay.  The BlizzCon 2018 reaction was largely due to you pitching to the wrong audience after having hinted about Diablo IV.  Just let people have it.  It couldn’t possibly be taking this long to finish it, could it?  This is just Blizz being conservative and not indicative of some horrible problem with the game, right?

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

In a way, 2020 returned Blizzard to 2010, where so much of the revenue came from World of Warcraft that almost no other game really mattered when it came to the bottom line.  While Blizzard isn’t quite back to WoW being the only game in their portfolio that matters yet, but Diablo IV is years away, Hearthstone can only put out so many expansions per year, Overwatch is static, and they’ve put StarCraft on the shelf with Heroes of the Storm.  If they don’t have something big, then we’re back to all Azeroth all the time.

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

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, The Lord of the Rings

Here we are in a new year with a new company running Daybreak and they sound like they want to be serious about video games and expand their holdings and invest in the titles and IPs they have just acquired.  But what will really come to pass?  Lots of people have been bitten hard by the reality of the video games industry.  You have to make enough money to maintain your current project as well as fund any new projects.  Daybreak was hard pressed to do that on their own, will EG7 be able to change that?

Will Norrath continue to boom?

As bad as Daybreak management could seem at times, there is an argument to be made that EverQuest and EverQuest II rolled right along, got an expansion every year, got a big updates, ran holidays, and did all the things expected of such games quite steadily during the Daybreak era.  It was, in its way, a golden era with little in the way of shake ups to disturb them.  Gone were dumb ideas like SOEmote… as well as any hope for a new EverQuest game.  What happens now?  EverQuest seems secure, profitable as it was, but EQII was the low earner with the smallest customer base in 2020.  Does EG7 keep pouring money into that?  Is there plan?

What happens with H1Z1?

Somewhere behind EverQuest II is H1Z1, which didn’t even get a mention in the EG7 presentation when it came to numbers.  The acknowledged it as a valuable Daybreak IP, but how much of that was fluff?

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not even acknowledged by EG7 so far, so the question about them remains.  Where are they in the EG7 corporate structure?

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Yes, there is still a plan for another expansion for GuildWars 2, and the game isn’t going anywhere.  But when the leadership wanders off… usually for reasons of dissatisfaction… that is a bad sign.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

The Trigalvian invasion is over.  A new region, Pochven, has been carved out of New Eden.  The huge, two year event has come to its conclusion  So what is next?  What will be the next venue to expand the lore of New Eden and give players something fresh to explore?

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

CCP spent 2020 treating the player base like a bunch of ISK addicts and has been trying to dry us out.  The impacts of their efforts have been quite clear in the monthly economic reports.  The company has said that this situation is temporary, but how will they get to something less onerous without letting players return to old habits?  If they introduce new revenue streams that players reject, then things won’t get better… and CCP has something of a history of new ideas that don’t pan out… but if they restore the old streams then they might has well not have bothered.

How Will World War Bee End?

Assuming it ends in 2021.  We are about at the six month mark of the war and, while the invaders have pushed their way into Delve, the Imperium hasn’t rolled over and given up.  The great predicte evac has yet to occur.  The extermination goal, oft repeated by Vily, seemed unlikely to be accomplished at the start of the war and seems no more likely today.  That is especially true when Pandemic Horde, which has done the bulk of the work in the war, says that is not one of its goals.  At what point does PAPI declare victory and move on to other things?  And can TEST afford to see the war wind down with the Imperium vowing revenge on them for starting the war in the first place?

The war has set recorders for losses in both ship numbers and ISK value as well as total players participating in battles.  Will it end with a bang or a whimper?

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

We’re overdue on this.  Seriously, one of my major gripes about Game Freak dumping development for the 3DS line of devices is that when it came to remakes Pokemon Diamond & Pearl were next on the list.  They are the oldest titles of the Pokemon main line RPG titles that have not had a remake.  My daughter and I are so on board with this as a game idea.  But Nintendo and Game Freak have a different play and Pokemon Sword & Shield looks to be taking its time to play out, with two expansions so far.  I fret that we’ll never get this remake and that the current title is being treated like an MMO and will carry on for years.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Seriously.  There seems to be three paths for crowd funded MMOs up to this point.  There are the quirky little hobbiest games like Project: Gorgon or Shroud of the Avatar.  There are the “we totally missed our promises and have no ship date in sight” titles like Star Citizen and Camelot Unchained.  And then there are the ones that just took the money and folded up shop.

Right now I wouldn’t back a crowd funded MMO, endorse one, or even write a post mentioning one to draw even an iota of attention to it because the track record on that front is so abysmal that I feel complicit by my past enthusiasm.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

Yes, we have MMOs and games treated as services as pretty much the default way to deal with titles these days for a lot of studios.  Grand Theft Auto V, a game from 2013, appearing on the monthly SuperData Digital Revenue chart every month for the last five years of so is testament to that.

But I am talking about MMORPGs, where you play a character in a shared, persistent virtual world.  Ultima Online, EverQuest, World of Warcraft, and EVE Online are key in defining the genre.  The problem is, all of those titles are still there.  Furthermore, WoW Classic and EverQuest retro servers, seeking to recreate the early experiences of those games, are significant draws in the genre.

Is it possible to create something new in the genre, something different?  Or would anything different enough to be interesting end up classified as something else?  Is WoW the unbreakable definition of the genre now?

Will I play anything new this year?

You think the MMORPG genre is stale?  Look at my posts about what I have been playing.  If it were not for WoW Shadowlands, you might mistake some of my posts from 2020 as being from 2006 or 2010.

I suppose I did play a couple of new things.  There was Minecraft Dungeons and Among Us.  But for the most part, it was the same titles long covered here.  Am I the problem with the MMORPG genre?

Will VR get a killer app this year?

I should go back and see if I still have any of those VR sales projections from a few years back which predicted everybody and their mother would have one of those devices strapped to their heads by now.  VR headsets have gotten better and cheaper and some good games have come out, but I have yet to see anything that would make me jump on that bandwagon still.  Consoles seem to be the way forward at the moment.  And now I get unsolicited email from analysts talking about “XR,” which is VR mixed in with AR, to give them a bigger market to talk about… and probably so they can make new projections that cannot be compared apples to apples with their old ones.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

I am looking at you EA.  You managed to make lockboxes a headline issue again in the middle of 2020 by putting an ad for them in a children’s toy catalog.  Once the pandemic is in the past… and I dearly hope it will be some time this year… legislators looking to make some headlines for attention may turn back to lockboxes and gambling and the safe refrain of “won’t somebody think of the children?” yet again.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not strictly a video game issue, but it would have its impact on that industry as well as others.

You can read all about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of the United States over at Tech Dirt, which has a post about it and the many bogus arguments against it, but in a nutshell it protects people hosting sites on the internet from liability for what users may say or write.

For example, if I post something libelous on Twitter, Section 230 says you can sue me but not Twitter.  Easy to understand, right.  Twitter, or Facebook, or Massively OP, or you on your blog, are not liable for the wrongs of users.  It essentially allows the internet to be interactive.

And it is under political assault here in the US, most visibly by Trump, who is angry about the fact that Twitter very occasionally tries to make him comply with the terms of service he agreed to abide by when he signed up for the platform.

Those assailing Section 230 like to pretend they are defending free speech, but the opposite is actually the case.  There is a high correlation between rich people against Section 230 and rich people who like to sue anybody who says anything negative about them.

If Section 230 is repealed, if you write something objectionable on the internet, the hosting site can be sued.  They will then have the choice between spending money to fight a legal case over your dumbassery or deleting what you wrote and promising to keep you and anybody else from posting such things.  How do you think that is going to work out?

Removing Section 230 would basically give the litigious veto power over internet content and hosting services would start to behave in ways to avoid getting sued, which would mean disallowing comments in many places and preemptively deleting most anything political.

And if you don’t think that is going to spill over into your favorite online video game forum, you are wrong.

The only bright side is that while many people hate Twitter and Facebook, other tech and telecom companies are starting to realize that this would affect them as well, so they’re beginning to pull the appropriate strings on the politicians they’ve paid for in order to keep things as they are.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

I mean besides write a long post full of stats and start including a “Fifteen Years Ago” section into my month in review posts?  Having almost 5,800 blog posts gives me data set of information that I always feel I could do more with.  Though, that said, you’ll get a bit of historical data next week, driven largely by the tenuous historical record that is this blog.  We’ll see how that flies.

What Else?

That is all I have right now.   am sure there are a lot more questions I want the answers to in 2021.  What did I miss?

Anyway, we shall see if I get answers this year. Some of them are clearly going to have simply “no” as an answer which, while unsatisfying, is still an answer.  At least I do not have to score questions, just figure out what happened with them.  Roll on 2021.

Looking Back at 2020 and Trying for Highs

2020.  What a year.

Every year I try to distill a bit of the world I focus on into highs and lows.  There is a history of posts here.

Sometimes I include a “middling” category, but usually not.  This year though I have had enough lows.  This year I am going to make a list of highs.  And I am going to try… though I make no guarantees… not to include sarcastic highs that are back handed jabs to highlight actual lows.  Your mileage may vary.

Video Games Overall

  • 2020 has been a banner year for video games.  SuperData Research has reported every month since the pandemic began in earnest that sales have been up over last year by double digits.  Lots of new releases, lots of good games, lots of revenue to keep the industry going.

Blizzard

  • The Shadowlands pre-patch events went well.
  • Shadowlands launched to big numbers.
  • WoW Classic remains strong despite the pull of the retail expansion.
  • The instance group’s return to WoW via WoW Classic has kept on rolling throughout the year.
  • Bobby Kotick says WoW is a billion dollar a year franchise.
  • Shadowlands and WoW Classic combined have revived the fortunes of WoW… though the pandemic helped some too.
  • The retail WoW level squish clearly did not drive too many people away and made getting into the latest content less of a chore.
  • It seems likely we’ll at least get some news about a classic The Burning Crusade server.
  • Had a fun run through Diablo II, which still plays pretty well 20 years down the line.
  • Blizz has been quietly fixing Warcraft III Reforged after its bad launch.
  • We got some scraps of information about Diablo IV.

Daybreak Game Company (now including Standing Stone Games)

  • The games are set to be run by EG7, a company optimistic about being in games.
  • The company actually makes money.
  • The games they still have all actually make money too… well, maybe not H1Z1, but most of them.
  • The mystery of who really owns Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online was finally revealed.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got updates and expansions this year.
  • EverQuest was able to play the special server card successfully yet again.
  • We learned that DC Universe Online has what would have been considered a huge player base in the pre-WoW era.
  • LOTRO got a 64-bit client.

CCP

  • The EVE Online franchise is a resilient part of the Pearl Abyss portfolio.
  • EVE Echoes, the mobile version of the game, has grabbed a lot of new players, and took less time to get out than Diablo Immortal.
  • The pandemic helped boost the PCU over 40K for the first time in a couple of years.
  • Hilmar said at the Youil Fireside that 1.9 million new people logged into EVE Online this year, more than the past three years combined.
  • World War Bee got enough players together organically to set two Guinness World Records.
  • Andrew Groen delivered Empires of EVE Vol. II, another great installment in the history of the game.
  • That Triglavian event wrapped up with an epic finale that tore systems out of New Eden to create a new Triglavian region.
  • CCP seems really, really serious about fixing the in-game economy.
  • PLEX for Good ran for both the Australian wild fires and pandemic relief.
  • Tech II salvage drones.  At least one person got their Christmas wish.
  • CCP finally rolled out the replacement for the old fansite program.  I did not make the cut, but a lot of streamers now how free accounts and extra PLEX to spend.
  • CCP still has hopes for an EVE Online based shooter game.
  • The CSM15 election saw a peaceful transition of power and nobody has been kicked off the council… yet.  Seriously, it is a rare CSM when somebody doesn’t get voted off the island.

Pokemon

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield launched at just the right time before the pandemic to become a staple of play.
  • The new Pokemon model on the Switch is expansions after the main game drops, and Pokemon Sword & Shield had The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra this year, which helped keep the game a hot property.
  • Pokemon Home showed up to provide a link to bring Pokemon forward from the DS era and transfer them in from Pokemon Go.
  • Niantic changed up Pokemon Go to adapt to the pandemic, giving us things like remote raid passes to keep us playing when we had to stay home.
  • Niantic also raised the level cap on Pokemon Go in a way that didn’t toss your accumulated xp by tying levels 41-50 in with both xp and special tasks.

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

  • TorilMUD carries on for another year, making it a total of 27… and even added a new class this year.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed just in time to give many a shared virtual experience as we stayed home for the pandemic.
  • Minecraft got a big update to make the nether a more interesting place to explore.
  • Minecraft Dungeons launched, and was a nice, if somewhat simple, clicky ARPG.
  • EA managed to ship another decent Star Wars title, Star Wars: Squadrons, which is supposed to be quite good in VR.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator had an excellent launch.  Again, another title that was supposed to be good in VR.
  • There was a Half-Life game.  That almost never happens.  And, one more time, Half-Life: Alyx was good for VR.
  • Crusader Kings III gave people the medieval royal soap opera simulator that they didn’t know they needed.
  • GuildWars 2 has an expansion coming.
  • A two year old game, Among Us, suddenly exploded onto the scene thanks to streamers.
  • New consoles!  The Xbox Series X/Series S and PlayStation 5 came out!

Blogging and the Like

  • Hey, the blog is still here!  Both of my blogs.
  • This blog is also experiencing a bit of a revival… or a dead cat bounce… as traffic has been up a lot over last year.  It is still a far cry from the heady peaks of 2012, but I guess the pandemic didn’t just boost video games.
  • I wrote a lot of posts in 2020.  This post number 403 for the year.
  • I actually got close to 800 followers on Twitter… and then they purged a bunch of bots and I fell back down.  Also I strayed into the political with the election and no doubt scared some people off.
  • We had a double event year with Blapril and Blaugust.
  • Lots and lots of plumbing related spam comments this month… like tens of thousands. If your comment got stuck in the spam filter I probably never saw it due to that.  Hrmm, that wasn’t a high, was it?

Television, Books, and the Media

  • I watched a LOT of television this past year.  There is probably another post on that coming, though I have done those Pandemic Binge Watching posts along the way.  While not everything was great, there were a lot of good shows available.
  • My reading routine was disrupted by the changes the pandemic brought.  I have to find a regular time in my schedule for that or it won’t happen.  But still I managed to read a lot of books in 2020.
  • I spent a lot more time reading the news… and I do not shirk on that front on a normal year.  No doubt this is some attempt to foster a feeling of control in the world, but I suppose I learned a lot.
  • Podcasts and YouTube content kept me going at times, with new faces popping up like Julie Nolke and Sarah Cooper.

Personal Life

  • We’re in the back half of December and I still have a job and haven’t caught COVID-19.
  • I have somewhat adapted to my new life where I spend 23 hours a day, seven days a week inside at home.  Nothing tests your introvert status than forced isolation from the world I suppose.
  • Daughter made it through her first semester of college living on campus and came out with both good grades and good health still.
  • I bought an exercise bicycle for home and have been very good about using it regularly… except over the holidays when my now weak grasp of time fell completely apart and I only know what day it is when I open up the blog.
  • I started depositing checks via my phone.  This was largely because my credit union finally added that feature to their mobile app.
  • Let me reiterate; family still healthy and safe.

This ended up being a somewhat shorter list than past years.  In part that is because the scope of my game knowledge has been funneled down to a few titles of late.  But mostly it is because I am better at writing negative entries I bet.  The post would be more than double in length if I let go on that front.  But we’ll let sleeping dogs lie, for now at least.  There will be plenty of time for that in 2021.

But if you’re dying for some 2020 sick burns, Honest Trailers has you covered.

Take that 2020!

Level 40 in Pokemon Go

As I mentioned in the month in review post, I managed to make it to level 40 in Pokemon Go at last.  My wife got here too, though about a week behind me.

The big four oh

In support of the whole idea that Pokemon Go is an MMO, hitting the level cap had both that climactic and anti-climactic feel to it that reaching the level cap does in a game like WoW.

On the one hand, you’ve climbed the xp mountain.  The goal has been achieved.

And, as I mention, the way the level curve in Pokemon Go is setup, the gap between level 39 and level 40 represents 25% of the total xp needed to go from 1 to 40.  That last step is a big one, and since I hit 39 back in April I have noted not just my level in the month in review posts, but the percentage of the way I had made it towards that final goal.

There was a lot of anticipation running through me as to how long it would take to reach the summit, so when I arrived it was kind of a big deal.  I got my moment, the big 40 on my phone screen, the pile of goodies that come with the level, and all of that.

But then there is the inevitable realization that once you’re at the top of the mountain, the climb is done.  As often happens to me in MMOs, I get focused pretty hard on getting there as I get closer and closer… and then suddenly the last bit before level zips past and it happens so fast that you feel like you never had a chance to savor those last moments.

And then after all the time focused on one primary aspect of the game, you’re done with it and left feeling a bit empty as your goal is suddenly reached.

I took a screen shot of my basic stats just after I hit level 40.

Status as of level 40

It is interesting to note that you keep accumulating xp even after you hit level 40.

My wife was a bit irked to hit level 40 after me as the account on her phone is a month older than the one on mine, so she had been ahead of me in levels for most of the chase up to level 40.  I caught up around level 36, then she passed me again, then I pulled out in front for the final stretch.

Part of the reason she is irk is that her stats on that page, for Pokemon caught and PokeStops visited, are more than 10K higher than mine on both counts.  That is few million points of xp she should have over me.

But I did better with Pokefriends.  I have 34 “best” friends in the game, and you earn xp for each of the four friend stages, the last two being worth 50K and 100K respectively.  She had about half that many when she hit 40, so that gave me a couple million extra xp on my own.  Plus, I managed to pop a lucky egg for a couple of best friend events, which doubles the xp.

Now that we’re both 40 and the xp race is done, the question is what to do now?  After all this time, it is kind of our thing, something we do together.

In the grand tradition of the mainline Pokemon RPGs, there is always the quest to catch them all.  There are still a bunch of Pokemon we’re missing.

And, more in the MMO tradition, there is raiding.  One of my wife’s friends has been including us in a group that coordinates to do gym raids, something that is also helping us fill in the missing Pokemon.

We did talk about trying one of the other Niantic games, specifically Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.  However, that didn’t seem to be taking off… or be much more than a re-skin of Pokemon Go with a Hogwarts motif… so we stuck with the our current game for now.

Pokemon Go has been upping its game this year too, with a lot of events.  And there is talk about either raising the level cap or adding another form of progression.

For now though, we’re working with the game at the level cap.  We can finally boost up our Pokemon to their max CP.

The End of the Line for the DS Series at Nintendo

The Verge reported that at some point in the last week or so Nintendo updated their Japanese site to indicate that the remaining units in the DS lineup, the 3DL XL, 2DS, and 2DS XL are “out of production.”

If you go the US Nintendo site, mention of the DS line of handheld console has been completely scrubbed, save for the support area, where it now lives in the “Other Systems” category with the Wii, the Wii U, and older generations of the DS line.

So ends Nintendo’s dual screen handheld line.  The Switch was not supposed to replace it, not according to Nintendo at least, and the initial Switch model was certainly bulky enough compared to the pocket sized DS line to support that argument.  But then came the Switch Lite and the writing was on the wall.

Though, to my mind, the real death knell of the DS line was Game Freak moving core Pokemon RPG development to the Switch.  In our family we played some other games on the DS, but it was primarily the Pokemon console, and those core titles were always best sellers on the platform.

The end was always coming some day, and I haven’t really played anything on my 3DS XL for ages, but it is still a bit of a sad note.

On the flip side, the DS line had a hell of a run.

Released in late 2004, when the PlayStation 2, original XBox, and GameCube were the current console generation, it persisted through to pre-orders for the PlayStation 5.  The hardware went through a series of revisions, starting with the DS, then the DS Lite, then the DSi and DSi XL.  Then came the 3D plan, with the 3DS and 3DS XL, the latter getting a couple of revisions during its time.  Finally, in order to satisfy the budget end of the spectrum, there was the 2DS, unique in its form factor, and the final entry in the lineup, the 2DS XL.

That last entry, which was also the last model I owned, was basically the 3DS XL with some improvements and a the 3D option remove.  It was, in its way, the pinnacle of the line, 3D ending up being more of a gimmick than a serious feature for most people.

But we had a number of the various models along the way.

Back in early 2008 we bought a pink DS Lite for our daughter to keep her entertained on a trip that included a six hour flight.  Later that was joined by a cobalt blue DS Lite of my own, since Pokemon seemed like a lot of fun.  My daughter and I played a lot of Pokemon together.

Pokemon Diamond and the DS Lite

The WiFi features of the early units were ahead of their time.  It could be a bit finicky, but it was a deep feature.  Pokemon Diamond and Pearl had its underground feature that allowed players to interact in the caves and visit each other’s bases. (And steal their flags!)  There was online trading between players around the world.  And I was extremely impressed with the WiFi integration with the Wii as demonstrated by games like Pokemon Battle Revolution and Pokemon Ranch.

And my little cobalt blue DS Lite was, and remains, a solidly built unit.  It went on a lot of trips and I never had a problem with it.  Battery life was excellent.

My daughter got a DSi at one point, then a DSi XL, which I thought was a great improvement.  Age was creeping up on me by then and the little DS Lite screen was starting to be blurry to me.

Then the 3DS line came along.  We skipped that initially, there being no real incentive to go to a little 3DS from the big DSi XL, but Nintendo eventually came out with the 3DS XL.  My daughter wanted one for Christmas and, once she had one, I got myself one for my birthday a couple months later.  We were back and playing Pokemon again.

And Pokemon was always the main game for us.  I think the peak for my daughter and I, the point when were were the most into it, was during Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  The game was good and the tropes of the core RPG series still felt fresh to us.

There was the Pokewalker, the pedometer which allowed you to unlock Pokemon by getting out and walking… or, you know, cheating.  It communicated with the DS Lite via the IR port.  Only one Pokewalker went through the wash.

Pokewalker on my Belt

There were many download events, the ones where you had to go out to Toys R Us or GameStop to collect.  We event went to the regional championships just to see what was going on.

And, of course, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver was the game where I caught them all for the first and only time.  I got the National Pokedex first, which qualifies you for the achievement in the game.  But that was only 485 Pokemon, because they don’t make you get the rare, event Pokemon.  But I managed to hunt them down, getting the final one by playing Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs to get an egg that could be transferred into Pokemon SoulSilver , which would then hatch a Mamphy, with could be bred with a Ditto to get an egg that would hatch  a Phione, the last Pokemon I needed.  I had 493 Pokemon registered, back when that was all there was.

Back when 493 was all there was

I think we might have burned ourselves out on Pokemon with that run.  We played Pokemon Black & White, but were never that into it, as we skipped Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 when they came out, though I went back and played White 2 later.  It was a decent entry, and actually bucked a few of the tropes of the series.

Then there was the dead time, when the new Pokemon titles were on the 3DS, but we didn’t go there until the XL models came out.  Those saw a return to Pokemon for us and a modest revival of our passion for the games.

We played through Pokemon X & Y, Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, and Pokemon Sun & Moon, though we stumbled a bit with Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon.  We bought it, but neither of us finished it.  We were again in the “too samey” phase again.  But my daughter did devote a lot of time to Animal Crossing: New Leaf after Pokemon faded.

And that was it.  Literally the day after my wife bought me the 2DS XL for Christmas, Game Freak announced that there would be no more Pokemon games on the DS platform.  The Switch was the future.

The 3DS hung around, and even saw a bit of a sales spike at one point after that, but without Pokemon there to anchor the platform, it seemed like time was drawing down on it, which brings us to this past week.

The units are still here.  I can still play Pokemon if I want.  But the support services have been fading since the Switch came out.  None of the DS series Pokemon games can use their global trade center or other connectivity that made the games so vibrant.  That has all been turned off.  And soon enough the store and all the other bits that Nintendo has to maintain will go away.  Like the Wii before it, the DS series will become isolated, stand alone game consoles.

Still, as I said, a hell of a run.  Almost 16 years have gone by since the first units shipped, and you can still play games made for the very first DS on the final 2DS XL units.  And it was a platform for some crazy ideas.  Let’s just start with the whole two screens idea, one being a touch screen.  Then there were the IR ports and the cameras and then 3D support, which included freaking 3D camera capabilities along with AR support along with all the things Nintendo did with WiFi along the way.

Seriously, they got Netflix to make an app to stream their video service on the 3DS series.  I tried it.  It was crap quality, but you could watch stuff.

So it goes.

If I want to play Pokemon today I have a Switch Lite.  It is a nice little unit.  The screen quality is very good.  But it won’t replace the DS series in my heart.  There is too much of my life tied up in that.

Other eulogies for the DS platform:

Pokemon Go and Remote Raid Passes

I will say that Niantic has worked pretty hard to keep Pokemon Go viable and interesting during this era of pandemic, when people are spending a lot more time at home.

They have thrown a lot of small changes against the wall to see what sticks and have not been afraid to change them up as time has gone on.  My personal favorites have been having eggs hatch in half their usual distance walked and for allowing double the amount of gifts to be stored in your inventory.  Also, they made incense actually useful for now.

At least another month of these

But the best new item so far for me has been the remote raid pass.

My wife and I together can handle 1-3 star raids, and maybe a 4 star raid if we’re doing pretty well, but a 5 star raid needs more people and, of course, five star raids are where the legendary Pokemon show up.

We had managed a few in the past.  We’ve been at the mall… remember the mall… when a 5 star raid hit and have been able to join in with a larger group.  But you have to be there at the right moment or it just isn’t going to happen.

With the remote raid pass we can now jump into raids that are within range of our location.  Given that there are six gyms within range of the couch in our living room, that means more opportunities than ever.  We have both been able to catch the latest legendary Pokemon in the rotation.

Reshiram and Zekrom from Pokemon Black & White

As somebody who has always been more of a “Gotta Catch ’em All!” player, this has been something of a boon when it comes to filling out the Pokedex.

Of course, remote raid passes cost coins.

Remote Raid Passes in the Store

But I am willing to spend coins on things that are useful.  Generally I save up and buy whatever the latest box is that has the most incubators for the price, but now I am good with remote raid passes as well.

Now we just have to wait for the rotation of featured Pokemon in the 5 star raids.  There are a lot of them I had missed in the past, so I have a chance at them if Niantic puts them back in the lineup.

May in Review

The Site

I managed to break the blogger feed on the side bar.  It actually stopped working on its own and as I dug around I noticed that Pinboard said I had 32,768 entries there, which is exactly 2^15, which I suspected meant that I might have hit an upper limit on entries.  So I cleared all entries and… then nothing there has worked reliably since.

So I have an alternate feed now in the side bar which was, honestly, much easier to setup and get going, and seems more reliable.  However, I have less control over the feed so I cannot, for example, inject the blog name into the feed, so it is just post title, date, and author.  There will no doubt be a blog post about this when I get it settled.

Meanwhile, the blog has seen a bit of a traffic boom this month.  As usual, this traffic bump appears to be completely based on the whims of Google search, which suddenly doubled in impressions and clicks for my site.

Google’s own graph

Things were about normal in March, then there is the usual big April 1st spike, after which traffic and impressions taper off.  And then, suddenly, on May 6, they about double and I couldn’t tell you why.  It might be related to the Activision Blizzard financials.  There are a bunch of searches for “wow subscription numbers.”  But that should have tapered off after a few days.  Instead things appear to have kept going.

Also, in the usual post-Blaugust tradition, I have carried on after Blapril and posted every single day in May as well.  I am not sure that has an effect, but historically the September after Blaugust is usually a pretty good month for traffic as well, so maybe that plays into it.  Mysteries of the internet.

One Year Ago

Back in May of 2018 there was a rumor leak about Daybreak, so a year later I went back over them to see what came to pass.

Blizzard revenue margins dropped considerably.  As if to prove the point, WoW dropped off of SuperData’s digital revenue chart.

To hide that in the news cycle Blizzard gave us a date for WoW Classic. I wondered if the Cataclysm expansion was a necessary prerequisite for WoW Classic.  I also was speculating as to what would happen with WoW Classic as it aged.

The beta for WoW Classic had been up for a while, but they decided to do a stress test, so they let everybody in for a bit.  Of course I went!  And I did the following week as well.

In what we now call retail WoW I was off collecting the Children’s Week pets.

Blizzard also gave us a peek at their 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.

The Mittani uttered the words, “Gevlon was right” in a public forum.

EVE Online celebrated its sixteen year anniversary with a sixteen day login campaign.  The Invasion expansion was slated for the end of the month.  Its arrival brought more Triglavian fun to the game as well as the big revamp of The Agency interface and some war dec changes.

CCP Peligro Tweeted out a chart about who gets banned for botting in New Eden.  CCP had also been trying to nerf ratting and mining, so that was the focus of my MER review that month.

The CSM14 election was coming up and Jester did a Reddit AMA about his time on the CSM as his NDA had finally expired.  I also had a bullet points post about CSM14 candidates and rewards and a coming war and such.

Out in Delve I got to undock my dreadnought.

With Liberty Squad I went on ops to Amamake and into Etherium reach that resulted in explosions.  I also got to drop on some Rorquals with Black Ops.

But people were focused on the coming Imperium attack on the north and where it would land.  Even as we formed up and moved vast fleets to the north of null sec, our target was still speculation, though once we set up shop in the east of Pure Blind it looked like Tribute was the target.  There was a rush to see if we could kill the PanFam staging Keepstar, but when that failed we settled in to burn down the region.

In Minecraft I was growing bamboo and looking for the new village types that came in with the Village & Pillage update.  The I went looking for pillagers.

Connor at MMO Fallout announced that the site was winding down… and then he changed his mind.

And I watched the Catch-22 miniseries on Hulu.  I liked some of it, but there were issues for me.  There always are.

Five Years Ago

A bucket list item achieved.

There was another Newbie Blogger Initiative, for which I wrote a post.

The whole World of Warcraft “flying in Draenor” explosion started when Blizzard announced that they probably wouldn’t allow flying in that, or any future, expansion.  Lots of people spoke up.  I linked to a bunch of them.

It was not a good month for World of Warcraft.  Subscriptions were down to 7.1 million… and then they banned 100K accounts, so make that an even 7 million.

In the Warlords of Draenor expansion itself I was mostly going garrison stuff and pet battles.

Carbine announced that WildStar would be going free to play after continuing poor financial performance.

EVE Online turned 12 years old.  CCP was offering fan site the option of a free account OR receiving a PLEX every month.  I actually attempted to opt-in for the PLEX, but never heard back.  Was that option ever really a thing?  Did anybody get PLEX?  Is the fan site program still around?

The war in Fountain and Delve was over, NCDot had been pushed back yet again, and we were moving back north as our empire contracted.  Entosis stuff was looming.  Black Legion caught us taking a badly planned convoy through KVN-36.

Meanwhile, down in Querious, the Reavers were playing with Ravens.  Up in the north, TNT was moving out of Deklein and into Tribute as part of our Fozzie Sov plans.  And I hit 140 million skill points.

Then Daybreak went for a crowd pleaser by launching a new time locked expansion server named Ragefire. It was such a crowd pleaser that it couldn’t handle the crowd.  In addition to some first night problems, you simply couldn’t log in most of the time.  They worked on a login queue and some zone instancing technology from EverQuest II and eventually opened up another server named Lockjaw to take care of the crowding.

TorilMUD, the MUD on which EverQuest was largely based, softened its death penalty.  A sign of the times.

There was word of Warhammer Online private/pirate server for those who missed the departed game.

And I was playing LEGO Star Wars on the PlayStation 3 while the freshly minted Imperium was going to try and play H1Z1.

Ten Years Ago

I was unemployed thanks to the great mortgage meltdown, which you would think would leave me a lot more time for gaming and blogging.  But the anxiety of looking for a job for the first time in 12 years… and the first time in 20 years where there wasn’t just one out there waiting for me… made for a quiet gaming and blogging month.

Yes, I did start to poke my nose back into LOTRO.  A game where I didn’t have to pay a subscription seemed about right. (I have a lifetime subscription.)  That meant getting back into the swing of the game and figuring out what had changed.

We actually got THE DATE for the release of StarCraft II.  How did that turn out for everybody?  I skipped the whole thing.  Maybe when the StarCraft II warchest version comes out with all the expansions I’ll look into it.

The Agency came to Facebook, in the form of The Agency: Covert Ops.  A Mafia Wars-like game, without the multi-level marketing aspect, it had its good and its bad.  I liked the puzzles.  The dogs with guns… and the submarine fight… not so much.  Who knew that would be all of The Agency we would ever get?

Meanwhile SOE was transcending bad taste with their EQII PWNZ marketing campaign.

EVE Online got the Tyrannis expansion, though I wasn’t paying much attention there.  Something called EVE Gate was introduced… later closed and now being proposed again I think… as well as integration with DUST 514… also later closed and effectively proposed again with Project: Nova. Pattern here?

There was some Pokemon fun going.  I was twinking the Pokewalker while our cats worked against me.  The cats won in the end.

We also went to see the Pokemon Video Game Championships in our area.

And the Horde remix of the instance group was wrapping up Dire Maul and Stratholme.  Then, having hit 60, we let the Dungeon Finder guide our way into the Outland.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 in a pre-E3 announcement while Microsoft announced the XBox 360 on MTV.

Pokemon Emerald, the final third generation Pokemon game and the last GameBoy Advance Pokemon release, arrives in North America

Forty Years Ago

The Empire Strikes back, arguably the best movie in the whole series, debuts.  Or, as I sometimes think of it, the last great Star Wars movie.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. Darkpaw Announces and Adjusts Plans for the Rizlona and Aradune Time Locked Progression Servers
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. LEGO Star Wars The Skywalker Saga is Coming
  7. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  8. EQ Aradune and Rizlona Servers off to the Usual Rocky Start
  9. New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary
  10. Where is the Scenario Mod for This?
  11. Burn Jita 2020 Seems Unlikely
  12. Hints of a Diablo II Remaster

Search Terms of the Month

iowa wooden deck
[You’re far from Iowa friend]

robert jordan wheel of.time repetitive writing
[Clip that and you’d lose a book worth of text]

eve online auction house no more undercut
[Well, no more .01 ISK undercut]

how to make bamboo grow faster in minecraft
[You’re kidding, right?]

wve onlune mist active cirporations
[Your fingers are on the wrong keys]

mmo when you can play as kobold
[Uhh… I don’t know]

where’d holly windstalker go?
[Blizzard]

Gaming Time from ManicTime

A bit of a surprise for times this month.  If you had asked me on the first I would have probably guessed that EVE Online would be at the top, with WoW Classic maybe not too far behind.  And then I launched Minecraft.

  1. Minecraft – 43.20%
  2. EVE Online – 32.22%
  3. WoW Classic – 16.58%
  4. EverQuest – 6.65%
  5. World of Warcraft – 0.69%
  6. RimWorld – 0.66%

It is really easy to put on a podcast or an audio book and while away the hours with Minecraft.  Meanwhile, WoW Classic has languished a bit as the group has been busy so hasn’t had a chance to get back to Zul’Farrak.

EVE Online

With the Goon Expeditionary Force deployed, there has been some opportunity for fun in space.  I am definitely in a mood where I only log in for fleets and not much else.  I have gone on some fleets, but perhaps not as many as I thought I would.  But we’re still out there in Cloud Ring.

EverQuest

I have been mostly poking along with the Overseer feature here, though I did log in and make a character on one of the new progression servers.  The Overseer got some updates, and there is a post about it in the making.  It remains, to my mind, superior to the EverQuest II version of the feature.  As for the progression servers, I am likely going to give this round a pass.  I poked my nose in for a first day glimpse, but without a group already stood up and ready to go it is more than I care to take on.

Minecraft

I mentioned Minecraft and a new world appeared.  My post about exploring our old world inspired Skronk to roll up a fresh on on Minecraft Realms, so we’ve been playing with that for about a week or so now.  I guess I had best move it up into the “games I play” list again.

Pokemon Go

Having hit level 39 at the end of last month I am still in the midst of the long climb to level 40.  Niantic’s quality of life changes to support pandemic play, like remote raid passes, have helped out.  I caught my first raid legendary, the Terrakion.  However, for every legendary I catch, four more seem to get away.  Oh well.

Level: 39 (19% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 541 (+10) caught, 569 (+9) seen
Pokemon I want: Some of these Unova Pokemon where I only have one
Current buddy: Axew

Pokemon Sword

I made no progress this month.  I didn’t even pick up the Switch Lite except to move it when it was in the way of something.  I think it is a nice little unit, but I haven’t worked in where it fits in my play time.  I used to sit on the couch when nobody was home, turn on a TV show I had seen before (reruns of The Wire FTW) and play, but now there is never a time when nobody is home.

World of Warcraft

I thought at the start of the month that I would totally get my Horde alt out and to level cap now that I have unlocked flying and there is double XP available until the next expansion.  It should be easy mode, a quick tour of the Horde story.  And then all I did was a bit of Darkmoon Faire.  I guess I can recycle that plan.  Maybe next month.

WoW Classic

Things slowed down some in WoW Classic, mostly due to the group being busy with other things in life.  We managed to get started in Zul’Farrak, but haven’t managed to get back for a return trip.  It is still on our agenda though.  Maybe next month.

Coming Up

A preview of June’s month in review: I will no doubt be complaining about the new editor WordPress will be forcing on us.  I’ve been using the old editor for over a decade and have heard little good about the new one.  But the old one may be dead tomorrow, so expect some curse words. (They say it will still be there, but in the past they have broken things like that on purpose to force people to change.)

It seems likely that, should I be able to still write posts, there will be some updates about the deployment in EVE Online, something about the instance group in WoW Classic when we get back to ZF, and maybe a further thought or two about Minecraft.

The CSM15 elections start tomorrow for EVE Online.  I bet you can already foresee that post coming.

I did buy a copy of the new Minecraft Dungeons, which I will probably try out later today, so perhaps something about that will pop up in June.

Otherwise, summer is coming, my daughter is graduating from high school, the weather is warm, and we’re coming up on three months of “stay at home” and even I am feeling like I need to go to the mall or something.  We shall see how we manage.

April in Review

The Site

April is usually a big month for page views.  The Blizzard April Fools post usually gives me a boost in search engine traffic for a day or two.

Googly eyes at the hero select screen in Overwatch was the big item

August generally sees a boost in page views as well due to Blaugust.  So turning that into Blapril ought to have been a double whammy.

The Blapril commeth

And I suppose I did get a boost from the both.  Traffic was up noticeably from March, this month being the most active for page views since last September when WoW Classic traffic was driving people here.  But it was down from last April, which was down from the April before, and so on.  My peak page view date is April 1, 2013, and it has been a slow decline ever since.  Even the pandemic and stay at home orders can’t make blogs popular again.  But I persist.  If I wrote for page views I wouldn’t write how I do currently.  Sometimes it is better to quietly write what you want than to write to seek attention.

One Year Ago

April Fools, once a grand tradition at Blizzard, was pretty sparse.

Google Plus went away.

The Minecraft Village & Pillage update landed.

CCP loudly announced the removal and banning of CSM13 member Brisc Rubal.  And then in what I described as the “nightmare scenario,” CCP hedged, promising to investigate further.  And then they exonerated Brisc and restored him apologizing for all the trouble. A disastrous example of “measure once, cut twice” by CCP.  And Brisc didn’t get his reputation back.  I still see people who think he must have been guilty and somehow worked a deal or threatened to sue in order to get CCP to back down.

CCP also announced the CSM14 election timeline.  Brisc opted to stay away from that.  And the April update brought capital nerfs, especially for the Rorqual.  Hilmar was starting on something about player retention.  And CCP unveiled the Katia Sai monument in Saisio.

Actually out in space myself in EVE Online, I was flying with Liberty Squad as we visited The Spire for a fight over a Sotiyo as well as busting some other structures and setting some timers.  There was also an op from Delve to Lonetrek and another Reavers Race.

NantWorks handed H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royaleback to Daybreak, having failed to make a go of the challenge of reviving the game.

I reviewed a bit of the coverage the EverQuest 20th anniversary got.  There was also some changes to the Selo progression server, which reflected on what players wanted versus what Daybreak was offering.

I was also playing World of Warcraft, binging on pet battles and catching some new pets.  We got some news about the approaching update, which would unlock flying in Battle for Azeroth.  That promoted me to get the first part of the pathfinder achievement done.  I also got my first alt to level 120, though he hadn’t even been to Zandalar or Kul’Tiras.  Pet battles will do ya.

And I came up with a guide to criticizing games you do not like.

Five Years Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right? [Narrator: Xenuria has been in KarmaFleet since August of 2015.]

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  It recovered and went up eventually, but it took a while.  They also had a beta for the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot further back than it did.

Ten Years Ago

Video games as art?  Did we flay Roger Ebert enough over that?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet, though we did get LEGO Harry Potter.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has still not to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

In EVE Online somebody was trying to blackmail Gaff’s corp.  This was an out of game threat though.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

There was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as used to be the case.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand.  On the bright side, while it started as a tease, it ended up becoming a real thing.

Fifteen Years Ago

Guild Wars: Prophecies launched, with ArenaNet going with a “buy the box, play for free” business model for its new MMO, though they wouldn’t call it one at the time.

Twenty Years Ago

The first expansion for EverQuest, The Ruins of Kunark, launches.  We got ten more levels, new races, and a new continent to explore.

Nintendo sold its 100 millionth GameBoy/GameBoy Color.  That total eventually passes 118 million units sold, only tapering off with the arrival of the GameBoy Advance a year later.

Sony announced that the PlayStation 2, which launched the month before, was so sophisticated that the Ministry of Trade would place export controls on it as it could be used for military applications.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2020 is Centered on Overwatch
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. The Hunt Goes Live in New Eden with New Implants
  4. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary
  7. I Fly a Titan At Last
  8. CCP Launches a Surgical Strike on New Eden
  9. WoW Tokens Five Years Later
  10. CCP Quietly Starts a New Login Campaign in EVE Online
  11. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  12. My Actual First Computer vs My First Real Computer

Search Terms of the Month

“world of warcraft” “subscriptions” “2020”
[“sorry” “just” “MAUs” “now”]

is dragonvale dead
[It is dead to me]

sto game sexiest female uniforms in the game
[It is Star Trek]

eve online apparel account wide
[No. In fact, it has to be in your current station to use.\

Game Time from ManicTime

I played, or at least logged into, more games in April than in March, with the time break down looking like this:

  1. WoW Classic – 38.49%
  2. EVE Online – 25.29%
  3. World of Warcraft – 12.57%
  4. RimWorld – 8.91%
  5. EverQuest – 7.45%
  6. Pokemon Sword – 4.89%
  7. EverQuest II – 1.98%
  8. LOTRO – 0.42%

WoW Classic remained the top choice, though not by the long margin it was last month.  I go into the reasons below, but overall I spent less time playing games in April than I did in March as well, which I mentioned in a post earlier this week about motivation.

EVE Online

I did get out and on a few ops at the start of the month, though even the tempo of ops has slackened with the changes that CCP applied mid-month.  Super carriers being more vulnerable means that they don’t undock, so there are fewer to save and/or blow up.

EverQuest

I am not really “playing” EverQuest in anything like the traditional sense.  I have been messing around with the Overseer feature instead.  It does, as some have noted, seem to have more in common with a phone game than an MMORPG, but they gave it just enough depth and progression to keep me logging in every day.

EverQuest II

I am really not playing this, not even the version of the Overseer they have.  Darkpaw updated the feature, actually giving it a bit of progression.  But it still lacks what depth the EverQuest version has, seeming to be more of a magic prize machine rather than a game.  Oh well.  I also used my level 110 trade and adventure boosts on a new character, and then haven’t played them.  But they are geared up.

Lord of the Rings Online

I patched this up and logged in for a short bit.. I was certainly in for a lot less time than the patch process took.  The patcher hs never been a strong suit of the game.  I was primarily interested in purchasing the Minas Morgul expansion with my LOTRO points, SSG having said it would be available in the online store come March.  Here it is, the day before May and it is not yet available.

Pokemon Go

I hit level 39 at last just a couple of days ago.  That sounds like I am almost 98% through the leveling game, but since the gap between 39 and 40 is five million points, or 25% of the total points to level cap, I suppose I am only 75% of the way there.

Level: 39 (2% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 531 (+5) caught, 560 (+4) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Servine

Pokemon Sword

I did play a bit of this, though not as much as I intended.  As a game on the Switch Lite, it is something I can play away from my desk, where I now spend all day for work.  However, I need a kind of quiet place to focus.  I used to go play on the couch when nobody else was home, but we rarely achieve the state of “nobody else home” these days.  Still, I made it through the sixth gym.

RimWorld

I thought I was going to play a lot more of this in April.  It is, in its way, a pretty good game to play while you listen to an audio book or a podcast or whatever, and I am pro multitasking in that way.  And I did play some.  Just not as much as I thought.  Part of that was just not feeling like playing anything, but the fact that RimWorld suffers from the classic mid-game problem added to my lack of play time as well.

World of Warcraft

I did actually play some retail WoW this past month.  As I posted, I unlocked flight in Battle for Azeroth.  And with flying now available on all my alts as well as the 100% xp boost that will be available until the Shadowlands expansion hits, I have been tempted to play more.  I did work on a Horde alt some, but I am not really invested yet.

WoW Classic

As with most of the past six months, WoW Classic continues to top the play time chart.  But it also has the biggest month over month drop in time played.  It has a double whammy in that not only to I sort of have to stoke myself up to log in and play, I also have to figure out what I want to do as my prime alts, who are all in the around level 40 trough where quests ramp up faster than you do.  It wasn’t so bad with my hunter, as it is easy to just grind mobs with him, especially if I can skin them as well.  But my pally… he is sitting at 40 and I now remember why my pally back in vanilla seemed stuck at 40 forever.  The instance group is carrying on, but on the whole we’re not logged in nearly as much.

Coming Up

Another month.  Isn’t that enough?  So tired.

Well, there is the Blapril roundup for sure.  One last time to link out to everybody.  If history is any guide, the title of that post will be The Labors of Blapril.

There are some EverQuest bits and pieces coming up.  I’ll probably get to that tomorrow.  I also want to write something further about the Overseer feature.

There are updates and such for EVE Online expected as well.  Maybe that rather dry login campaign will wrap up and be replaced with something a bit more engaging.

In World of Warcraft Classic it seems likely that the instance group will enter Zul’Farrak.  It is also possible that I will hit level 50 with at least one character next month as well.  Maybe I’ll even figure out where to go with my level 40 paladin.

I am still tempted by the double xp in retail WoW now that I have unlocked flying.  I could maybe get my blood elf paladin to level 120 without much effort beyond seeing the story on that side of the game.

What else is coming up… Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in the US…the Activision-Blizzard Q1 earnings call… and probably a few other things I am forgetting.  Oh, another month of stay at home here as they have apparently have been under counting cases where I live.  Apparently in suburbia we just die at home and don’t tell anybody.

To the Series Born

There is a bit of a topic trend going on for Blapril, started by Krikket, where people name their top four or five favorite video game series.

The Blapril commeth

This is week four, which has its own topic, but since I haven’t come up with anything else I took “series appreciation” as falling under the “developer/creator appreciation” umbrella and decided I should run with it.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

Looking at video game series seems pretty reasonable.  In the last decade or so especially the large video game publishers have gone all in on series and sequels for games, eschewing much new in favor of a reliable return on investment that churning out annual change ups on standard formula has proven to bring.

So I started thinking about which series I might put on a list… and I sort of ran into a bit of a wall.  This is different than, say, picking my 15 most influential games.

Part of that was I immediately put bounds around the possible answers.  It is just what I do out of habit.  First, to my mind, a “series” requires there to be three or more games.  So as much as I may have enjoyed  Defense Grid and Defense Grid 2, they are only a game and its sequel and not really a series.  And that along knocks off a lot of possible entries listed over on Wikipedia.

I also felt that unless I had played a substantial and representative number of titles in a series… arbitrarily I figured I needed at least half to cover… I couldn’t really count that series as a favorite.  Playing only Need for Speed: World or Dirt 3 does not really give me enough to make a claim on either series.  I can say I love Mario Kart, but I only ever played Mario Kart 64, Double Dash, and that version on the DS.  I never even bought the Wii version!  Can I really complain about the blue shell if that is all I have experienced?

Likewise, although I had played four of the nine games in the Ultima series, those were the first four games of a series that expanded quite a bit from humble origins.  I enjoyed Ultima III the best out of what I played, which probably means I am not down with the series as a whole.

I did wonder for a bit if MMORPG expansions ought to count.  Is EverQuest one game, or a series of 27 games churned out over 21 years?  But I decided that way lay madness and discarded the idea. (Also, how many expansions would I have had to have played to be legit in counting EverQuest?  More than I have I am sure.)

This would have been much easier if I had been a big console gamer.  Or a sports focused gamer.  There are so many series there.  But as an online and/or MMO gamer, series haven’t been a huge thing for me and, as I have noted here in the past, I have been playing online games since 1986.

So what series of games had I played enough of to meet my own criteria?

Cilivization This series of games came up on a some lists and I am good here.  I have owned I-VI and a couple of the side games in the series, like Alpha Centauri.  I played the hell out of the original, the first sequel, and the fifth entry, along with Alpha Centauri.

Pokemon Or at least the main line Pokemon RPG titles.  I think I am covered on that, having played every title on the DS/3DS handheld series as well as Pokemon Sword on the Switch.  I even played two of the GameBoy Advance titled back on my original DS Lite, because it had the GBA cartridge slot.  And I played the re-release of Pokemon Blue on the 3DS and have the blog post to prove it.  I’ve even played Pokemon Ranger and a couple of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles.

Age of Empires – The RTS winner here, though of the three core games I was only really a fan of Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings.  That was the pinnacle of the series to my mind, though I owned and played all three.  The original was a bit rough and unbalanced and the third seemed like Ensemble had lost its way.  But I have Age of Empires II in my Steam library.

Diablo –  There are three games there, so meets the bar for a series and I have owned and played all three games plus their expansions… multiple copies of a the first two even.  I owned a copy of Diablo II and the expansion for both home and work because we could play games on the work network after hours back around the turn of the century.  Those days are long gone, but if Blizzard made a credible Diablo II remaster I would throw money at my computer screen.

LEGO Star Wars – I thought I was done when I hit four series, and then this run of games finally popped up into my conscious thought.  There are six titles and we own four of them… more if you count the combo edition that reworked and repacked the first two games when Traveler’s Tales got the vibe right on the series.

And that’s it.

By my own criteria I cannot really come up any more, though at least I made it to five.  I can declare these as my five favorite series by virtue of being the only five.  I imagine if I rack my brain I can probably shake out one or two more… but it would be stuff from the 90s, things long forgotten.

Oddly, I have the games listed in the order to which the series came to mind, which corresponds roughly to a the descending order for both how much time I have spent playing them AND how I would probably rank them.  Seems natural enough.

Others who have posted their lists, some of whom felt less self-constrained than I: