With the declaration that things were headed back to normal in May, Niantic immediately started making noises about rolling out some of the changes they had put in place in Pokemon Go during the pandemic.
Now, they certainly were not going to remove remote raid passes, something they added in response to COVID, because I am sure they are a big money maker for the company. But they did throttle back on their usefulness. They weren’t nerfed into oblivion, but if you started a raid with one it would be limited to 10 people and the damage output of remote raiders was dialed back. Kind of a pain, but tolerable. Our remote raid pass text group can still take down a five star boss if we can get six of us in the fight.
There were a few other changes, but the kicker, the one that got people howling, was the reduction in range when it came to accessing gyms and Pokestops. In order to facilitate people being able to raid and battle in public during the pandemic they had doubled the range at which you could access gyms and Pokestops from 40 meters to 80 meters.
That is kind of a lot, and we immediately got used to that range. We live in an area with a lot of gyms around, and that range puts a lot of them in range from the street, so my wife and I would go out and battle roll in the car, taking gyms and spinning Pokestops without having to stop and, in a couple cases, stand in the middle of somebody’s condo complex to battle.
So when Niantic pulled it, the change was immediately noticeable. We had gotten used to the 80m range so quickly it was hard to recall the before times. And we were not the only ones who felt the blow. Lots of people complained, signed petitions, ranted on forums, and generally tried to raise an internet ruckus while Niantic seems quite unmoved.
This is one of those things where I wonder if the decision was even up to Niantic. When they announced the roll back for Pokemon Go I went and checked their news for their other games, Ingress and that horrible Harry Potty skinned version of Pokemon Go, and the company wasn’t putting out press releases about post-COVID roll backs for those titles.
So I suspect, even if I cannot prove, that it was The Pokemon Company… which, given the ownership balance, is pretty much a sock puppet for Nintendo… that was calling the shots on this front.
The Pokemon Company oversees the Pokemon franchise with an iron fist and, because Nintendo has the biggest voice in the company, it also tends to reflect some of Nintendo’s obsessions, like health and forcing community interaction. Some of that obsession has turned into fun features. I liked the PokeWalker that came with Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver, and the whole Street Pass thing with the Nintendo 3DS series was genius. But sometimes they push things a bit far, so I could see somebody at TPC declaring that 80m wasn’t close enough to foster community.
We had a grand old time with Pokemon Go Fest and sat on the steps of the old post office building with a crowd of fellow players and hit the four gyms in range without remote raid passes as we swapped stories and exchanged friend codes. I think we were honestly more social being able to congregate in one place. But you can’t tell Nintedo that.
But then the whole idea that the pandemic was over went out the window with the Delta variant and now ICU beds in red states are full of people who refused to get vaccinated to “own the libs” and makes and quarantines and working from home and remote schooling all possible in our reality again soon because we just can’t take this stuff seriously.
And so this past week Niantic announced that their task force studying player feedback on their pandemic feature roll back would be presenting their results on September 1st. Yeah sure, whatever.
But they did say that the interaction range with gyms and Pokestops would be swapped back immediately and permanently to 80m. Somebody saw the light… or felt the community wrath.
Trainers – we’re looking forward to sharing our plans as a result of the task force on September 1, but one thing does not have to wait! From now on, 80 meters will be the base interaction radius for PokéStops and Gyms globally. (1/2)
I texted my wife, who was out and about, and she confirmed that the 80m range seemed to be back in place. So we’re happy again. We’re going on a trip soon… if it isn’t scuttled by COVID… and having that extra range in a new place will make for some easier Pokemon adventures out in the world.
There has been some discussion of the summer slump that EVE Online has been in, with the peak concurrent user numbers taking a dive over the last month or so. There are several theories and lots of possible influences on that number, not the least of which is that it is summer and pandemic restrictions have been relaxed so some people just want to go on vacation after 15 months stuck at home.
EVE Online gets the focus here because they let people see their online numbers all the time and there is a site dedicated to tracking them. Other games are less forthcoming with these sorts of stats, which makes it look like it might just be a New Eden problem.
Looking at my own blog stats however, I see a similar trend when it comes to pages view when I bring up the week by week stats.
Weekly page views – May – July 2021
The current week is a little low due to the measurement being from Monday to Sunday, but you can see the trend down from May to July, which lines up pretty well with the weekly peak concurrent user number I have been tracking in my weekly World War Bee updates.
This is not to say that CCP doesn’t have other problems, but it feels like there is a bit of a slump in interest in video games after more than a year of people binging on them.
One Year Ago
The 2020 Steam Summer Sale finished up. I bought some things.
Google+ was already starting to become annoying. (At the end of that post I also link out to an article that predicts that social media in general, and Facebook specifically, will start to fade by 2014.)
I tried Civ World, the Facebook interpretation of the classic Civilization series of games. I didn’t like it.
And on the EverQuest II front, they announced that they were going to revamp Freeport, which I took as a waste of time. (Plus, of course, Qeynos got shoved off until later.) I am still not convinced that either revamp was worth the effort of the time spent downloading the assets. But I am not sure Beastlords were either. They seemed pretty broken when they launched.
The perhaps unfortunately named (and all the more so given the current scandal) CUC International purchased Blizzard Entertainment parent Davidson & Associates and Sierra Online, which became the heart of the new CUC Software. The company later became Cedant Software, Havas Interactive, and eventually Vivendi Games.
sylvanas x anduin wordpress
[The math doesn’t add up]
minecraft warm biome near cold biome
[I have screenshots of an ice biome taken from a desert biome]
Game Time from ManicTime
I came into the month working pretty hard on WoW Classic, or at least alts there. Then the war started heating up a bit in New Eden and I tried a playing a few other titles.
WoW Classic – 51.04%
EVE Online – 24.36%
RimWorld – 12.44%
Flashing Lights – 4.64%
MMO Tycoon 2 – 4.51%
World of Warcraft – 1.06%
New World – 0.95%
Lots of little things going on in New Eden, but the war itself wasn’t very exciting. PAPI decided to take the summer off at one point, then changes their minds and now are coming back for a final try to take our capitol. They’ve only had a Keepstar next door since November.
So yeah, I pre-ordered and have played a tiny bit in the beta. Things have changed a lot since I was in one of the early betas a couple of years back at this point. I am not sure I am happy with the direction the game took. But more on all of that at a later date.
Pokemon Go Fest was the big deal this month. My wife and I did a lot of that. But the climb from 40 to 50… that’s a lot of xp. To get from level 47 to level 48 you need 21 million xp, which is more than levels 1-40 combined. You need to be pretty hard core for that, and yet I met a level 50 player during the event. In talking to him, he just does everything I do, just a lot more often. For example, he has caught almost 400K Pokemon, while my total is about 18K.
Level: 41 (69% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 654 (+8) caught, 677 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Heracross would finish my Johto Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat
With the coming of the Ideology update for the game, I bought it and gave it a try. I will no doubt have some words to write about what changed, but in general it is an easy game to sink back into even with the updates.
As I noted, I bought a few titles during the Steam Summer Sale. You can see I’ve played them a bit in the Game Time section this post. I plan to write something about each of them. But plans often fall by the wayside. I thought I would have a post up about at least one of them by this point, and yet here we are.
World of Warcraft
It was a bit more than the usual routine for retail WoW this month. I did the Darkmoon Faire quests, but then I spent some time with pet battles when they had the bonus event running. Still, over all, I didn’t spend much more than an hour with the game.
I went into July strong on Burning Crusade Classic. Or, at least the vanilla content as re-worked by the Burning Crusade updates. I leveled my rogue from 21 to 37 while working on crafting and some other things. And then the giant harassment scandal blew up at Blizz and, while my subscription hasn’t lapsed yet and our group is still playing a bit… we have paid for the privileged… we’re also discussing what we ought to do.
August means we will be getting some Q2 2021 financial reports. Activision Blizzard should be interesting because it ought to give some insight into what the end of the lockdown in many places has meant to video games.
When it comes to WoW specifically the 9.1 patch came out at the very end of Q2, so the impact of that and the flow of players from retail WoW into FFXIV won’t be reflected until Q3 results. And Q3… well, now that the state of California is after Activision Blizzard for creating and abetting a hostile workplace, I can only see things getting worse for the company. They’re just another Riot and all their words about diversity and inclusiveness were just BS. If you needed an actual example of virtue signalling… trying to ride on a popular wave that you don’t really care about… this might be it. The question time for the Q2 call should be lit.
Then there is EVE Online. August is traditionally a slow month for CCP as it is the nicest weather all year in Iceland, so they tend to emulate the French and go on vacation if possible. But World War Bee still… rages? I am not sure it has “raged” at all in the last six months. But PAPI has promised an all out assault on the Imperium capitol, so maybe the rage will return to space, rather than hanging out in r/eve.
And, of course, it is the start of Blaugust, the annual blogging celebration. It is not too late to join in. There will be more about that tomorrow.
We heard back in February that the next Pokemon title for the Switch would be remakes of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, something my daughter and I had been waiting for. As a follow on, we have now been given a date for the launch of the remake.
Sinnoh is returning
The launch date for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is November 19, 2021.
The Nintendo site has an updated descriptions of how they plan to recreate the original Nintendo DS experience and what to expect.
In addition, the other upcoming Pokemon title, Pokemon Legends: Arceus also got a launch date this past week. We will be able to experience this “bold new direction” for the Pokemon series come January 28, 2022.
So we have some old and new Pokemon experiences coming up. I am definitely up for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, though I hope the release doesn’t overlap too closely with Diablo II: Resurrected. While we don’t have a firm date for the Diablo II remake, it was said that it would be available near the end of 2021, and no studio wants to launch after Christmas, so November seems a likely time for it as well. We shall see.
As of a post earlier this week I had a post up every single day for an entire year. The last day here on the site without a post was March 27, 2020.
Like a lot of such achievements, I did not set out to do this, but once I noticed it was happening it became a thing. I rolled into last April with a plan to post every day due to the Blapril event. Making it through that I had enough momentum to bring me through May and into June. Then a war started brewing in EVE Online, which was fresh and exciting in late June of last year, but which has grown routine by now. That gave me a lot to post about and I decided to stretch my posting run into August for the Blaugust celebration. And once I had gotten through that I had almost a half a year streak going, so why not carry on.
As for what it means… well, it doesn’t really mean anything. It is my own little post streak. I think the previous such streak went for four months. I just have to decide how much it really means to me to have an unbroken run of daily posts, because once I let it lapse it will take me at least a year to get back.
I will say that it is a good thing I made it to this milestone, such that it is, this week. Because this week saw WordPress.com finally delete the old classic editor, which I have been using for more than 14 years at this point, in order to force users into their new block editor, which was designed by a sadist and implemented by people who clearly don’t have to use it. It impedes my ability to write.
Seriously, it sucks. Even the classic block, which they claim is the same as the classic editor, sucks. Features are missing, it keeps asking me if I want to convert to other blocks, everything takes a few more clicks to accomplish, and it is rather insistent that 24 time doesn’t exist. And don’t get me started on what happens to a post if you accidentally click that persistent “convert to blocks” button if you’re working in the classic block tab. I had to throw away a post and start over it was so mangled.
And they also did away with the old dashboard and stats, so even managing posts and comments and such is a huge pain in the ass now. And data I used for things like my annual review post… well, that is just no longer accessible.
It is all a punch in the gut that doesn’t make me enthusiastic to post every day.
I sent in a complaint detailing all of this and I expect to hear back from one of their “Happiness Engineers” ignoring everything I wrote and gushing about how wonderful the block editor is with a link to a video. The next helpful response I get from them will be the first.
Addendum: I enabled the new “Advanced Dashboard Pages” option and got back the ability to use the old Classic Editor once more. So yay! Why it was linked to that option I cannot explain, but I’ll take it.
One Year Ago
Oh man, it was the start of the pandemic lockdown, the March that lasted forever as we all learned how to stay home. Fortunately I received a Ninendo Switch Lite for my birthday to keep me busy.
Also in EverQuest II the PvP version of their retro nostalgia server, Deathtoll, was getting folded into the PvE version, Stormhold, due to lack of interest, thus ending open world PvP in the game outside of that Russian server. I was looking for nostalgia on the Stormhold side of things again.
The monthly EVE Online update introduced Project Discovery and made it so you had to be mutual friends in order to track somebody’s online status in your contact list. The month’s blog banter wanted people to imagine other games based off of the EVE Online IP, so I went with something akin to Diplomacy.
There were a bunch of little EVE Online things, like server upgrades, downtime compensation, and skill injector fun that I put into one bullet points post. I like those posts when I do them, I hate them a year later when I want to do my summary. It is easier when each topic has its own post!
Fighting was going on as the Casino War widened. Some of the coalition was staged in Saranen, which meant flying quite a ways to defend territory on the far side of Tribute, including an unfortunate event with a Higgs anchor rig on my Guardian. There were things going on in several regions, including a really good brawl in Fade.
Then the weight in numbers began to tell as we had to fight fires on several fronts. I wondered if we were going to have a last stand at VFK-IV. The plan, however, was not to waste ships against the superior numbers arrayed against us. Instead we gave up territory, announcing the abandonment of the Vale of the Silent region, occupied by Lawn and Bastion, with one constellation owned by Circle-of-Two. CO2 decided to leave the Imperium over this in order to save their territory, which would soon be the front line in the war, betraying us even as the fight was still going on in M-OEE8. Once the war was over their new friends turned on them and took their territory anyway. Who says there are no happy endings?
The M-OEE8 fight was still a big one and got CCP some press. That is one thing null sec is good for, bringing attention to the game.
Black Desert Online went live and much bitching about the cash shop ensued, so I couldn’t resist jumping on that bandwagon yet again. The cash shop is a necessary evil at this point.
Potshot and I made it to GDC thanks to Darren, where we were able to hobnob with the likes of Brian Green and Damion Schubert.
March of ten years ago found me spending time in EverQuest. It was on the Fippy Darkpaw progression server, which at that point was still set in the original EverQuest zones. Potshot and I were doing some classic things, like getting stuck in the Ocean of Tears and making alts. And running out of money.
I put up a poll asking people which of several items in my drafts folder (current population: 88) I should buckle down on and finish. I think almost everything on the list except the winner is still in my drafts folder.
And I came home one day to find the TV had died. Emergency CPR (read: banging on the damn thing) brought it back to life temporarily, but clearly a replacement was going to be needed. It was, after all, a few years older than EverQuest.
Fifteen Years Ago
World of Warcraft hit 6 million subscribers. Eventually it would double that number. And later it would sink below that number. WoW Classic seemed to get it back up to that number again, though all such numbers from Blizzard are pretty vague these days.
Twitter launched, but who in the hell wants a platform limited to just 140 characters? Or 280 characters now I guess.
Brent, going by the “Prognosticator” handle back then, launched the VirginWorlds podcast which began what was, for me, the golden age of MMO podcasting and eventually nudged me into blogging. Trust me to pick up the old trend when a new one starts. His site had fallen into disrepair over the years and, recently, disappeared altogether. Time to pull it from the side bar I think. I still have all the podcasts in my iTunes library, and you can peruse the site and descriptions over at the Internet Archive.
Twenty Years Ago
Nintendo released the GameBoy Advance, the handheld model between the GameBoy Color and the Nintendo DS. Games for the GBA were still available when I eventually got a Nintendo DS as it had a GBA cartridge slot to allow backward compatibility.
Thirty Years Ago
Neverwinter Nights, an online multiplayer Dungeons & Dragons themed game launched on AOL. In an age of text and MUDs, it was an online graphical multiplayer RPG and either one of the first, or a direct precursor to, modern MMORPGs, depending on how you want to define the “massive” part of the acronym.
Sierra Online launched The Sierra Network… their name having “online” in it before they had an actual online presence was a mistake in hindsight I suppose… which includes the title The Shadow of Yserbius as part of the package, which was also an online graphical multiplayer RPG (or a graphical MUD as they called it), which also gives it a claim to either being one of the first, or a direct precursor to, modern MMORPGs.
Once again this month saw Valheim take up most of my focus. The time split was as follows:
Valheim – 84.71%
EVE Online – 10.90%
WoW Classic – 4.30%
World of Warcraft – 0.10%
At this point Valheim is where I have spent about half of my gaming time so far this year. In the first half of the month I had more time on it that in my main browser. (Though, to be fair, I have to split between Firefox and Chrome for work related items.)
The war carries on. I’ve said that a few times, haven’t I? This past month was a bit lighter for me that January and February. My participation status shows over 100 ops in the last 90 days, but only about 15 of those were in the last 30 days. Blame Valheim a bit, but more it is the fact that no grand events have been happening really. I did do the Federation Grand Prix for the SKINs on an alt, but that was another story.
My wife and I both made it to level 41. It wasn’t that tough of a climb. We were helped along by the fact that we had accumulated some xp after hitting level 40 but before the new levels were announced. Not as much as some… I have people in my friends list who have as much as 60 million xp pre-done… but it boosted us along a bit. Now for level 42.
Level: 41 (15% of the way to 42 in xp, 2 of 4 tasks complete) Pokedex status: 628 (+9) caught, 656 (+9) seen Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 12 Pokemon I want: Need Eevees for the level 42 tasks Current buddy: Frogadier
As you can see from the ManicTime numbers, this is the title that dominated my gaming time again this month. Right now on our world we’re ready to slay Moder once we can get on together and then we will be moving towards the plains.
World of Warcraft
I did log into retail WoW, though only for Darkmoon Faire and a few pet battles. I did nothing out in the Shadowlands expansion. The events there have skipped far enough ahead of me that I likely won’t ever catch up. My renown remains meager and such.
While the instance group has been mostly focused on Valheim, I did find a bit of time to run around with my paladin alt. I’d like to get him up to 60… or at least 58… before Burning Crusade Classic shows up.
Well, tomorrow is April Fools, so I am pretty sure some of you can guess what the post of the day will be about. It is the same thing every year.
In Valheim we have two bosses left to take on. We might actually accomplish that and get back to spending a bit of time in WoW Classic, though I suspect we’ll keep the Valheim world up and keep building and such. It has a Minecraft-like appeal in that.
I expect that we’ll start getting some news about a timeline for Burning Crusade Classic.
And in EVE Online CCP is ready to turn industry upside down by changing dramatically how all ships larger than a battlecruiser, plus all T2 and faction ships, are built. When even the devs are predicting chaos and things taking 4-6 months to settle down you know we’re in for a wild ride.
Back in December of last year Niantic unlocked the next ten levels in Pokemon Go. The game, having been capped at level 40 for over four years, was finally going to give people some new advancement goals.
The catch for the next ten level was that, in addition to the usual exp grind, players were going to have to complete some specific tasks along the way. For some, those who had been at level 40 for a long time and who had continued to accumulate exp, the tasks were the real gates to the next levels.
For people like my wife and I, who hit level 40 less than a month before the new levels were unlocked, the exp hill was going to be the main limiting factor. I finished the four tasks, which included catching 200 pokemon in a single day, long before I was even close to level. We both managed to tip over into level 41 this month, with the exp being the final gate as expected.
A level up at last
With the level you get some prizes.
Some gifts for your level
But then you are quickly back to looking at the exp curve to get to level 42.
The tasks to get to level 42 are not too tough. They are:
Evolve Eevee into each of its forms
Use items to evolve Pokémon 15 times
Make 3 excellent throws
Use 200 berries to help catch Pokémon
Only the Eevee evolution task is going to take some effort really. And part of that is because the basic evolves are random chance. (The naming trick only works on your first evolve, which I did years ago.) I had been saving up some Eevees for this, and then got seven Jolteons in a row. Time to catch some more Eevees.
In the end though, the exp will be the final gate for most levels. The level gradient looks like this:
levels 1-39 – 15 million exp
level 40 – 5 million exp
level 41 – 6 million exp
level 42 – 7.5 million exp
level 43 – 9 million exp
level 44 – 11 million exp
level 45 – 13 million exp
level 46 – 15 million exp
level 47 – 18 million exp
level 48 – 21 million exp
level 49 – 25 million exp
level 50 – 30 million exp
There are ways to speed up gaining exp. My biggest score was when I used a lucky egg, which doubles all exp earned, then had somebody transition to a best friend, another to ultra friend, finished my weekly pokestop spin and pokemon catch, did two five star raids with our group, and had some evolves along the way. That was worth about 350K right there, though that was the stars aligning just right as the best friend was somebody in our raid group, so we were able to coordinate. Otherwise, a good day gets us a raid and the usual catch and stuff, often rings up less that 20K exp and there are a lot of days where it isn’t even 5K.
As for the tasks, looking at the list posted over at Polygon, only the tasks for levels 49 and 50 seem like they are big enough to be a significant barrier to level. And, even then, the exp curve for those are so big that you will likely have plenty of time to work them out.
But we’re still just working on level 42, which for the most part means working on exp and catching every Eevee that shows up.
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.
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.
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.
WoW Classic – 33.33%
EVE Online – 32.69%
World of Warcraft – 14.02%
EverQuest II – 6.03%
Minecraft – 5.25%
EverQuest – 2.16%
RimWorld – 2.08%
Diablo II – 2.02%
Pokemon Sword – 1.24%
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.