Category Archives: Shroud of the Avatar

Looking Back at 2019 Highs and Lows

What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Here we are again, sitting at the end of another calendar year.  And not just that, but at the end of a decade as well, if we’re going to collect our arbitrary eras of time.  Reality doesn’t care about the calendar, but humans like to put things in nice neat boxes.

As has become the routine every year, I spend a bit of time writing out some of the highs and lows of the year.  This is not at all an inclusive or an exhaustive list of things good and ill that came to pass in 2019.  I inevitably look back at these posts and come up with a dozen more things I could have listed.  Rather, this is more of a stream of consciousness vomit of words into the text editor.  As such, don’t expect to find any links to whatever I bring up.  But you can ask in the comments I suppose.

The only links you get are back to past iterations of this post from previous years.

I think the major change this year is that I decided each bullet point needed to be a complete sentence with punctuation.  That probably means they aren’t really bullet points, but I don’t care.

One thing I will note is that going through some of the older posts… and I now have a full decade streak running from 2010 through 2019… is how much my focus has narrowed.  My ability to care about a wide range of games and genres and technologies has decreased noticeably as the years have dragged on.  I suspect that this is a function of age as much as anything else.  But this means that, over time, the list of categories has decreased and the number of titles I feel inclined to mention has grown smaller.  Still, I will go on about some of the expected standards from the blog.

Blizzard

Highs

  • The Warcraft 25th anniversary and WoW 15th anniversary were highlights.
  • Rise of Azshara update finally gave us the flying unlock for Battle for Azeroth.  That was enough to get a few people back.
  • WoW Classic comes alive and succeeds beyond at least Blizzard’s expectations, picking up the slack for the faltering Battle for Azeroth expansion.
  • Personally WoW Classic was an excellent return to a simpler time in Azeroth.
  • A working version of Diablo in conjunction with GoG.com!
  • Diablo IV announced!
  • Overwatch 2 announced!  It will have a PvE story campaign and will overlap functionality with Overwatch.
  • The next WoW expansion, Shadowlands was announced.
  • More decks and a new game mode for Hearthstone.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged closer to release, and it looks really good.
  • StarCraft Cartooned was pretty funny.  Worth my $10.
  • The promise of more devs for WoW and WoW Classic.

Lows

  • 2019 was a strong reminder that Blizzard is just a company and not a special magic factory or your best friend or an organization that cares a single whit about you.  Blizz is just EA dialed back to maybe 8.  That doesn’t mean you should be mean to people who work there (please don’t be that person), just that you should set your expectations accordingly.
  • The Blitzchung Hong Kong fiasco put a shadow over the whole company right before BlizzCon.
  • Blizzard’s sanctions against Blitzchung, their slow response, their corporate speak, and the lack of clarity as to what J. Allen Brack was actually apologizing for all worked against Blizz.  The only bright point for Blizz in all of this was probably that most of its customers didn’t give a shit.
  • Battle for Azeroth just wasn’t thrilling people.  This is a problem when you have a lot of people to please and you only push an expansion out every other year.
  • Took Blizz a while to get Darkmoon Faire trade skill quests working right with the BfA tradeskill revamp.  Another case of one hand not paying any mind to the other I bet.
  • Blizz wildly underestimated WoW Classic popularity, having to nearly triple the number of servers they started with, then doubling the capacity of the servers just to soak up all those wanting to play.
  • WoW Classic has some odd performance issues.  It is mostly crisp, but crossing zones always has a little hiccup and at times actions fall behind the UI and you’re left hanging while the game catches up.  Maybe that was in vanilla too and I’ve just forgotten.
  • WoW Classic population balance… lots of free character transfer offers, but not sure if they did the trick.
  • Then there was UKDillahs and their DDoS attack on WoW Classic.
  • WoW Classic can’t carry the load forever and there has been no indication that Blizz “gets” the whole nostalgia thing beyond a superficial level.
  • WoW Classic PvP servers once honor was introduced.
  • Paid character transfers for WoW Classic show up now that honor has made life miserable on some PvP realms.
  • The level squish plan coming with Shadowlands if rife with the possibility of problems.
  • Diablo IV is still a long, long way away.  We’ll be getting updates about it for a couple more BlizzCon cycles before it goes live.
  • No Diablo II remaster yet and the original Diablo II devs say it will never happen… though they throw shade at everything Blizz does with the franchise they created.
  • Is Overwatch 2 a dessert topping or a floor wax?  It is billed as a new game, looks like an expansion, and feels a lot like something that should have been part of the original.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged was supposed to launch in 2019.  Only made it to closed beta so far, and only for those who pre-ordered.  The launch should be in January.  We shall see.
  • StarCraft II?  Helloooo?
  • The usual amount of missed opportunities due to Blizzard being both slow and cautious and having grown to be even more lumbering due to its size.
  • Layoffs announced in the breath after celebrating their best financial performance ever.
  • Blizzard margins were way down mid-year, which is never a good look for a public company as Wall Street obsesses about margins.
  • Not a single new game out of the company in how many years now?

Daybreak

Highs

  • EverQuest turns 20!
  • Lots of good EverQuest news about the viability of the franchise.
  • EverQuest II turns 15!
  • Both Norrath games got a new expansion.  The future seems bright for fans.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II special rules servers have helped keep the Norrath franchise alive.
  • Managed to find time to play and enjoy both EverQuest and EverQuest II this year.
  • The EverQuest Show arrives dedicated to covering EverQuest, something I have long wished for.
  • DC Universe Online remains hardy, gets updates.
  • DC Universe Online even got a version on the Nintendo Switch!  No idea how it is doing there, but that they thought it was worth the effort says something.
  • Daybreak launched a new title, PlanetSide Arena!
  • Plans for a PlanetSide 3 announced!

Lows

  • Layoffs.
  • Signs of a possible company break up or sale, with new names being registered and new social media accounts.
  • Daybreak has four viable games: EverQuest, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and PlanetSide 2… and I won’t swear to that last one… the youngest of which is seven years old.
  • EverQuest franchise is a cow and Daybreak is content to milk it.  Same for DC Universe Online.
  • Exec Producer says there could be another EverQuest game someday under the right circumstances, which leads me to believe there won’t ever be a new EverQuest game so long as current Daybreak management are running the show.
  • EverQuest special rules servers tend to work best in one flavor despite different variations.
  • EverQuest II special rules servers do not have the same appeal as EverQuest flavors.
  • EverQuest II seems to be back in the performance issues zone.  When playing there are is a lot of hesitation and delay when using spells or combat skills.  This is more so in group play, like the dragon events, but I see it even in solo instances.
  • The EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin, is… odd.  That may not be bad.  There may be things going on here the industry ought to look at.  But for a company that brings out an expansion annually in order to cater to its core audience, rocking the boat like this is a risk.
  • The EverQuest Show went quiet after a few months.  I hope it isn’t gone for good.
  • No more Player Studio.  SOE/Daybreak were leaders with that, but had to fold up shop.
  • Sorry about that currency exploit which apparently inflated the hell out of the economy in DCUO.  Daybreak had to apply a “fix tax” that basically took everything above 25 billion from anybody’s account.
  • Z1 Battle Royale handed back to Daybreak when NantWorks couldn’t make it work.
  • H1Z1 neglected and mis-handled on the PS4, while the returning PC prodigal son… was also neglected and mis-handled.
  • PlanetSide Arena, a battle royale based on PlanetSide 2 strikes very few as new in any way.  Overwatch 2 has better claim to being new to my mind.
  • PlanetSide Arena failed to launch in February, re-targeted to “summer” to include PlayStation 4 version as well, after which Daybreak goes into its usual silent mode for six months.
  • PlanetSide Arena goes early access on PC only in September (technically just before the end of summer on the calendar) only to be roundly scorned by the dwindling PlanetSide 2 community.  Steam numbers quickly go so low that the game is clearly not viable.
  • PlanetSide Arena gets shut down… would writing just PlanetSide Arena have been enough?
  • Plans to revitalize PlanetSide 2 appear to be to based on… something vague they can’t tell us about.  That generally means they don’t know.  We’ll find out in 2020.
  • PlanetSide 3 plans were to build off of PlanetSide Arena… which is now kaput.  So what happens now?
  • PlanetSide and H1Z1 franchises prove that being a cow and getting milked is still better than some other options.
  • Does Jason Epstein still own this mess?

CCP

Highs

  • Triglavian ships for everybody!
  • Triglavian invasions for most everybody!
  • Skill points for everybody!
  • Really a lot of good, solid, quality of life fixes in the game.  They may be small, but they matter.
  • Moratorium on devs playing EVE Online openly has been lifted after more than a decade.
  • CCP working on the ISK faucet problem seriously, and actually having an impact.
  • War Dec changes finally putting some sort of cap on that scourge of high sec.
  • Some progress on Upwell structure issues like time zone tanking and low powered structure spam.
  • Still some wars in null sec, with TEST and Fraternity battling and the Imperium going north to drive PanFam out of Tribute.
  • CCP said to have gotten lots of good, actionable data from summer experiments.
  • EVE Fanfest World Tour brought official EVE Online events to many people.
  • EVE Vegas and the Permaband performance were excellent.
  • EVE media seems pretty strong on the streaming front.  Lots of streamers and streaming shows covering New Eden.
  • Team Talos created to tackle what are essentially balance issues!
  • Katia Sai making it to all the systems in New Eden without losing a ship and getting wide recognition for the feat, including a monument in game and a Guinness Records achievement.
  • A whole range of new and colorful ships SKINs arrived as the year closed out.
  • EVE Aether Wars tech demo promised better tech infrastructure for online games of the future.
  • Finally progressing towards another live product with EVE Echoes.

Lows

  • CCP bans CSM member Brisc Rubal for cheating… and then does their investigation only to end up reinstating him and apologizing.  The phrase “measure twice, cut once” springs to mind.
  • The CSM remains a bastion of null sec for the same old reasons.  But an elected CSM will always be as such.
  • CCP gets lots of new players, then loses almost all of them in the first week.  Half of people who register don’t end up even logging in.
  • There comes a point where “give away more skill points” might not be the right answer.
  • What Alliance Tournament?
  • Entosis mechanics remain a barrier to sov warfare in null sec.  We shoot structures to fight and only take space when one side decides to pack up and leave.
  • Capital meta still oppresses subcap game play in null sec.  Form battleships and you get supers dropped on you.
  • The “summer experiments,” Hurricane Hilmar and the Chaos, era kills off a lot of null sec and economic activity.  Velocity of PLEX plummets.
  • Imperium campaign in Tribute was brought up short by the completely unfun and unrewarding Drifter attacks.  Player war killed by dubious event.
  • Their own analysis showed that the blackout hit the poor hard and was barely noticed by the rich.  Just like real world economics!
  • HyperNet Relay – Gambling returns to New Eden.  But CCP and the CSM seem quite enthusiastic about a mechanism where almost everybody involved loses their money.
  • Cyno changes meant an end to solo capital play unless you had the budget to pay half a billion for every cyno.
  • No more EVE Vegas.  Its not that I don’t like San Diego.  It is a nice place.  My sister lives there.  But if you’re going to to keep it in the western US, LA is the clear winner (Disneyland for the family) and Seattle is the place different enough to be a runner up.
  • CCP Guard and CCP Falcon, two staples of the community team, left CCP.
  • Written media about EVE Online continues its decline.  Crossing Zebras closed down, New Eden Register faded, EVE News 24 pretty much just reposts dev blogs and press releases, and even INN has become sporadic in its coverage of New Eden.  Streams and videos are great, but I miss the search and index functionality that comes with the written word.  But then blogs are pretty fringe now as well.  The cool kids don’t write.
  • There was a long, dry spell of almost no new ship SKINs for much of the year.
  • EVE Aether Wars is tech that will never make it into EVE Online at this point and the record attempts as part of the tests fell so far short of goals as to be embarrassing after three tries.
  • That Starter Pack deal that gave anybody who bought it a one time million skill point boost for $10 is still there, still available for anybody to buy.  I guess CCP decided they could weather out our 15 minutes of outrage… and it looks like they were right.
  • CCP’s plans for EVE Online are all tactical, which isn’t all bad, since the game needs that, but there is no long term vision of aspirational feature on the horizon.
  • Seriously, when CCP Seagull mentioned player made star gates way back when, was anybody thinking “oh, that will just be the replacement for jump bridges?”  Because I sure thought it meant something more expansive.
  • That chart from Hilmar that seemed to say that the goal of the new player path culminated in anxiety and boredom.  It is in the CSM minutes and it betrays some blurry thinking.
  • Still a lot of goofy, old, out of date, need revision mechanics in the game.
  • Perhaps the first year where I did feel like EVE Online was dying.
  • I am not a fan of EVE Echoes.  It is too complicated to be a mobile game yet too simplified to be EVE Online for me.

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • LOTRO got another expansion with Minas Morgul!
  • LOTRO Legendary server carries on with progression.
  • SSG says they have many years of additional content they could add to LOTRO.
  • An admission that the awful legendary weapons system might need some work.
  • DDO got… some things.  I seem to remember that.

Lows

  • The Minas Morgul expansion is hidden behind the Mordor expansion, which stopped me cold.
  • I honestly think the claims about future content are hubris in the extreme.  Content sells, but the ring was destroyed in the last expansion.  How many “we’re still cleaning up Middle-earth” expansions can they get away with?  Unless they’re going to go the time travel route.  Please no.
  • SSG attempting to cash shop their way out of the awful legendary weapon system that has been a menace following the game since Mines of Moria, like a tedious and time consuming Gollum.  Don’t like legendary weapons?  Just give us $50 and to unlock everything.
  • As I have said before, the company depends on milking their two titles for their ongoing survival.  Any serious misstep could derail the whole thing.
  • Still not clear who owns the company and what the real connection is with Daybreak and whether or not that connection should worry us given the tenuous nature of Daybreak’s future.

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD carries on, has added a new class to the options.  Not bad for a 26 year old game.
  • The Minecraft Village & Pillage update was pretty big, with a lot of great additions to the game.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order, in which it seems like EA somehow managed to make a decent Star Wars game that wasn’t laden with microtransactions, loot boxes, or other heinous cash grabs.  It is like they know what they’re doing wrong, but do it anyway.
  • Google Stadia promised a whole lot of stuff.
  • Auto Battler/Auto Chess gave us a new game mode that was some fun, leading to Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords.
  • The Switch gets a real Pokemon core RPG title in Pokemon Sword & Shield and it sells like crazy, proving once again the strength of the franchise.
  • The Epic Game Store gave Steam some competition, which it really needs.
  • Steam still carried on, even managing to get EA and Microsoft to put their games on the Steam store again.
  • Microsoft launched Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Steam.
  • Niantic has kept Pokemon Go lively by unlocking new Pokemon and adding new features.
  • Niantic even let me change teams in Pokemon Go. It cost a thousand coins, but was worth it.
  • Yathzee Crowshaw’s Dev Diary series on YouTube where he is making 12 Games in 12 Months has been great so far.  Learn about the primary game play loop!

Lows

  • The loss of Brad McQuaid.
  • Shroud of the Avatar getting handed off to an unknown company was a new low point for the game.
  • Not sure the downsides of Google Stadia… like having to buy any game you want to play there again if you already own it… will make the upsides worth it, even if Google manages to fulfill its promises.
  • I don’t even care about Fallout 76 and it annoys me.  Stop being bad!
  • The Epic Game Store lost many fans when it paid devs to sign exclusives that required them to pull already existing pre-order from Steam.
  • Most people are just going to stick to Steam no matter what.
  • Steam sales, summer, winter, and in between, just don’t have the power they once did.  I’ve been saying that for years now, but sales continue to have less impact on me and sale prices are the not-so-new normal at this point.
  • Great moment during the summer sale when Steam managed to get lots of people to purge their wishlists due to being unclear how you might win a game from it.  Lots of dev panic as they saw their games getting dropped and then Valve trying to explain their mistake.
  • Steam continues to have to revise their policy of allowing any game.  They approved a game called Rape Day, then removed it after outrage.  More recently they deleted a whole range of crap… which should be a high, but that they still won’t admit they should have standards makes this a low.
  • Unless you have a current machine, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition might not run very well on your system.  Also, do I want to buy that game for the third time? (Original, HD, and now DI versions.)
  • The last few levels before 40 in Pokemon Go are a drag with little in the way of rewards.  Also, any event that requires me to make multiple excellent curve ball throws is taxing to my patience.  Also also… damned Sinnoh stones.
  • Cryptic killed their player studio stuff in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter.  User created content is apparently more trouble than it is worth.
  • ArenaNet layoffs and the departure of people like Mike O’Brien cannot mean good new long term for Guild Wars 2 fans.
  • Fallen Earth went dark, but plans to come back.  We shall see.
  • Industry cannot stop making lockboxes seem bad, while trying to explain them away as “surprise mechanics” just makes them look like liars.  This is how you get your industry regulated.
  • GameStop is as good as dead now.  You may not love GameStop, but it being there and able to sell me some obscure bit of console hardware no longer made by the OEM was handy at times.
  • More local to me, electronics chain Fry’s, once the Silicon Valley go-to place for nearly everything nerd, looks to be on its death bed as well.
  • Along with the used market, digital is also killing off the rental market.  Redbox said nuts to that and shut theirs down.  GameFly probably won’t be long for this world.
  • Writing this section proves more so every year that I rarely play anything new.  I like my old games.
  • I’m not even good at keeping up with MMOs anymore.  I am not sure I could string together three relevant sentences about games like ESO, FFXIV, SWTOR, or any of the other still viable, still chugging along staples of the genre.

 

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Watched some good shows like The Boys, Succession, The Madalorian, Watchmen, Umbrella Academy, and Russian Doll along with new seasons of The Expanse, Rick & Morty, The Good Place, and The Crown.
  • Baby Yoda deserves a special mention.
  • Good movies as well, like The Irishman, Detective Pikachu, The Dead Don’t Die, Toy Story 4, Dowton Abby, Ford v Ferrari, and Jojo Rabbit.  I was happy with all of those.
  • Working towards cord cutting with a Roku Streaming Stick and services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.
  • On YouTube Honest Trailers, How it Should Have Ended, and a few other channels continue to deliver joy for me.
  • Despite complaints, I find Twitter to be a good source of news and humor.  It has remained the best social media option for me, though I am also very selective as to whom I follow.
  • For all the cries that “Facebook kills democracy” and the like, I’ve yet to see anybody I know post or comment on something politically where I couldn’t have guessed where they stood in advance.  Nobody is swayed by retweeting memes or political ads as everybody makes up their mind first then cherry picks facts to support their point of view.  Facebook just made this more obvious.

Lows

  • No real “great” movies or TV shows however.  That might just be me, but nothing this year made me want to go back and watch it again.
  • Not feeling it for the final season of BoJack Horseman.  They seem to be setting him up for a huge fall just to make sure the series is done.
  • The main high point of Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker is that at least we’re done with that for a while.  I’ll stack rank the series again at some point, but don’t expect episode IX to be near the top.  It mostly felt like wasted potential.
  • Profusion of new specialty video streaming services.  I am tapped out after having to get Disney+ because my wife said we needed Baby Yoda.
  • Cannot really cord cut because the cable company remains the only high speed internet option in my neighborhood and 100 MBit internet alone costs more than 100 MBit plus basic cable.
  • Also cannot cord cut because Hulu “live TV” is over a minute delayed for live sports, and my wife texts her friends about hockey and cannot stand to hear about goals or penalties that haven’t hit our TV yest.
  • Not enough time/energy to go see a lot of movies in the theater, and and many are getting hidden away on some streaming service I won’t be subscribing to.  I didn’t see Avengers: End Game until we got Disney+.
  • Love binge watching shows, but getting all the episodes at once just means waiting longer until the next season becomes available.  But I won’t stop.
  • That drip feed of weekly episode releases is tough to deal with now… but it does keep everybody on the same page and builds up a sense of fan engagement for some shows.  Just stop being in such a hurry to live post all the spoilers as the episode airs.  Some of watch the next day.
  • Horrible Sonic the Hedgehog render for movie gets huge fan backlash, forcing studio to rework the model, leading to the company doing that work getting fired for not going into constant crunch mode to do the fix.
  • Twitter redoing its web interface was an abomination.  I was very happy when a browser plugin showed up to return it to its old format.  But I freak out a bit every time I see the new UI on somebody’s machine.
  • People on Twitter are still horrible.  There needs to be some sort of reminder that the person you’re trashing is a real human being and maybe some sort of five minute delay on posting with a Win10 level “are you sure you want to post that?” and “really, last warning, do you really want to say this publicly and have it recorded for all posterity?” before a tweet goes live.
  • The lack of a typo edit feature in Twitter is just killing me.
  • Facebook is still annoying to look at even if it isn’t killing democracy.
  • The demise of MAD Magazine, staple of my adolescence.  There was much there that made me the cynic I am today.
  • Elementary wrapped up in a semi-satisfying way I guess with a half season finale.  But the previous season felt like they were struggling for a thread, so maybe it ran too long.
  • The end of Game of Thrones… as lots of people have noted… felt rushed and rather half-assed.
  • Also, generally speaking, in a world of LED TVs please stop doing so many scenes of people in black, with dark gear, in unlit rooms, on dark moonless nights.  If you create video that is pretty much unviewable on default settings you suck.
  • Google+ went away, though admittedly few were using it… much fewer than were still using Google Reader when they killed that.

The Blog, Blogging, and things more Personal

Highs

  • The blog carried on for another year.  That makes 13 years in total.
  • Still managed to crank out a prestigious amount of posts and words.
  • Blaugust had a reasonable turnout this year, and the Discord channel for it remained active after it ended. (Unlike last year, when there were like three of us still there afterwards.)
  • MMO Fallout announced it was shutting down… then opened back up to keep covering neglected bits of the MMO market niche.
  • The old instance group back together again in WoW Classic!
  • We got a new oven and I am surprised at how much of a difference it made.  Consistent, even, accurate heat means the directions on the box for most everything I cook are correct.  My wife, who actually cooks real food, likes it too.
  • My wife and I have successfully raised child to legal adult age.  Said child has already been accepted to several universities.  Op success!

Lows

  • Do people still read blogs?  Blog traffic continues to drop off.
  • I remind myself that quantity does not equal quality.
  • More worrying, my own desire to write yet another post about something I’ve probably covered previously feels like it is slipping.
  • The instance group is all older and less able to stay up past our bed times.  Earl being in Japan also makes group times a bit odd.
  • Having adult offspring doesn’t make you feel any younger.  Oh, and now to pay for that university education without incurring crippling debt for anybody.  Welcome to America.
  • What are we going to do when the child, the center of our existence for almost 20 years if you count getting everything ready, leaves the nest for college?  I kind of envy my parents for having kids so young.  When I left home my dad was the same age I was when my daughter was born.  Then again, my parents being young meant that my main parenting lesson from them was “Don’t do what they did if I can avoid it.”
  • Also, everything else in Silicon Valley is so freaking expensive.  If I am able to retire some day, we will have to move in order to afford it.  I hear Idaho is… nice.
  • In a complex world our simian brains fixate on simple answers, often “burn it down and rebuild it from scratch” without any care for the impact.  Humans are dumb when they generalize, freeze up when they get all the details, and I don’t know how to fix that.  It is frustrating no serious public discussion of any issue seems possible.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t as bad as all that.  But I am sure next year will try to prove me wrong.  It is a leap year, which means not only is there another full day for the world to get into trouble, but there is also another summer Olympics to get through.  And there is a presidential election too.  But I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Reviewing My Game Time for 2018

Returning to the round up of 2018.

Most years I have something of a forward looking post in which I try to pick and/or guess at what games I might play in the coming year.  It remains a good reason why I don’t do monthly gaming goal posts or the like.  My ability to forecast my gaming mood is pretty iffy.

Well, sort of.

If I simply said I was going to play the same old stuff as last year and the year before, I would be pretty spot on.

Instead, these posts are also a way to try and convince myself to go play something new.  Sometimes the fact that I played nothing from the list isn’t my fault.  Look at the history:

There were years when almost nothing I was looking into shipped.

Given the fact that new titles of interest are pretty sparse, my 2018 list, posted back at the beginning of January, was focused on older titles I had not played.  I put together a list of “classic” MMOs that I had not played, listed out the pros and cons of each, and figured I should go back and give one a try.  The list was:

  1. RuneScape
  2. Ultima Online
  3. Dark Age of Camelot
  4. Anarchy Online
  5. Silkroad Online
  6. Maple Story
  7. Entopia Universe
  8. A Tale in the Desert

And, to give myself some minimal credit this year, I did in fact go and play Anarchy Online for a few hours.  I have the screen shots to prove it.  But I didn’t spend much time with it and I didn’t make any attempt to play anything else on the list.

In think the big lesson from that was that nostalgia is necessarily transferable.  I’m okay going back and playing EverQuest now and again and dealing with all the archaic aspects of it, but only because I was there when that was the state of the art.  Anarchy Online just felt old and awkward without any redeeming happy memories.

So what did I play in 2018?  Well, I have a handy chart for that!  Belghast does a chart like this, and I have copied him before and am back at it again.

2018 MMO Play Chart

EVE Online was the staple of my MMO year.  I’m not as invested in it as I once was, but I enjoy watching it and talking about it still and I am good for a few fleet ops a month.

Pokemon Go is sort of an MMO, and getting more like one as time goes along.  It is also the one game my wife and I play together, and it doesn’t take much time out of your day to keep up.  It probably helps that my work campus has six Pokestops and a gym.

World of Warcraft ebbed and flowed.  I was finishing up Legion early in the year, unlocking flying and all that.  Then there was a break before I came back in the warm up to Battle for Azeroth.  I still have things to do there, but have wandered off yet again.

Minecraft, despite our world being very quiet of late, still got some attention from me, usually around big public works projects.

I spent some time with Rift Prime.  That was nice to go back to for a bit, though it also wore out on me after not too long.  But that’s okay, I only feel nostalgia for the base game.

EverQuest II came and went twice.  I did have a pretty good run with my berserker up to level 100, at which point the game went back to its coy mode of indicating where I ought to go next.

But EverQuest II crapping out was fine because the LOTRO Legendary server came along and, despite my skepticism, I was clearly into that.

I did take a serious run at Shroud of the Avatar.  It is an odd, awkward, seemingly deliberately archaic game.  I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did like it however.  As happens with these sorts of things, in the end my subconscious won’t let me log in and waste time playing something that I am not really enjoying.  At least not for very long.

Then there was the flash in the pan for both Anarchy Online and Black Desert Online.  I played both for about the same duration and then walked away.

So that gets me through MMOs.  But I did play some other games over the course of the year.  I mean, look at that big empty space in June.  I was surely playing something else.

Steam can tell me what I was doing.  According to it I spent time playing the following this year:

  1. Civilization V
  2. Vietnam 65
  3. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
  4. Bomber Crew
  5. Fallout 4
  6. Oxygen Not Included
  7. RimWorld
  8. Stellaris
  9. Sudden Strike 4
  10. Hearts of Iron IV
  11. Train Simulator 2018

Some of those I have written about, like Vietnam 65.  Some are games I just return to over and over, like Civilization V and Age of Empires II.  There are a couple I should write about, including Oxygen Not Included and Bomber Crew.  Then there are the usual tales of buying things after 8pm on Steam because they were on sale despite the fact I could guess these games were not for me.  Fallout 4, Sudden Strike 4, and Hearts of Iron IV all got me to fall into that trap.

Lesson there, don’t buy anything with the number “4” in the title.

And finally there is Train Simulator 2018.  There is a post about that coming.  Basically I said I would do something with it if the right circumstances arose… and they did.  So I felt compelled to live up to that past statement.

That is where I spent the bulk of my gaming time in 2018.  I think for 2019 my forward looking statement will probably be simply more of the same.  We shall see.  It isn’t January yet.  I often come out of the holiday season rested and optimistic.

April in Review

The Site

April first is the one day of the year that Google remembers I have a blog and sends me traffic in numbers reminiscent of the “good old days” of blogging, before the likes of Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit hove into view.  So my page views tend to spike a bit.

Who doesn’t love April Fools?

I get a bit of a compound boost from this as well.  Since I have covered Blizzard at April Fools regularly for a while now, I include a list of past posts which, unlike almost every other such list or link in any other article I put up, people actually click on these.  So my Top Posts list gets a bit skewed towards April Fools early in the month as well.

What you get at the start of every April

That reflects itself again in this post down the page in the most viewed posts section.  Rare is the item that can break into the dirty dozen every April, but a couple of posts made it.

Of course it is all downhill from here for the rest of the year on the page view front.

One Year Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Years Ago

I was remembering the SEGA Genesis and NBA Jams

Our Wii seemed to be collecting dust and destined for retirement.  Maybe one more round of Wii Bowling?

On the iPad I was fiddling around with Vinylize Me.

The Camelot Unchained Kickstarter had kicked off with a steep $2 million goal.  With only three days left to go the campaign was $400K short.  Not sure if Mark Jacobs’ dire vision of the future of F2P helped or hurt.

Meanwhile, Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar wrapped up its Kickstarter campaign over the $2 million mark, having doubled its $1 million initial goal.

LOTRO turned 6 years old and I was wondering what lay it its future.

World of Tanks hit 2 years and I was pondering tank crew skills and finally driving the KV-4 along with some other new tanks.

Age of Empires II – HD Edition launched on Steam.

I took another run at Need for Speed: World, which had added achievements.

In Rift, I was wondering why the Storm Legion expansion just wasn’t grabbing me.  I tried to press on.  Meanwhile, the instance group spent evenings one person short trying to find something to do.

The Burn Jita 2 event kicked off.  People didn’t seem to be paying much attention to it before it started, but it got extended and ended up bagging 573 billion ISK worth of ships.

CCP launched its EVE Online timeline as part of its prep for the 10th anniversary of the game.  They’ve since thrown all of that away.  But the Dev Blog about it is still there.

I also had items from the mail bag about Darkfall: Unholy Wars, MegaWars IV, and World of Tanks Blitz.

And it was kind of a quiet April Fools at Blizzard.

Ten Years Ago

I made up something for April Fool’s Day, SOE’s Graphite Realms!  I thought it was amusing.

Homstar Runner was getting a game on the Wii.

Lord of the Rings Online celebrated a year of being live.  Book 13 introduced, among other things, fishing.  And my video problems with the game proved to be a bad video card, so I was actually able to get into the game.

Computer Gaming World/Games For Windows magazine ceased publishing as part of the ongoing demise of print media.

In EVE Online I made the big move from Caldari to Amarr space.  I also began producing Badger transports for fun and profit.  CCP introduced the whole Council of Stellar Management thing, which I dubbed The Galactic Student Council.  My opinion on it hasn’t changed much since.

I also managed to get my hauling rigged Mammoth blown up in low sec space, which got me thinking at the recent profusion of those new heavy interdictors.

Meanwhile in World of Warcraft one million people in China logged into the game at the same time.  There is still no report on what would happen if they all pressed the space bar at the same time.  While that was going on, the instance group finished up the Slave Pens and the Underbog and began the long struggle with the Mana Tombs.

I was looking around for Tetris on the Nintendo DS.  You would think that would be easy, right?

And then it was Tipa’s turn to bang the EverQuest nostalgia drum, so I joined in yet again.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2018 is Mostly Just World of Warcraft
  2. April Fools at Blizzard 2017 – Not Much to Talk About
  3. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  4. WoW Dance Battle System!
  5. April Fools at Blizzard – 2016
  6. April Fools at Blizzard – 2015
  7. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  8. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  9. April Fools at Blizzard – 2010
  10. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  11. Into the Abyss and Our Triglavian Future
  12. April Fools at Blizzard – 2014

Search Terms of the Month

do people still play everquest in 2018?
[You would be surprised]

palkia and dialga memes
[probably a thing]

daybreak games news april 24 2018
[According to Daybreak, there was no news that day]

“columbus nova” “daybreak”
[That’s not news!]

game with large armored “white tiger” creature
[Rift maybe?]

EVE Online

I watch some of EVE Fanfest live, and more of it as videos recorded while I was still sleeping.  Some big news out of Iceland this year.  But we’re in the gap between hopes and reality now.

In the game the deployment in the north carried on.  With Pandemic Horde gone the Guardians of the Galaxy coalition in Fade, Pure Blind, and Deklein seemed to struggle with how to face an every growing guerilla war brewing in their space.  Some interesting defections occurred when they decided to just not fight us.  Now there is talk of GotG hiring mercenaries to fight us.  Stay tuned.

Basically, EVE Online ate up most of my gaming time this month.  I even tried out the abyssal pocket content on the test server just to see what that was about.

Minecraft

I have been pottering around in Minecraft.  It remains a good game to play when you want to do something while listening to an audio book or serious podcast.  I completed the long rail line to from the northern mansion and have just been tinkering around with other projects I’ve left around.  I need to do a couple of posts about our server.

Pokemon Go

I remain at level 32, but I have been doing some of the research tasks.  As I noted earlier in the month, those are a nice bit of structure to keep people playing.  I have ended up collecting a bunch of new Pokemon along the way.

My current state of affairs:

  • Level: 32 (+0)
  • Pokedex status: 312 (+18) caught, 342 (+7) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Lapras, but it remains elusive
  • Current buddy: Grovyle

Rift

I kept on with Rift Prime this month, but did not spend as much time there as I planned.  EVE Online, as noted above, ate up most of my gaming time.  Still, I plan to carry on for another month at least, so I will go use some of my Rift funny money to buy another 30 Day ticket.

Shroud of the Avatar

After a weekend of focusing on this I haven’t really been back.  Like I said, space battles called.  I do want to continue with it some, or so I tell myself, but since it isn’t a subscription it sort of falls back in the queue most nights.  Even Minecraft has a monthly server hosting fee.

World of Warcraft

I petered out on Azeroth for the most part last month, so I let my subscription lapse in April, and that was that.  I did get an invite to the Battle for Azeroth beta, but like the alpha, I have no real interest in spoiling the content before it goes live.  I will be back when the pre-expansion events start to hit.

Coming Up

We’ll all be watching Daybreak in May to see what else might bubble up now that they’ve stirred the pot enough to get everybody staring at them.  We’re all waiting on the current rumor that Daybreak owns Standing Stone Games via Jason Epstein’s cat or some such.

On the internet spaceships front it will be a big month for EVE Online.  The list of items include:

  • 15 year anniversary events and player gifts
  • Operation: Conscious Interruption event
  • The Into the Abyss expansion
  • The death of the the old API and the 3rd party app holocaust
  • The run to grab null sec stations before they become faction citadels
  • CSM elections, or at least a date for them

And then there is the ongoing deployment in the north to keep GotG from being able to do their day to day ratting and mining.  They are hiring Black Legion to fight us and there is a rumor that MOA is going to pull back from Fade and Pure Blind altogether, though not until the June 5th null sec station conversion, so we’ll see how that plays out.

There is a huge update for Minecraft in the offing that will introduce a lot of new sea life.  I’d be happy to see that in May.

The Spring Season of Fantasy Movie League will wrap up this month, and the season ending on the Memorial Day weekend holiday and the launch of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Other than that, carrying on with whatever else it is I play these days.

Shroud of the Avatar – Retroist Hobbyism or Something

Steam says I have spent about eight hours playing around with Shroud of the Avatar at this point, which both feels like a lot and no time at all.

I backed the game as part of the Kickstarter five years back and, aside from a quick peek in when it first became available in a very raw form for backers to check out, I have avoided touching it since.  I felt I should wait until it was “done,” for whatever definition of the word I happened to think might fit.  As is often noted in our circles, when is an MMORPG ever done?

Of course, it might be the time to ask whether or not this really is an MMORPG.  There is certainly an online shared world version of the game where you regularly bump into other players.

Play online… or offline

But there is also an offline version.  The world can be yours alone.  The implication is certainly that you don’t need other players.  I think.  Maybe.  We shall see I suppose.

With the game having gone live I jumped into the online version because… MMORPGS!!!1!  Shared world!  Playing alone together!  And whatever else you find in other players in the genre.

Of course, you still start alone.  The character creation process is… interactive?  You start as something of a ghost and go down the line of the intro zone to develop your character.

Landing in the game

You follow the path to the point where you give physical appearance to your character… or avatar I suppose.  Everybody calls you the avatar.

Steam punk avatar?

The options for characters… seem a bit rough.  Still, you’re only going to be looking at the back of your own head most of the time, so I guess you might as well create a visage to scare the wee ones.

After that you make your way to the steam powered Oracle who asks you some questions to determine your path in the world.

Ask me your questions Oracle, I am not afraid!

There is a heavy emphasis on there being no wrong answers.  And it is true.  After you answer the questions the Oracle will suggest to you one of three paths; melee fighter, ranged fighter, or magic user.  The Oracle picked the first for me, but then hedged and said I could choose either of the other ones as well.  Whatever.  I chose to stick with the melee side of things.  I tend to favor that in any case.

After that you go jump into a portal and arrive in the world.  And you get stuck right into things almost immediately.  I landed in Highvale, got a couple of hints about how to go forward and a quest from a dying guy and was soon killing elves.  Elves are bad it seems.  Syp should like this aspect of the game.

Die elf scum!

Here is where I started having to get used to the way the game plays.  By default my movement was set to steer via the mouse, but only when holding down the right mouse button.  I guess I can imagine a scenario where somebody thought that was a good idea… FPS or Minecraft like movement, but you want to keep the cursor live by default because the user needs to click on things… but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have agreed had I been sitting in the room with whoever was pushing that mode.

Fortunately it is possible to map all your movement keys so that they work like WoW.

Movement controls I can use

Then there is combat.  You must unsheathe your weapon in order to go into your combat stance and be able to attack things.  Your weapon comes out, your combat skills, which might have wandered off somewhere, and you are able to click on things to start attacking them.  Auto-attack keeps your weapon swinging while you add in your special attacks to spice things up.

When you’re done fighting you need to sheath your weapon again to go do other things, like interact with NPCs.  Fortunately the game doesn’t let you attack vendors and such in town if you forget.  I remember the high comedy of accidentally hitting the A for auto-attack back in early EverQuest and getting the vendor and the local guards chasing me to the zone line in Qeynos.

Basically, if you’re coming from World of Warcraft or some other modern MMORPG (like Rift Prime maybe) this, and just about everything else about the game, is going to feel awkward.

If you are coming to Shroud of the Avatar thinking that this will be a patina of Ultima over World of Warcraft, you are in for a rude surprise.  I get the feeling that was part of what drove Syp away almost immediately.  This game is a rough, homespun version of an MMO, a seeming wilful turning away from the current design trends… or maybe just the design trends of the 21st century… and the attendant smoothness we have come to expect.

Even the world design hearken back to an earlier time.  This is no seamless world.  Rather, it is a series of zones connected via an overworld, Novia, where you appear as something of a giant compared to the possible destination.

I will crush your town!

This is something that was a thing back when I was playing the early games in the Ultima series, but I wasn’t expecting them to go back to it.  Then again, it does make adding and removing zones and player towns easy.  There is no need to make them fit into the overall world, you just have to put up an spot for them in Novia and you’re set.

As noted, I wasn’t expecting this, so the first time I ran out of the starting zone I ended up in a strange place with illegible script and wasn’t able to find my way back for a while.  The map wasn’t a lot of help, but eventually I found the spot.

Back to Highvale Outskirts

Once back in I found I was outside the main area and the gates were locked and I couldn’t get back inside, so I ran back out to Novia and went back in again because it gives you the option to go to the default starting spot for the zone.  I was able to find my way back from there.

And, beyond mere confusion, there are problems.   I have a couple of quests that I know I finished up, yet can’t seem to rid myself of.  Loading times for zones are very long.  Movement still feels stilted and awkward even when you have your movement keys set up.  Collision is hella annoying, as when you brush too close to another person or NPC you are slowed down in your pace dramatically, even when that person looks to be an arms length away.  And the game itself responds at its leisure, like it hasn’t quite woken up to the fact that it is no longer in sleepy early access.

Also it appears that you can only have one character in the online version of the game.  I went looking for a way to make another one, even if I had to buy my way in, but was out of luck.  I went there because I wanted to try the ranged attack start.  To do that I ended up going to the offline mode to play in my own little world.

This might be the way to play.  Or at least the way to learn.  Being in a shared world I feel, if illogically, a pressure to get a move on.  In my own little version of the world I was decidedly more relaxed.  I was able to dig into things a bit more.

Quests are something of a hybrid between the old and new.  You have to interact with NPCs to get them, and it runs through a dialog system akin to what you may remember from early EverQuest.  But it does keep track of quests for you, in its way, so you don’t have to keep a notepad to hand and remember which NPC told you what and when.

The NPC interactions are neat in their own way too.  You can ask for gossip, which every NPCs eschews before beginning to dish on what has been happening.  This often points you to where there is a quest.  You can also ask an NPC their name.  Before you do that, they might just appear as “Guard” or “Blacksmith,” but afterwards their name is displayed above them as well.

I wonder what happens to dead NPCs…

Skills are as they were back in the old days.  In order to get better you have to use them.  There is an experience system that keeps you from just hacking away at a practice dummy all day and night to max out skills.  For your special attacks you have to be there to click on them and they draw from a resource pool that slowly replenishes so you cannot click on them endlessly to skill up.

There are also trade skills and such.

Fishing! Of course there is fishing!

The trade skills have some depth of a sort.  You need worms to fish, for example, and you can’t just fish in the same spot over and over.  There are diminishing returns in that.

As an archer arrows are required.  You can’t just fire forever, you need ammo.  You can buy arrows from the vendor, but I decided to see about making them.  You have to chop wood for shafts, find feathers for flights, and iron to make arrow heads, each of which has its own gather and refining process before you can actually assemble arrows.

Things like darkness matter.  Zombies come out at night and it is tough to see anything without a light source.  You get a magical light spell you can cast, or you can go old school and hold a torch.

In the woods at night

However I can’t hold a torch and wield a bow, so magic it is.  And the world itself looks nice.

Sunset through the trees

All of which leaves me wondering who this game might be for… and what to even call such a game.  “MMO” is over-used to the point of meaningless, while “MMORPG” carries with it the weight of WoW and its clones as a baseline measurement.  But if it really isn’t one of those, or is a niche sub-category of them, what would it really be?

What is this game that is by turns awkward, finicky, intricate, deep, slow, and clearly a work in progress?  Where does it fit into the gaming world?  If somebody said I needed to pay $15 a month for it I would pass.  But the buy once, play forever model isn’t going to sustain it for very long, and the cash shop is always a dubious venture in my mind.  But then we know that games that live by the cash shop become about the cash shop in the end, and SotA has started building an extensive cash shop which, for some reason, is referenced as selling “Add Ons,” something that might again confuse those from WoW.  At least it isn’t in the game I suppose.

In a way this feels like the sort of game where you might rent a server ala Minecraft for you and some friends and play in your own world together.  Maybe some day.

Anyway, this is all an early first impression.  There are aspects of the game I like.  It is an interesting place to wander around and intricate in its way.  I seem to feel more compelled to explore it that Bhagpuss did.  I want to give it a chance because it feels like there is something here.  But I am not sure I will find myself feeling invested enough to pursue it in the long term.  It feels like a game that demands time and devotion… and patience… patience with it and its development team.  We shall see.

March in Review

The Site

Probably the most annoying thing for me has been the unreliability of the blog roll feed side bar widget.  It has been broken more often this past month than any previous time I can recall.  There are times when it just fails to get the RSS feed and shows an error, but this time around there were problems with Pinboard which had some internal issues that caused it to fail to generate the RSS feed at all and, then, when that was fixed, remained stubbornly resistant to tagging posts based on which Feedly feed they came from, which meant the RSS feeds were there but were not getting new items.

This is what I get for using a Rube Goldberg setup that requires at least four services to work correctly and consistently. (And it isn’t always clear which one is to blame.  Sometimes WP.com just times out getting the feed.)

It got to a point where I added a status widget to comment on what was up.  I don’t know if anybody actually noticed that.  The side bar of the blog isn’t a very often used feature.  I can see that some people click on items from the feed when it is working.  However, I suspect I am the biggest user of the feature. (My clicks don’t get counted in my own stats.)

Meanwhile, WP.com has given me a new metric so I am going to use it quarterly to give myself some new data point to post about.

TAGN – Q1 2018

Of course, because I took that screen shot for this post before it went live, this post isn’t counted.  Add one more post and another 2,300 words or so and you’ll be set. (That puts my average words per post back above 1,000.)  Or maybe I’ll update that screen shot after this goes live.  It takes a day for it to update though, and I’ll probably forget by then.

Anyway, I seem to be on track for 336 posts and 330K words this year.

One Year Ago

EverQuest turned eighteen.  Now an adult, it still lives in Daybreak’s basement and grumbles about how it used to be the center of attention before all these younger siblings showed up.

Blizzard officially announced that StarCraft, even older than EverQuest, was getting a remaster.  We suspected it was going to happen, but it was nice to get the official word.

Flying was unleashed in the Broken Isles with the Tomb of Sargeras update to WoW Legion.

The Nintendo Switch launched.  But I was still playing Pokemon Sun on my 3DS XL, binging on the Alola Pokedex.  Then I had to figure out where the National Pokedex was.  It turns out it is in Pokemon Bank.  I was hoping for a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl.

Disney shut down Club Penguin, hoping to force players onto their new mobile app, Club Penguin Island.  Mobile is always better, right?

In Minecraft, the long road to the forest mansion I found was nearly done.

In EVE Online I took a trip out to Oasa and back.

We got the YC119.3 update that nerfed Rorqual mining a bit and gave us warp bubble decay among other things.  Music was included.  A follow on patch let us see our estimated space wealth.

Blog Banter #80 was on the topic of the CSM, something about which I has opinions!  It was a timely topic as the voting for CSM12 was just kicking off.  In the mean time Gevlon declared that CCP was picking winners… though not CSM winners I guess.

We had a dev blog about refineries coming to New Eden.  Moon mining was going to change and it seemed like the end of the POS was coming at last.  There was also an announcement about changing PLEX, breaking it up into 500 pieces and replacing Aurum with PLEX.  But not that free Aurum they gave you, though they relented on that after some outcry.

I was nostalgic for old ship models in New Eden and talking about the tension between grouping and solo again.

And, finally, we had to say good-bye to our cat Oscar after 17 years.

Five Years Ago

Dave Georgeson of SOE said MMOs should never die. A noble sentiment at the time, it rang a bit hollow just a year and five SOE MMO closure announcements later.  Business is business.

I got a seven day pass to Azeroth from Blizzard.  It was nice.  I had some fun, but I wasn’t ready to go back full time yet.

Meanwhile, Blizzard was saying they were blindsided by the popularity of the auction house in Diablo III.  They were nearly a year late on that revelation.

On a similar theme, EA launched a new version of SimCity, pretty much ignoring the obvious expectations the franchise came with.  I could only wonder if they learned anything from their efforts.

The instance group was doing some Rift content as a four player group.  This was the time of our long hiatus, though we got a full group now and again.  And when it was just the three of us, we ended up playing Neverwinter Nights 2 instead.

In EVE Online we were chasing around Deklein, flying the Tech Fleet doctrine, and bagging a carrier or two.

EON Magazine was closing its doors, marking the end of an era in EVE Online.

EverQuest hit its 14 year anniversary, and there was some talk about the camera view’s influence on the game’s popularity.

I was still playing World of Tanks and had hit the 2,000 battle mark.  I was out there with the KV-3 and the ARL 44.

I finished up all the things in Wayfaerer Foothills, which sort of ended my time in Guild Wars 2.

Then there was the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign, which seemed more marketing tool than funding effort, and which hit its number in 11 days.  Still, Lord British felt the need to stir the pot by declaring most game designers suck… and are lazy… and are not as good as him.  Then he claimed he was taken out of context and not just saying things for cheap publicity.  As the month closed, his Kickstarter was wrapping up, but Camelot Unchained was coming.

It was announced that Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was getting updated to run on modern machines with better graphics.  That set me on five other older games that I wished would get a similar revamp, which I think was more useful than just declaring that game developers need to innovate.

Finally, I was looking for input on some actual, real world things.

Ten Years Ago

I was again ruminating about the whole “Why So Much Fantasy in MMORPGs?” thing, this time on the shores of chaos.

We started to see the end of the “Brent hand picks the news” era over at VirginWorlds.  The reign of myself and CrazyKinux was near to an end.

I got a Nintendo DS Lite and my own copy of Pokemon Diamond for my birthday!  Then a copy of Pokemon Pearl showed up as well to complete the set.  On Friday’s I was looking for a balloon.

EverQuest celebrated its 9th anniversary.  A very nice time line print of the game was posted over at the EQ Dev blog to celebrate, along with a video.

In Lord of the Rings Online some sites were speculating about future expansions.  And then Turbine announced The Mines of Moria Meanwhile, I was trying to give out some founder’s referrals.  I never gave them all out and, at this point, I don’t think they are a thing anymore.

In World of Warcraftpatch 2.4 was the latest end-of-the-world panic.  I was trying out Alterac Valley trying to get a mount, not reading that I needed to get exalted reputation to buy it.  I was also racing against a boat.  Meanwhile the instance group made it to Shattrath and then hit the Blood Furnace while my wife and her friends were drinking apple-tinis.

In EVE Online I learned that there was a cap of fifty days on production lines.  I was also trying to break up with an R&D agent and fitting out a new Drake.  We got a “log off” button with the Trinity 1.1 patch.

Official forums were the talk again for a bit, as Marc Jacobs said he wasn’t going to have them for Warhammer Online.  No, the Warhammer Herald (to be created in the image of the Camelot Herald) was going to be enough.  Well, we know how that worked out.

It was announced that SOE would be moved in the Sony organization from reporting up through Sony Pictures to reporting in through the PlayStation organization.  There was also the EQ2Flames drama where the forum was uninvited from all future participation in SOE events, at which point the site went all out to burn any remaining bridges with SOE. (From VirginWorlds Podcast #109)

And, finally, ten years ago Gary Gygax left us.  We still miss him because we still feel his influence every day.

Twenty Years Ago

StarCraft hit the shelves 20 years ago today.  As I recall we all went to Fry’s at lunch to buy a copy the day it came out.  You can buy a remastered copy from Blizzard if you want, or download the original for free.

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  2. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  3. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  4. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?
  7. Rift Prime Time
  8. The Road to CSM13
  9. SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite
  10. H1Z1 – Going Live in Time to be a Zombie
  11. Spring Movie League – Wrinkle in the Mix
  12. Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More

Search Terms of the Month

top subscription based mmo titles
[Pretty much WoW and FFXIV at this point]

bufn jita
[bufn it good]

portable hole wallpaper
[I have a problem visualizing that]

everquest next landmark emulator
[Oh dear no]

delta force 2 fps
[Maybe you need to upgrade your hardware?]

project gorgon meme
[I am not sure it is popular enough for that]

EVE Online

I was in for some of Burn Jita early in the month and went on ops when I could, however it has been a busy month around our house and the time slot for normal ops, which often require setting aside a couple of hours even for a “quick” op, has kept me from being online much during the back half of March.  Other than that there has been the somewhat tepid start of the run up to the CSM13 election.  I’m not sure CCP thought through the results of the changes they implemented.  It feels like they slowed everything down too much.  You can’t really cover a campaign very well until there is an official list of candidates.

Minecraft

I have logged in a bit now and again.  Minecraft remains excellent for times when I want to listen to a podcast or audio book that requires more mental attention that your typical MMORPG leaves free.  Mining and building in Minecraft leaves enough bandwidth for me to listen to Planet Money or the Arms Control Wonk podcast and not loose track of what is going on.  So work on the long overland rail line to the norther forest mansion continued.  In fact, it is almost done.

Pokemon Go

And, speaking of games that don’t take a lot of mental bandwidth, I managed to get to level 32 in Pokemon Go largely through my persistence in playing for at least enough every day to catch at least one Pokemon and visit at least one Pokestop, giving me the daily and weekly bonus xp.

My current state of affairs:

  • Level: 32 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 294 (+10) caught, 335 (+12) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Lapras, but it remains elusive
  • Current buddy: Pupitar; needs four candies to evolve, but I only get one every 5km

Rift

With Rift Prime I was back into “not Azeroth” again.  And it has been pretty good.  It wasn’t the overwhelming nostalgia wave that hanging around in front of Qeynos killing snakes and kobolds with a mass of other people can bring on… though it is really in Blackburrow or West Karana that I start hitting nostalgia overload… but it was, and remains, good.  As I have said way too many times, the zone Freemarch zone design is very good.

Of course, there have been problems with the server.  And Freemarch is like the Deadmines in WoW, and early slice of good design after which the content can vary wildly in quality.  But for the moment I am on board with it for another month.

World of Warcraft

With the coming of Rift Prime and a busy month something had to give.  Play time in Azeroth was way down.  I did log in just enough to keep progress going on unlocking the last two allied races… I am very close on both… but otherwise I haven’t done much since Darkmoon Faire.  The next Darkmoon Faire will likely seal the deal for my allied race unlocks, at which point it might be time to set WoW aside to wait for the coming Battle for Azeroth pre-expansion events to kick off at some point this summer.

Other Games

I did load up Shroud of the Avatar now that it has officially released, and have been giving it a bit of a test drive.  It is kind of interesting in sort of a built-from-scratch new-yet-retro awkward sort of way.

Coming Up

Tomorrow is April Fools… but it is also Easter.  Will Blizz be up to its usual hi-jinks over a holiday weekend?

We will see if the new quest mechanics in Pokemon Go lead to more play… and more pay… for the game.

For EVE Online Fanfest is coming up on the 12th.  We will see if CCP has anything new to announce.  One thing we should get is the candidate list for the CSM13 election.  And maybe a date for that as well?  Am I asking too much?

At some point in the coming week my 30 days of Patron status is going to expire and I will have to decide if I carry on with Rift Prime or not.

I’ve put in an hour or so into Shroud of the Avatar, but I feel like I could spend more time with it, that it would be worth the effort.  We’ll see if I find the time and inclination.

I might also finish up that rail line in Minecraft.

Shroud of the Avatar Goes… Whatever You Call It After a Long Early Access

When I saw the email from Potalarium… well, I saw it several times as I end up getting updates on three different email addresses… I was a bit taken aback at the message.  Shroud of the Avatar was on the eve of launching finally.

March 27 Launch – That is Today

I couldn’t remember if there had been some build up to this in the weekly email updates, which at this point I just skim for headlines then delete, or if this was a brand new twist.

Well, at least I moved Shroud of the Avatar to the “will ship” list on my predictions this year.  I am up at least five points today.

The suddenness flustered me a bit, and I half expected to see a follow on message announcing a delay.  But there was only a follow up about Release 52 that went through in detail what was going into this release build and linked out to the whole how to get started document for the release.

Of course here we are, just shy of five years after the Kickstarter for the project closed, having secured a little over $2 million, and I am trying to recall what this was all about again.

There was that whole Madness of Lord British season where he was talking at (not to) EA about wanting his IP back, thinking a line about great fondness might help I guess.  EA chose that moment to launch Ultima Forever, which seemed to answer the question.  So it was just Lord British talking about his Ultimate RPG, set in a land which could not yet be named. (His comment at the end of that about “ville” clones was doubly amusing given his then recent attempts to get into bed with Zynga, complete with comedy quote.)

Eventually though he seemed to get back on the rails in the right direction and launched the kickstarter to fund his project, Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar; Forsaken Virtues.   Aside from that whole “game designers suck and/or are lazy” thing (later he explained that when he said people he worked with were essentially shit he was taken out of context) the whole thing went very well.  Lord British still has name recognition and the whole nostalgia factor going for him and was able to haul in double the amount of money he was asking for.

From the official site

Since then however… I haven’t really been paying all that much attention.  By late 2014 there was something you could download and tinker with, but it was a very rough cut.  I tried it for a bit and then let it be.  There was also something about virtual real estate that came up at one point.  But other than putting it on my possible list of games to play every year for a few years, only to have it still be in development, I haven’t paid much attention to it.  Somewhere along the line I got a Steam key and activated it there, but otherwise it has just been news about the game coming along.  Even Lord British, with something to occupy his attentions, has kept his crazy side out of the news.

But today it is live.  The server status declares it ready.

Launch version has launched

I checked over at Steam and the early access warnings have all been removed and there is a launch day sale for 15% off the $39.99 price, which keeps it higher than the $30 I pledged five years back.

It looks like the the four modes originally promised are there, offline solo, online solo, online friends, and online in an MMO-esque setting.  It is also available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.  The reviews, however, are mixed, something that seems to come from the cash shop.

And now to see how big the launch will be.  I have speculated in the past that doing crowd funding and early access means that a game’s core audience has likely already bought in by the time that launch comes, so there is no big boost at launch.  That is what we saw with Landmark certainly, and H1Z1′s recent transition out of early access was pretty much a yawn until they made the game free.  And even that only got it back up to its December numbers as opposed to its peak over the summer.  But H1Z1 has better competitors now in PUBG and Fortnite.  Still, launch alone didn’t seem to do much.

So how will launch affect Shroud of the Avatar? 

Also, when am I going to find time to play it?   I am currently still noodling around with Rift Prime, and there is Project: Gorgon now available on Steam.  It seems like 2018 is the year of stuff from five years ago.  Maybe Camelot Unchained will stir this year as well.

Reviewing My 2017 MMO Outlook – What The Hell Happened?

Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

-Me, about a year ago

I guess it sort of turned out that way.  That might be my most accurate prediction of the year, really.  I mean, I started out the year playing EverQuest II and here I am at the end of the year playing World of Warcraft.  I still dabble a bit in Minecraft, but I am between projects on that front.  And then there was EVE Online.

Going around on the same ride

So in my MMO Outlook post for 2017 I listed out a dozen titles, games I had either not played or had barely touched, with an eye to trying something new.  And did I play any of them?  Even one of them?

No!

Still, I am going to say that this isn’t entirely my fault.  Yes, I have been in something of a state of ennui when it comes to our favored genre, but lets go back down that list from a year ago and see what I was up against.  How likely was it that I could even play these games?

  1. Project: Gorgon – Not done yet
  2. Albion Online – Went live, but didn’t appeal
  3. MapleStory 2 – Still only in Korea
  4. Star Citizen – Hahahaha… some day maybe, but not any day soon
  5. Camelot Unchained – Nothing to play yet
  6. SkySaga: Infinite Isles – Development ceased
  7. Lost Ark – Not yet released
  8. Sea of Thieves – Target is 2018 now
  9. RuneScape – Unambiguously playable!
  10. Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title – What test release are we at this week?
  11. Life is Feudal – Seems to still be slated for 2017 as I write this
  12. Pantheon: Saga of Heroes – Just a vision and some demos

Given that list and my criteria that the game must be in some form of viable, released, not hiding in some criticism deflecting “beta” or “early access” mode while charging for the privilege state of affairs, I was left with two titles out of the dozen.

And that was even with setting the bar pretty low for fan favorite Project: Gorgon, which I said I would play regardless of state so long as it was together enough to be up on Steam.

No joy there.

So of that list of a dozen I could have realistically played two of them, Albion Online and RuneScape.  I’ve played a bit of RuneScape in the past, I just never went back to it while there was nothing on the feature list that attracted me to Albion Online.  Again, differentiation in fantasy MMORPGs is a pretty narrow thing these days.

My metaphor for MMOs… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

So what they hell did I play in 2017?  I mean, besides EVE Online, Minecraft, and EverQuest II at the start then World of Warcraft at the end.

I actually did play a few other fantasy MMORPG titles.  Overall, this was what I played, month by month, on that front:

  • January – EverQuest II
  • February – EverQuest II at the start of the month
  • March – none
  • April – Glanced at LOTRO
  • May – Runes of Magic
  • June – Guild Wars 2
  • July – EverQuest II
  • August – LOTRO
  • September – very short bursts of LOTRO and Guild Wars 2
  • October – World of Warcraft
  • November – World of Warcraft
  • December – World of Warcraft

Nothing new.  Games I already had installed, save for Runes of Magic, and in which had some previous investment.  And none of them stuck for very long, save for WoW.

On the non-fantasy side, in addition to EVE Online, I played a little War Thunder and World of Tanks during the spring and summer, but not enough for it to be really noteworthy.

So that was it, which makes me wonder if I should continue the tradition of the “MMO Outlook” posts here at TAGN.  Is this sort of post simply a holdover from a time when new MMOs seemed full of promise, a tired attempt to relive past bouts of enthusiasm when I am fairly sure that the future only offers bland, “me too” alternatives that are barely alternatives at all in a world where World of Warcraft offers as much as it does?

Or is there something out there that I should be looking into, a star by which to navigate my online gaming obsession into the future?

Syp says he is “keeping an eye on” 44 different upcoming MMO and MMO-ish games, though for that number I’d have to consider it a pretty minimalist definition of the phrase.  But there are still things in the pipeline.  Hell, I could make an outlook post and just recycle ten of the twelve I had listed and call it a day.

Part of me thinks I should shelve the idea.  I have shown myself to be a creature of habit there being, to paraphrase the quote about Alexander, no vaguely interesting new worlds to conquer.   Cynicism is part of my makeup to be sure, and a conservatism and a strong sense of the past.  I still have more TorilMUD posts to finish.

But I have an optimistic side as well.  I want to believe there is something new and different and interesting and exciting possible, that somebody will turn a corner or find a new angle that will ignite a new spark in the genre.

We shall see how I feel.  It will likely be that or another post about pet battles.

Did you play anything new and different this year in the MMO sphere?  Is there something I should be paying attention to for the future?

2017 – Predictions for Another New Year

Has 2016 stopped looking our way yet?  Yes?  Good.

Glad to be done with that, because a new year is like a new roll of the dice right?  Completely independent of the last year/roll?  Aren’t they?

My daughter even drew me a brand new pic for a brand new year.

kidpixtigerredraw2017

That is her re-draw of a picture she did in 2009 to celebrate getting her first mount in World of Warcraft.  Her talent has grown over the years.

Anyway, here we are again at the arbitrary point in time where we declare a “new” year and start yet another roam around the star we call the sun.  And with that, I will carry on my own minor tradition of greeting the new year by attempting to foresee what may come to pass.

Previous runs at this sort of thing:

Given past low scores I persist in making predictions.  So here is my list for 2017.  All predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit possible.  And, just a reminder, these are predictions and not wishes.  I am not rooting for many of these things to come to pass, it is rather that I fear they will.  A list of my actual wishes would look different and probably be even less likely to happen.  Such is life.

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

10 – And Access for All LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

18 – Forsaken AvatarShroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

19 – Not ShippingCamelot Unchained, Crowfall, Pantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

So those are my guesses at the new year.  At ten points each, that is a possible of 200 total, with an extra ten extra credit points for the wild guess of the year.  I will be back in eleven and a half months to score that, and if I do better than 40% it will be yet another Festivus miracle.

Others forecasting events of 2017:

 

Adrift: My 2017 MMO Outlook

As I noted in my ten year anniversary post, my own outlook as an MMORPG gamer has changed over the last decade.  I came to blogging in a time when the genre was growing and ambitions seemed unlimited.  We would get a continuous stream of newer and shinier things as MMOs expanded into new territory and conquered the world.

Now I feel like Estragon, nodding off as we wait for the promised future that never arrives.  To my mind somebody could do an easy parody of the song Little Boxes to describe the state of the genre.

There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all poor copies of WoW
And they all look just the same.

Stoking the embers of enthusiasm is difficult.  It isn’t so much “no new worlds to conquer” as “no new worlds worth giving a damn about” these days.  Differentiation seems like variations of the same over used tropes and standards.

Also, not done with the "Little Boxes" theme... picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Also, not done with the “Little Boxes” theme… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

And yet I persist, sitting here at the end of the year, looking into the mists of 2017 and wondering if he will come.  Is there something out there that might spark the imagination and rekindle the enthusiasm for virtual worlds I felt back in 2006?  Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

What is even an option for 2017?

Well, EverQuest Next is out, having been cancelled earlier this year after the traditional SOE “months of silence” indicator that it just wasn’t going to happen.  But I wasn’t even optimistic enough to put that on the list last year.

Blizzard isn’t going to do any more MMOs… not that I am sure we would want them to… but that is out.  And then there is the perennial list of “maybe this year…” titles like Star Citizen that probably won’t be anything more than tech demos and pre-release “don’t you dare criticize me!” tiny tastes of past promises.

Still, there are MMOs that may come out in 2017.  Time to fake some enthusiasm.  Plus there was a nice list over at Massively OP from which I plan to crib.   There are even some titles in which I am invested, allowing for a variety of definitions for the word “invested.”  So here are a DOZEN titles that I am going to throw out there as possibilities for me in 2017.  That is more options than any previous list ever!  Go me.

1 – Project: Gorgon

  • Gut Reaction: Why doesn’t this have a Wikipedia page yet?
  • Rationalization: I’ve paid for it, my peeks in have shown it developing nicely, it could be a thing!
  • Chance: 100% if it hits Steam or otherwise goes live.

2 – Albion Online

  • Gut Reaction: You woke me for this?
  • Rationalization:  Feels like the 2017 version of either ArcheAge or Black Desert Online
  • Chance: There would have to be some very special feature I overlooked.

3 – MapleStory 2

  • Gut Reaction: Ummm… Canada? Pancakes?
  • Rationalization:  Not quite sure how side-scroller and 3D fit together.
  • Chance: It isn’t impossible. I went and tried RuneQuest and was impressed, why not this?

4 – Star Citizen

  • Gut Reaction: Confusion as to how this made the list after what I wrote above
  • Rationalization:  I’m in for $30, but I have no interest in testing something that probably isn’t ready to be called “Alpha” in my book.
  • Chance: I mean, if it “shipped” for any rational definition of the word, I’d be in… but that ain’t happening in 2017.  I just want you to know that I am up for it if it somehow did.

5 – Camelot Unchained

  • Gut Reaction: slipping enthusiasm
  • Rationalization:  I probably like this game more in theory than I will in reality.
  • Chance: I am in from the Kickstarter, so I will play at some point, but nothing has really sparked my enthusiasm. Also, seems likely to miss 2017.

6 – SkySaga: Infinite Isles

  • Gut Reaction: *glassy stare*
  • Rationalization:  My Minecraft itch is already filled by Minecraft
  • Chance: Not sure that islands floating in the sky is really something I am missing, so very low

7 – Lost Ark

  • Gut Reaction: Raiders of the?
  • Rationalization:  A clicky action MMORPG might be an idea!  And at least it has a placeholder for a Wikipedia page.
  • Chance: Given that Diablo III is going to try to eke out another year at least with seasons, nostalgia, and a new class, it might be worth a try.  30% chance if it goes live, higher if it is on Steam and goes on sale.

8 – Sea of Thieves

  • Gut Reaction: Pirates!
  • Rationalization:  The urge to play with tall ships and cutlasses balanced with memories of Pirates of the Burning Sea… which were not all bad, but I also never went back and played it again either.
  • Chance: Dampened by the cross platform aspect, as the Windows version will likely have the horrible console interface. If I could find a compelling feature though, it might have a shot.  Oh, and it would have to ship.

9 – RuneScape

  • Gut Reaction: Didn’t I make an account for that at Thanksgiving?
  • Rationalization:  I did play a couple hours of it already and it did have a flavor and charm of its own.  The old grand dad of F2P titles, it has a huge following for some reason.
  • Chance:  It also had a somewhat odd control scheme, and the fact that I am only now recalling that I played it probably doesn’t bode well.  But it has at least fucking shipped already!  That raises the odds dramatically!

10 – Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title

  • Gut Reaction: Hey, didn’t I pay for this already?
  • Rationalization:  I am in with the Kickstarter, I have it up in Steam where it updates weekly, and I tried it a couple of times in 2015 when it was pretty rough.  Also, it was on last year’s list.
  • Chance: I’m in if they hit a “done” milestone, which seems semi-likely.  I’m just not sure what the game is about now.  2013 was a while back.

11 – Life is Feudal

  • Gut Reaction: Hrmmm… but that name…
  • Rationalization:  I long ignored it based on the name alone, but it does have some interesting ideas.
  • Chance:  Maybe… long-shot, but if it went live… I keep using different euphemisms for what is essentially “actually end-customer ready” I might be up for it.

12 – Pantheon: Saga of Heroes

  • Gut Reaction: Why Brad, why?
  • Rationalization:  Part of me wants to believe that 1999 can be recreated.  Maybe he can get Smed over to help now that he is at loose ends and really get the 1999 party rockin!
  • Chance: You know, if something ships… I’ll probably buy-in and play.  But despite the long demo videos, I am not convinced yet that something will ever ship… and 2017 seems like an extreme long-shot if it does.

So there are dozen MMO-esque games that I am going to lay out there and semi-sort-of commit to looking into if it doesn’t take too much time away from Minecraft, EVE Online, and EQII / WoW.

Which on that list do you think I should prioritize should the opportunity arise? (i.e. should it actually ship if it isn’t there already?)  Here is a Poll (which you may not see if you have an AdBlocker running):

Naturally I left the “other” option open, you can use that or add other options in the comments if my list is missing a key title for 2017.

And, of course, if you want to see how this sort of post has played out in the past, you can check out attempts from past years:

  • 2016 – I played none from the list, but most didn’t ship
  • 2015 – literally nothing I listed went live
  • 2014 – I played Warlords of Draenor, which was a gimme really
  • 2012 – Actually tried most of the items on the list
  • 2011 – Tried 3 out of 5 eventually, but then The Agency was on the list
  • 2007 LOTRO (shipped!)
  • 2007 Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (Didn’t ship)

Looking Back at 2016 – Highs and Lows

Lord, what did we do to deserve this year?  I’ll just steer away from politics, the world, and celebrity deaths for this if you don’t mind.  Wow, 2016.

Blog2016

Still, it is time for this post, where I look back at the year gone by and look at some aspects over it, a tradition going back to 2010.  Past entries:

This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head.  No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
  • Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
  • Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
  • the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
  • Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
  • Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
  • WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
  • Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
  • Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
  • Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
  • Diablo III is getting some new stuff
  • Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs

Lows

  • If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
  • If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
  • The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
  • Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
  • BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
  • Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
  • WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
  • Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
  • The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
  • Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
  • Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
  • Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
  • The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
  • Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?

Daybreak Game Company

Highs

  • Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
  • DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
  • H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
  • Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
  • Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new

Lows

  • EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
  • Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
  • Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
  • “Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
  • If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again!  This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
  • Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
  • H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
  • If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
  • Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
  • Good-bye Legends of Norrath
  • No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
  • No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
  • With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
  • Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
  • Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
  • DDO still seems to be in good shape

Lows

  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
  • With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
  • As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
  • LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
  • Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
  • Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
  • Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
  • Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?

CCP

Highs

  • They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
  • Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
  • A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
  • Citadels everywhere!
  • Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
  • We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
  • CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
  • Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
  • The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year

Lows

  • DUST 514 went dark
  • Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
  • Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
  • F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
  • Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
  • After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
  • Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
  • Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
  • Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
  • Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
  • Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
  • Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
  • RIP New Eden solo industrialists
  • Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
  • Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?

Nintendo

Highs

  • 20th Anniversary of Pokemon
  • Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
  • Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
  • Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
  • Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch

Lows

  • End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
  • They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
  • Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
  • Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
  • The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.

Other Games

Highs

  • Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
  • Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
  • Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
  • Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
  • Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
  • Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
  • WildStar lives yet!
  • Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
  • No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
  • Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game

Lows

  • The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
  • A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
  • Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
  • ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
  • Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
  • Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
  • Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year?  Camelot Unchained? No!  Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No!  Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet.  Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
  • While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
  • If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
  • Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
  • The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
  • No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
  • Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
  • The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
  • The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
  • Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there

Media

Highs:

  • Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
  • Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
  • Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
  • I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh

Lows:

  • The end of Downton Abbey
  • Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
  • Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
  • Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
  • The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
  • I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
  • So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?

The Blog and Blogging and The Internet

Highs:

  • Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
  • I still enjoy writing
  • I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
  • Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
  • Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
  • Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits

Lows:

  • My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
  • My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
  • I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
  • Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
  • I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
  • Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
  • Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
  • AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
  • Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
  • /r/eve

Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016.  I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.

A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.

Others looking back at 2016: