Category Archives: Star Trek Online

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:

Friday Bullet Points – STO, SuperData, Legends of Norrath, and EVE Online

It is another Friday where I have some topics rattling around that I want to mention but am not really keen to make full posts about.  And so we return to bullet points… the format of which seems to have moved away from actual bullet points over the last few posts.

STO on Consoles

Start Trek Online never did much for me, but it does keep chugging along as the title made the jump to consoles last week.

Never not final frontier

Never not final frontier

Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios have brought the six year old game to PlayStation 4 and XBox One, updating the control scheme for the consoles so that players can enjoy all those episodes of content, some console exclusives, and the joy of lock boxes, from the comfort of their family room.  I am mildly surprised at the move.

The Ghost of Legends of Norrath

And speaking of lock boxes, the late SOE/Daybreak collectable card game Legends of Norrath may have gone west back in August, but the spirit of its loot cards carries on, haunting the cash shop.  Loot cards from the second season of the game… which must put them from about 2008 I would guess… will be available from the Daybreak Store in simulated foil packs that prevent you from knowing what you’re going to get until you’ve paid for it.  This was done previously for season one of the game.  While I am sure there is some hard core completionist out there looking to complete their collection, I couldn’t begin to tell you what any season had to offer, so for me this isn’t even a pig in a poke, but mystery wrapped in an enigma and listed in the cash shop.

SuperData July Numbers

I just like the SuperData charts every month. (June’s here)  A single chart by itself can be dubious, but a series of charts created using even flawed data gathering methodologies can provide unintended insights.

SuperData Sez - July 2016

SuperData Sez – July 2016

I don’t have any such insights yet, but there is the chart.  More of the same, with Pokemon Go making its debut at the top of the mobile chart.  We’ll see what the August chart looks like soon enough, once it shows up on the SuperData Blog.

EVE Omega Rewards

With the coming of the very New Eden flavor of Free to Play this November, some of the usual parts of the transition parade have made their appearances, including a bonus package to remind current subscribers that they are indeed special snowflakes and of great value to the company.  There is even a special ship, the Society of Conscious Thought destroyer the Sunesis, the name of which I expect to be mangled on coms should we ever see one in space.

The Sunesis looks a bit flimsy

The Sunesis looks a bit flimsy

However, in order to get any of that bonus pack you have to have an account subscribed and in good standing by 23:59 UTC on September 16, 2016.  Considering that today is the 16th and that this post is going live at 17:15 UTC, that doesn’t leave you much time to get on the spaceship gravy train.

EVE Vegas

EVE Vegas is coming at the end of October and I am on board to attend.  The list of announced speakers include Dave Andrews of Just for Crits who is going to be giving a talk about EVE Online bloggers and streams as we glare at him, daring him to call us out.  Also, he used to work for SOE, so I have a few, “Seriously, WTF?” questions for him.  Might have to wait until drinks have been flowing for a bit at the Saturday night party.

Vegas baby!

Vegas baby!

The event is not that far off, to the point that I ought to be encouraging people to buy their tickets NOW before they sell out, but it sounds like tickets are still available in quantity.  I think the dates chosen, October 28-30… the weekend before Halloween, which falls on a Monday this year… was perhaps sub-optimal, as people often have plans for that and, of course, it is a party weekend in Vegas so cheap rooms and discount flights are sparse.  On the bright side, this is probably one weekend where any cosplay will totally not stand out.

More information about the event is available at the official EVE Vegas site.

Once Upon a Lifetime Subscription…

A Blaugust leftover post; started during but finished afterwards.

Lifetime subscriptions were on the agenda for a moment, with Syl listing not getting one for Lord of the Rings Online as a regret while Tobold took the opposite view.

I am the third result, having purchased that option and feeling no regret,

In fact I remain very happy with my LOTRO lifetime subscription, but I played enough when it was subscription to break even, and then enjoyed VIP level status, with a 500 Turbine Point per month stipend, after it went F2P.  That has allowed me to play, buy things from the store, including the last two expansions, and never spend another dime on the game.  But I also played a lot of LOTRO over the years.  It is easily on the top 5 of my MMOs in terms of time spent.

The list of things attached to my account...

The list of things attached to my account…

I am not sure where to get that listing anymore on the LOTRO site, as it has grown by a couple of items since I last looked at it.  Though if you go to Turbine’s site they still list Infinite Crisis as one of their games, at the top of the list no less, so who knows what is going on there.

However, I also went for lifetime with Star Trek Online and barely played that at all.  I opted in on STO largely based on my LOTRO experience.  If it is good once, then it ought to be good twice, right?

It was even more money than LOTRO

It was even more money than LOTRO… also, I went to Del Taco once…

But STO never caught my fancy and all my attempts to return to the game have ended in minutes… well, hours if you count trying to figure out how to access my account after all the changes that have hit the game.

So I am only batting .500 on lifetime subscriptions.

My experience with STO, with LOTRO, and with MMOs in general have made it unlikely that I would ever invest in a lifetime option again.  And I write that with the world circa 2009 as context.  I would likely not by another lifetime subscription again, even were we still deep in the era of monthly subscriptions.

Is that a squirrel or what?

Well, maybe if it was this cheap… and for a game with a future

Here in the age of F2P and cash shops, the age of PLEX and WoW Tokens, the age of lockboxes and nuisance barriers, the age of business model changes and broken dreams, the age of too many indistinguishable choices in the genre, the idea of sinking a couple of hundred bucks into an MMO on the hope that I might play it enough to get my money’s worth out of it… well… the idea just falls flat.

So color me surprised that Champions Online still had a lifetime subscription as an option… and that it was on sale for “just” $199, a third off of the usual $299 price.

Who knew?

And maybe that is a bad game to pick as an example, never having lived up to its predecessor, City of Heroes, and being run by a company that faltered and was acquired by another company that looks to be faltering, at least here in North America…. and which also happens to be the same company that owns STO.

And what does that say about lifetime subscriptions in this day and age?  Is it just another desperation move now?

I mean, if World of Warcraft offered lifetime subscriptions for $299 I am pretty confident that they would sell a million of them pretty quickly, that the store interface would go down in the rush to buy one.  But WoW is an ongoing success and the top game in its genre even with “only” 5.6 million players.  Pretenders has to get creative with things like “registered users” to get close to that number, a number is less than half of WoW at its peak.

And why would Blizzard do that?  It would be a short term boost to revenue and there would now be a floor of one million “subscribers” since lifetime is forever as long as the game is still running.  But that million would also likely be the same people who never unsubscribe from the game.

So what is a lifetime subscription for these days?  Is it a concept past its time?

Would you buy one under any circumstances today?

Small Items for a Friday in February

Well, small in terms my point of view.  More like things I wanted to mention, but which didn’t quite justify a full blog post.

Five Years of Star Trek Online

I got an email from… whoever it is that runs STO these days… that the five year anniversary was upon us.

That five year graphic

That five year graphic

I like that they zero-padded the number.  It shows a determination to get to ten years.

Five years is bitter sweet, as this was perhaps the second-to-last MMO I was very excited about before launch, but which I ended up putting down very quickly.  I have been reading about Werit’s return to the game, and have been tempted myself.  But I always want to play every game that launches or that announces an expansion or that says “pink fuzzy bunny” five times fast.

That I have a lifetime subscription also weighs a bit on me, though I am not sure how I would go about even finding my account again, much less getting it all squared away with whatever operational entity now runs the game. (Werit’s troubles in that regard serve as a warning.)

So rather than get into that tangle and stretch myself even more thinly… I have five freakin’ garrisons to maintain dammit… I will just note the anniversary and wish the game well.  Five years is not nothing in this field.

Heroes of the Storm Closed Beta

One of the comments I heard a number of times after Blizzard announced the Heroes of the Storm Founder’s Pack was that nobody was ever going to be invited to the closed beta again.  If you wanted in, you were going to have to pay the $40 toll.

And, while I am mildly interested in seeing what Blizzard has done with the MOBA thing for mopes like me (and even more so after Ben Kuchera’ article at Polygon), there was no way I was going to pay to get in.

So color me surprised to find myself invited to the closed beta.

Heroes of the Storm calling...

Heroes of the Storm calling…

And, while people get grumpy about the whole Blizzard launcher thing, and I personally got a bit shirty on that past push by Blizzard to combine all of our accounts into a single Battle.net account, the combination of the two meant that actually getting the game on my machine was a snap.  I went to the “already there” button for Heroes of the Storm on the Battle.net launcher where I found the “Buy the damn Founder’s Pack!” button had been replaced with an “Install” button.  4GB later, I was all set.

I have yet to launch the game, but it is there to try out… once I finish working on my garrisons.

Owning Dragon Age: Inquisition for about a Day

Last weekend my daughter and I were out shopping for a birthday present for my wife.  Once we had completed that, we headed straight to GameStop to look at all the things they had for sale… mostly because my daughter had received a $50 gift card for the store at Christmas.

The GameStop experience… it is a thing.  We wandered around a somewhat cramped little store while a very enthusiastic employee shadowed us, asking if we were looking for anything in particular and handing us print outs of games on sale.  We were happy when somebody else walked in and such attention was halved.

Platform wise, we were only really interested in PlayStation 3 or Nintendos 3DS games, though we did take a moment to look at the sad little display of used Wii games in the corner.

Eventually my daughter’s eyes landed on a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition for the PlayStation 3.

You don't see a left handed hero every day

You don’t see a left handed hero every day

She showed it to me and I said, “Well, I don’t like BioWare games (or at least any BioWare game since Baldur’s Gate), but this is YOUR money, so it is up to you.”  And then we had a long discussion about the merits of BioWare, which at least established our nerd cred in the room, during which she said she had read some good things about it on the WoW forums and wanted to give it a try.  Again, her money.

So she ended up getting a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a new copy of Diablo III – Ultimate Evil Edition  (which includes the base game plus the expansion, all for only $20, so hurrah for arriving late to the party) both for the PS3.  The checkout process was the usual amount of “Our club, corporate policy requires I spend five minutes telling you about it no matter how often you ask me to stop, so let’s just get through this together, just say “no” whenever I make eye contact, because this is my job and I’d like to keep it for now” before I was allowed to pay and walk out of the store.

Once home, my daughter spent about two hours playing DA:I and then asked if we could return it.  She didn’t like it.  The text was really tough to read on screen, even for her young eyes, and it really felt like a game that needed to be played on the PC to her.

Fortunately, GameStop’s policy is that you can return used games for a full refund, no questions asked, so long as you keep your receipt and do it within three days.  Or five days.  I forget.  But we did it the next day.

And, to GameStop’s credit, they took the game back and even credited my AMEX rather than giving me store credit or another gift card.  I did have to quickly affirm that I had heard the full club spiel in the last 48 hours before the clerk felt safe in skipping the hard sell on that front.

He did ask, after we had the refund, why we brought it back, and we related the whole text and complexity thing.  He said that there had been a number of complaints about text legibility on the PS3 and figured that BioWare had botched something when porting the game back from the PlayStation 4.

And so we owned Dragon Age: Inquisition for less than 24 hours and now she has a credit at the Bank of Dad.  We are going to give Diablo III on the PS3 a shot this weekend.

I did have a fourth item for this post, but it actually grew into a full blog post as I wrote it… so I guess I was wrong up at the top.  That will show up at a future date.

How Games Can Boost Their Raptr and Xfire Hours Played!

Just make sure your launcher/patcher counts as your game being played.

The other night I went to patch up Path of Exile.  It is going into open beta which, among other things, means that characters made from this point forward won’t be wiped.

And while it is really tough to build any enthusiasm for the third attempt to recapture the Diablo II spirit in less than nine months, it had been about a year since I last peeked into game, and so I thought it might be time to go back for a visit.

Of course, with that much time having passed, I was rightfully expecting a big patch.  So I waited until the end of the evening, kicked off the patch process, and went to bed.

And, in the morning, not only was the patching done, but I had two items in my inbox from Raptr.

Raptr was proud to tell me that I had earned the rank “Experienced” and the “Dedicated” for my playtime in Path of Exile.

Raptr Calls It

Raptr Calls It

Although I have to admit, Raptr does seem a bit confused as to what rank I really am.  Both of the messages are proud to tell me the rank I have achieved and what I have to do to get to the next rank, however they used the same name for both.  So am I experienced, or have I been experienced, or what?

Anyway, it ends up Raptr looking like I have played a lot more Path of Exile than I really have.

I am not sure how big of a benefit that really is, and I am almost completely sure that this sort of thing is the fault of the likes Raptr and Xfire as opposed to the developer.  But it did make me wonder what other games might be benefiting in the playtime number department due to this sort of thing.

I went through some of the other games I have installed and found that Star Trek Online’s launcher/patcher gives the same result.  I did not bother to try it with Xfire, as it would have meant re-installing Xfire again, but I have to imagine that the same thing happens with some games there as well.

Of course, the real question is, does it matter?  Does this make play time numbers from services like Raptr and Xfire any more dubious in your mind or not?

Now I wonder if anybody logged into my account by accident over the weekend.  Not that I need any more playtime credited…

The 2013 List – This Time it is Goals

At the beginning of every year I write a post about the upcoming 12 months.  Sometimes it is silly predictions.  Sometimes my predictions are even correct, but not very often.  I have made demands.  I have asked questions.  Here is the story so far:

Now it is time for the 2013 version of my yearly post.

2013

This year I think I am going to set goals, which is just another way of drawing some marks in the sand to measure what happened when the year finally comes to a close.

1- Finish Rift

Well, finish Rift for a specific definition of “finish.”  MMOs are designed to never truly be finishable and Rift, with all its possible class builds, especially so.

In this case, it means hitting the level cap and running all of the five person instances with my main character, Hillmar, and the rest of the regular group.  And, just to put another parameter in the mix, I would like to see this happen before the inevitable Summer hiatus when we head out for vacations and other distractions.

2- Find a new goal in EVE

2012 was about learning to live in null sec and flying in large fleet operations.  There were large wars going on throughout most of the year and I flew all over null sec in fleet ops.  Now, however, things have quieted down.  There was no “Winter Break War” as there was last year and the prospect of any big conflict seems pretty remote right now.  We have been effectively ordered to not do anything that might result in the CFC having to deal with any more sovereignty.

Which puts me out of a job.

So I am in training mode with a little bit of ratting and selling now and again.  That can be lucrative, but it is also dull, as is mining.  (Though I hear from Gaff that with the new NPC AI, he has to actually tank all his mining ships as the rats now change targets.   And they pop drones without mercy, making drones pretty much useless for mission running and the like. So mining is dull AND annoying now!)

There are some things I could train up.  There are a few decent guides on planetary interaction out there, if I wanted to add that do my EVE resume.  There are some player skills I could work on, like scanning.  I am hopeless at scanning at the moment and, historically, every time I make an effort to figure it out, CCP changes how it works.

But as for what would essentially be a new vocation in EVE, I do not have a plan… or even a general direction.  It might be time to go back to that chart.

3- Get to Tier IX in World of Tanks

This is something of a vague goal, as I do not really have my eye on any specific Tier IX tank in WoT.  For now the Soviet heavy tanks seem to be my favorites, followed by the German tank destroyers.  But who knows, I might be mad for French self propelled guns or get the itch to nip about the field of battle in one of those Cromwells.  And then there is the Chinese tank line coming along soon.  Or so they say.

Anyway, barring any dramatic need to start up on another branch of the tree, Tier IX ought to be an obtainable goal even with my somewhat sporadic play schedule.  I just need some focus.

Good luck on that.

4- Finish that Second Instance Group Video

Almost a year back I put together a video about the first year of the regular instance group in World of Warcraft.  Fun stuff.  I like to go back and watch that video now and again.  Not quite as emotionally evocative as Sayonara Norrath, but a lot closer to home.

Originally I was going to make a video about our whole experience, but that was a huge project, so I cut it back to just the first year with the idea that I would do one for each of our six… headed into seven… years.

But while the first year was a good plan (for me at least) as it gets our origin, how do you distinguish it from year two, three, four, and so on?  So I decided I needed another specific subject.

I chose our time in Wrath of the Lich King for the next video.  I even started in on the long job of reviewing and editing pictures.  WotLK was the pinnacle of the instance group in WoW, where we finally got our act together.  It was also our downfall, the last happy time in WoW.  We got good at the game only to find that it isn’t that much fun when you are good.  When you are a random, badly equipped group running comedy specs in the wrong roles, every boss kill is a major victory.  When you are geared appropriately, using the right spec, and playing your role correctly, it starts to become a matter of just figuring out the gimmick for any given boss.

Archaedas was exaltation.  By the time we hit King Ymiron, he was just another boss on the long list.

Still, those were good times and set a standard of effort and fun that Cataclysm couldn’t match.  And it was a nice, discreet time frame.  We were there the day the expansion launched through to finishing off the last instance.

Piece of cake to put it together, right?

Except I cannot find the right music.  I need that to inspire me.  Earl’s rendition of Eleanor Rigby, with its twangy sounds and great mix of nostalgia and irony (all the lonely people indeed!) really moved me to finish the first video.  But I have not found the right music to get me excited to finish this video yet.  What will capture Northrend and the instance group, our travels, our defeats, and our victories?

So really my goal is really to find the right music.  We shall see if I can get there.

5- Retry an MMO That Didn’t Stick

There are a number of MMOs out there which I have tried and let drop after some effort.  For one reason or another the games just did not hold my attention or otherwise compel me to keep moving forward.

There are a number of options for this goal.  Possibilities include Vanguard, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and probably a few more I have forgotten.  Pirates of the Burning Sea maybe!

The trick here of course is to find a game where whatever made me stop playing has either been changed/fixed or was something that I have since changed my mind about.  And that, in turn, is something of a function of the time that has passed since I last played the game.

SWTOR, for example, is just a year gone by, and I did not like blaster combat or having dialog forced on my character. The former probably hasn’t changed, while the latter is the vaunted “fourth pillar” that was going to distinguish the game, so it seems like unlikely that I am going to like the game any more than I did the first time around.

At the other end of the spectrum is Vanguard, which I haven’t really played since late beta, and which I only recall as being an ugly, lagging, broken, resource hog of a game that was clearly not ready for prime time.  Six years down the road it is possible they may have addressed some of those issues.

6- Scout for the Next Instance Group Game

With the downfall of WoW as our default game, it has become an ongoing task to scout for the next game we might try.  We are currently settled in Rift, but since the first goal on my list is to “finish” Rift before the Summer hiatus, it seems likely that we will need something new come the end of vacation.

As always, the usual parameters are in place.  It must have content that caters to groups of five or six people.  It has to work for a variety of play time budgets. (Some of us will play all week long, others will only play on group night.)  It has to have content that we can enjoy in our standard “three hours on a Saturday night” parameter.   And it has to be something that we can all buy into.

There are a lot of options out there, even discounting things some of us have already played.  I think that, as a group, we might find a month or two of fun in PlanetSide 2.  Four of us would probably find Need for Speed: World or World of Tanks good fun, but I am not sure about all five.  And there are candidates from both the previous and the next goal that are possibilities.  Picking one though and getting everybody to download and commit, that can be a challenge.

7- Book My Autumn Nostalgia Tour Early

Every autumn I get the urge to go back and play some game from my past.  Sometimes it is EverQuest or TorilMUD.  This past year is was EverQuest II.  And given my long time attachment to the games, you can probably put WoW and Lord of the Rings Online on the list of potential candidates.

The thing is, the urge tends to hit me rather suddenly and I run off, play for the requisite month or so solo, then the urge tapers off and I am pretty much done. (Pro Tip: Always subscribe month-to-month for nostalgia based events.)

But while this is often fun, it is usually a lot more fun if I can get Gaff or Potshot in on the tour.  Nostalgia is a meal best served family style or some such.  So if I can just peer into the future and maybe decide on my target, we can get together on the plan and have a great time.  The thing is, which game?  Do I book a room in old Qeynos for the rainy season, or is the Forsaken Inn a more likely holiday spot?

8- Blog Stuff

Often when I look at the future, I will tack on something about “playing more and writing less.”  Over time though, this has increasingly looked like nonsense.  Writing here on the blog is clearly part of the process of playing games… or at least online games… for me.  The writing, the remembering, the picking of screen shots, and the clicking of the “publish” button are all part of the package.

So my goal for the blog is pretty much “stay the course.”  And maybe find a new theme.  Though I have been saying that for about six years and I am still using the same WordPress theme that I had on day one.

So those are my goals for 2013.  Not very exciting.  We shall see how they play out.

How does 2013 look to you?  And any ideas for music for that video?

EverQuest II Throws in With Random Lockbox Schemes

Step Right Up!

We are adding a feature where you can play instanced mini-games to win random loot in game!  You purchase a ticket that gives you access to a mini-game instance.  Should you beat the simple, fun game, you receive a random reward from a chest, or opt for tokens you can spend on items available on a merchant.  We will be selling the tickets for Station Cash in the marketplace.

As noted over at The EQ2 Wire, there is a new cash shop item in the EQII August Update Planes posted by Holly “Windstalker” Longdale.  That is the quote at the top of the page.

While still pretty vague in the “how much” and “what do I get” departments, it looks like SOE is stepping into new territory in order to hustle Station Cash.  New for them at least, this is old hat elsewhere.

Other games have been criticized for selling random prize boxes.  Syp did a post over at Massively called The Truth About Lockboxes, which includes directly calling them gambling, which has been the literal truth in some cases.

SOE looks like they are going to try to skirt the gambling charge by following the carnival game example.

As I recall, in my home state, the elements of gambling of gambling are:

  • Consideration – You have to pay something in order to participate
  • Prize – You get something of value if you win
  • Chance – There is an element of luck which may keep you from getting a prize

Rules in your jurisdiction may vary.

Carnival games do not qualify by being about skill and not chance.  You need just the right throw to get that hoop over the stuffed dog and the base on which he rests.  And lockboxes like the ones Star Trek Online hawks so vigorously do not count in my state either, since you always get a prize.  But the random nature of the boxes trips over the rules in other places.

In a carnival game, you know what the prize is in advance, so if you have the skill, there is no chance.

SOE is also trying to introduce some skill with the mini game.  We shall see how easy or fun the games really are.

But SOE is still offering up the random prize box, which might make the whole skill aspect moot.  The hinging factor might be that they added in the option to simply take tokens which you can spend.  You can opt out of the random factor.

Will this avoid a gambling charge in all jurisdictions?

We shall see.

Will this take “pay to win” and make it “gamble to win?”

I can hardly wait to see what the prizes will be.

I guess if your cash shop is overly dependent on certain items… like mounts or heavily discounted Gold subscriptions… you have to find a way to branch out.  And these sort of random box schemes have been a gold mine in other games.  They might even be why STO is Not Dying.

I’ve said it before and I am sure I will say it again.  I like that there we are entering an era of varied subscription options.  The box price and monthly fee add up to a big barrier to entry for many.

On the other hand, I am not really happy about what some games become when they go free to play.  And if you look at the MMOs I am actually playing lately… Rift, EVE, and a bit of WoW… you will see the common thread is that they are classic subscription model games.  I am not sure if that is an accident or not.  Like others, I seem to like my subscription.

How about you?  Do you like random lockboxes?

And how soon after conversion will they show up in SWTOR?