Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Dateline Drustvar

I finally managed to get to level cap in Battle for Azeroth.

The moment hits at last

After an enthusiastic launch into the expansion when it hit, where I embraced the story and spoke lovingly about the look at feel of the zones in the expansion, I hit a wall.  Well, less a wall than some quicksand mechanics that seemed to be dragging me down the further I progressed into the expansion.

That ended up being the scaling system, which pegs off your item level.  However, difficulty climbed probably faster than your item level probably required.

The balance and speed of combat is a fine line.  Nobody wants to run around one-shotting every mob.  Well, okay, yes, we all like to do that once in a while, but it gets dull after a bit.

On the flip side, if every solo mob on the field turns into a protracted struggle that requires multiple passes through your rotation and some healing afterwards, the game can become a slog.  You kill one mob and look up and realize you need to go through that a dozen more times to get to your objective and the fun can start to wear off.

That was starting to get to me, which ended up with me spending some time playing EverQuest II, where I flip-flopped between one-shotting things with a hard glace and getting my posterior handed to me, often without any discernible logic.

Yes, I solo’d that no problem, why do you ask?

The coming of BlizzCon though, that started to turn my mind back to Azeroth.  The WoW Classic demo was really my intention.  But after playing that for a bit, I swapped over and started back in on my main in Battle for Azeroth.  As a bit of a pack rat, I found I hadn’t discarded some of my lower item level gear.

I also found some leftover Winter Vale candy in my bag

I managed to balance myself out to be able to carry on through Stormsong Valley, which I finished up on Sunday, getting both the exploration and story complete achievements.  Having already done Trigarde Sound, that left me with Drustvar.  By that point I was already level 119 and pretty close to hitting the final level.  So it took just a few quests there in order to hit the magic mark.

Once I hit the level cap, a few new options opened up for me.  I ran off to get the next foothold on Zandalar.  I also did the obligatory island expedition learning thing, so I am starting to see what people were complaining about.  And then I got the quest that I need to wrap up in order to unlock world quests, which will open up the faction grind that seems likely to eventually make flying a thing.

That quest

Having completed two zones, I am already honored with two of the three factions I need.  I suspect that running the quest lines in Drustvar will get me the third.  At this point I am also going to run some of the dungeons to boost my gear.  Since the rewards you get are always pegged to your level, I always feel like it is a bit of a waste to get dungeon rewards that don’t really help all that much.

We shall see.

BlizzCon Yawns 2018

Well, BlizzCon has come and gone and some of it was pretty tepid.

BlizzCon 2018

My rough draft title was just “BlizzYawn 2018,” but it wasn’t all that bad.

As I have said in the past, the problem with BlizzCon is in part because it was effectively WoWCon for a number of years, so if you were a WoW fan you had a lot of people catering to your needs and whims during that time.

Now with six franchises sharing the spotlight, if you are only interested in one of the titles, and they split the coverage evenly, 83% of the show is not of interest to you.  Nobody is getting all the attention, or even most of the attention anymore.  And if your title doesn’t even get equal time… like Diablo last year and StarCraft almost every year… or if what Blizz shows isn’t anything you’re interested in… like Diablo for a lot of fans this year… then you’re not off base to feel left out.

Anyway, I spent a bunch of time watching with the Virtual Ticket and I still found a lot interesting, even if a lot more wasn’t for me.

Opening

Mike Morhaime came out to open the show and greet everybody as he does every year. However, this time it was a farewell tour. He introduced J. Allen Brack, new CEO of Blizzard, got a handshake, and was sent off stage left for likely the final time on stage at BlizzCon.

I am still not sure how I feel about the change of leadership.  The leader gets blamed for all bad things and praised for all good ones, but in many companies is more likely riding the wave of events rather than shaping them.  So maybe the change won’t matter.  Blizz is old enough to have a culture set in concrete, and there is nothing so difficult as trying to change corporate culture.

And, of course, J. Allen Brack is this guy.

World of Warcraft

With J. Allen Brack now at the top of the pyramid they had to have the new chief of WoW come out and speak. While not an impressive figure, John Hight isn’t nearly as tall as his predecessor for instance, he did show more charisma on stage than the unemotive J. Allen Brack.  I mean, he was no Chirs Metzen, but who is? (Except for that guy in line at the WoW Q&A.)  Still, he seemed excited and invested and glad to be there.

When we got to the actual “What’s Next” presentation for WoW Ion Hazzikostas took the stage to actually get into the details as to what is coming with the Tides of Vengeance update, which is coming on December 11.  Basically, they are trying to follow the successful path they went down in Legion while improving on some of the things, like azerite armor and such.

He was followed up by Ryan Shwayder, formerly of SOE, the 38 Studios fiasco, and the Nerfbat blog, who spoke of new allied races coming with the 8.1.5 update, changes to Darkmoon Faire, holiday updates, Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin remaster, and portal rooms in Stormwind and Orgrimmar.

Basically, lots of things are coming and, while I am not totally invested in WoW at the moment, there were things on the list for me.  Blizzard is still trying to tend to its biggest money maker, not that I doubted they would.  They haven’t addressed every little concern, but clearly there is still a lot going on.

WoW Classic

This was the interesting bit of BlizzCon for me.

First, the big news.  We got a ship date… well, a ship season anyway… for WoW Classic.  It is slated to launch in Summer of 2019, so at some point before September 23.  Going back and looking at what I have said in the past, I was clearly betting on 2020.  But the timing of Summer 2019 seems about perfect as that would put it a year after the Battle for Azeroth launch, about the point when many expansions start shedding players in large numbers.  It will also be pretty close when all those “six months for a mount” subscriptions start to come due.  It is like they planned that.

The other item is that WoW Classic access will be part of your WoW subscription, something I fully expected.  No conspiracy there to my mind.  You want to make it easy for customers to give you money.

And then there was the “Restoring History: Creating WoW Classic” presentation.  I wish they would put this up on YouTube, because it was great to watch. They spoke about how they managed to unearth all of the WoW 1.12 data from a backup of a backup and how, to solve the problem of making it run, merged it into the current WoW cand Battle.net framework.   With just some adjustment to data formatting they were able to get a prototype running.  This solved a lot of infrastructure problems for them and gave them a solid platform that works with their current systems.

Now there is a matter of paring back some of the things that come with that framework which led to a segment about their design philosophy.

Overall design philosophy

The last bit means if something is working the way it was back in 1.12, that is the way it should work.  There were some easy choices to make.

The easy stuff to eliminate

Other things were less obvious items, such as the debuff limit.  In 1.12 you could only have 16 debuffs on a boss.  That was a technical restriction, not a design choice, that they managed to get past later, so the number is now 255.  But since it was 16 back then it will be 16 in WoW Classic because to change it might change the raid and dungeon meta.  Other things they might let in, but only after close scrutiny.  You will likely be able to shift-click on in-game mail to collect attachments, but in-game mail will take an hour to be delivered.

Also, because WoW didn’t spring on us fully formed certain things will be introduced over time in waves.  The time frames are not set yet, but this is what they are considering, including the appropriate in-game events to go with them.

Raid progression

This opens the question as to whether or not they will be starting new servers over time as well, because maybe you want to run the Onyxia era raiding, but the server has already progressed to AQ.  We shall see.

And then there was the WoW Classic demo, which let you run around either Westfall or The Barrens in a character boosted and geared to the right level.  On the first day there were so many people that Westfall was effectively scourged of NPCs, even on a low population server (there were 20 servers up), but I was able to run around a bit.

Later in the evening, when the BlizzCon people stopped playing, things got more manageable and I was able to hunt the Defias and such.  While I didn’t go in with a strong mind as to how things ought to be, every time I touched the UI I was reminded of how things had changed and remember what it was like back in the day.  For example, remember how “B” used to just open up your first bag by default?  There were lots of those revelations.

Blizz has done a really good job so far, though there is clearly some work left to do.  Some random screenshots:

I am actually really impressed with how serious the WoW development team seems about WoW Classic.  This feels like Blizzard getting serious about a project and being determined to do it right, a welcome change and pretty much a complete about face from the “it can’t be done” and “you think you want this” messages of the past.

Candy Crush Diablo

This was the surprise disappointment part of BlizzCon for me.

Here is where Blizzard learned that if your user base is mostly PC gamers, with a smattering of console fans in the mix, announcing a new mobile title might not be the best BlizzCon plan.

Diablo Immortal, the NetEase created game set to bring the Diablo franchise to mobile platforms, was the only thing Blizzard had for the franchise, and did not sit well with fans in the Diablo hall at BlizzCon. Blizz had their most dedicated fans in the audience that day and managed to disappoint them en masse.

This seemed to be one of those polarizing moments. It you were an outsider or a member of the gaming press, you were likely fast to criticize the reaction of the fans. More entitled toxic gamer hate.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  Do you guys not have phones?

On the other hand, imagine if you were a fan and saw the primacy of place given to the “What’s Next for Diablo” presentation on the schedule, something that sets expectations even when Blizz tries to cool down the anticipation. The IP with the biggest announcement is always up first after the keynote. You have spent money on the Virtual Ticket or, worse, spent a lot of money getting to Anaheim for BlizzCon, and the announcement Blizzard has about the Diablo Franchise is essentially not for you. You might rightfully feel more than a bit betrayed if the only news you got was for somebody else, somebody not even at BlizzCon.

Blizzard had their core audience right there and was talking past them to some potential future fans who weren’t even watching.  I mean, they literally said that Diablo Immortal was for a market segment that doesn’t play Diablo.  So the complete lack of cheering or any enthusiasm in the crowd was a big red flag at an event where cheering is the norm. You have to have made a pretty serious con mistake to get there.

Guess what? Platform matters. Blizzard makes games for the PC platform with some titles available on console, and I am honestly surprised the PC and console players get along as well as they do. Yes, Hearthstone is available on mobile, but given that it only ever cracks into the top ten on the PC charts, my guess is that the PC demographic dominates. And Hearthstone fans were not sitting in the Diablo room.

Nor were Hearthstone fans or other mobile players at BlizzCon interested in the demo it seems. Pictures  from the demo area for Diablo Immortal showed sparse interest in the title from all BlizzCon participants who lined up to play all the other demos.

And the response from fans was entirely predictable.  We have seen it before.  We watch Disney kill Club Penguin with its mobile plan, ignoring the loud complaints of its installed base.  We saw a quite a tepid response to EVE Echoes, the mobile EVE Online game also being made by NetEase, just two weeks ago.  The saving grace at EVE Vegas was that we knew a mobile game was in the works and CCP had the good sense not to make the EVE Online keynote all about an outsourced mobile game.  Blizzard totally missed the expectations of their fans and is paying the price.  The Diablo Immortal videos on YouTube are getting a huge amount of down votes, so much so that they have removed and re-posted them in hopes of clearing the down vote tally.

You know what could have alleviated the pain of Diablo fans? Literally any news about something new for the franchise on PC.

A teaser for Diablo IV would have been oil on turbulent waters.  A mention that they were working on a remastered version of Diablo II, something we’ve suspected for three years now, would have dissipated most of the outrage.  But the only other news to announces was that Diablo III for the Switch was now available, but Nintendo had been bombarding us with that for weeks already.  Good for Switch owners, not all that interesting to the core Diablo fanbase.

I might hope we have a lesson learned here, but probably not.  Blizzard is certainly trying to walk this back without blaming the fans.  They love to stoke up that fan passion when it is going their way, so they have to eat it when it gets out of their control.  It is at least good that they get that.

As for own feelings about Diablo Immortal, I am sure it will do well with some demographic, but that isn’t me.  I like slower games on my iPad and on my iPhone I only ever play Pokemon Go, mostly because I have a small iPhone, which I prefer, so I need to put on glasses to see tiny text on the screen.  And given that the gaming press, which was so quick to jump on Diablo fans, could barely string together three nice things to say about Diablo Immortal in their own write ups, it seems unlikely that I will bother to give it a look.  Oh, and it is always online, just like Diablo III.  No single player for you!  The hits just keep on coming.

Of course, while this grabbed so many headlines and hot takes, it was only a small part of BlizzCon overall.

Addendum: And now word is going around that Blizz considered mentioning Diablo IV, then decided against it, leaving them with anger at BlizzCon and removing some of the surprise from any future announcement because now we know it is a thing.  Now they’re just using it as damage control.

Addendum 2: Now Blizz admits there was a Diablo IV video made, but denies there was ever plans to show it at BlizzCon.

Overwatch

Unlike Diablo fans, those there to see Overwatch seemed pretty happy.  They got a new character to play, Ashe, and a couple of cinematics.  I don’t play Overwatch, so it is difficult for me to gauge how much this meant.

They are also getting a kids cereal with loot box prizes inside.

Lucio Ohs

This is really a thing coming in December.  A free loot boost is now part of this complete breakfast.

Hearthstone

No surprise here, a new expansion was announced, Rastakhan’s Rumble, a troll and Stranglethorn Vale themed package.  Seemed to get all the cheers Blizz could ask for.

Heroes of the Storm

A new character to play, Orphea, who is free to all BlizzCon participants.  There was also some gameplay updates slated for 2019.  I’m really at sea when it comes to HotS, but fans seemed happy.  But since I hear so little about HotS outside of BlizzCon, my suspicion is that they are happy to be getting as much attention as they do.

StarCraft II

StarCraft II got Zeratul a new co-op commander.  Also coming are building skins and the ability to earn skins and such by watching SC2 esports events.  I keep thinking I will go run the single player campaign for this, since the base game is free now… but somehow I never do.

Warcraft III Reforged

The good BlizzCon surprise, even though I mentioned it as a possibility last Thursday, was Warcraft III Reforged.

The return of RTS again

This one interests me.  I’ve been back to play Warcraft III and blogged about it.  It was the last Warcraft RTS, was very popular, and a player mod for the game, Defense of the Ancients, essentially kicked off the MOBA idea and is largely responsible for what became League of Legends and DOTA 2.  But it also came along in 2002 and once World of Warcraft hit in 2004, Warcraft III fell into the background, like everything else at Blizzard, as the company tried to get hold of the overwhelming success of WoW.

It’s legacy is huge, but timing put it in the shadow of its younger sibling, so I wonder how the remaster will play out.  It is available for pre-order at $29.99, which includes the expansion The Frozen Throne.  Or, for ten dollars more you can get the Spoils of War Edition, which gives you items in other Blizzard games including a mount in WoW.  Given that $25 is the usual toll for a WoW mount, that might be a deal.

Also, now that we have this and StarCraft remastered, Blizz might finally get to Diablo II remastered.

Destiny 2

Activision continues to try to horn-in on the Blizzard launcher.  They already have Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 in their own little roped off section.  It was announced at the start of BlizzCon that the Destiny 2 base game was available free to download from the Battle.net launcher, and would remain so until November 18th.  So if you want to try it out and have about 80GB of drive space to spare, there it is.  Of course, they hope to get you hooked so you’ll buy the expansions.

Panels and Other Events

If the gaming press had really wanted to roast gamers, they might have spoken up about how sparse the crowd was for the “Play Nice; Play Fair” panel.  That was an empty hall.  But I am going to guess the gaming press didn’t bother going either given that Google didn’t show me a single result when I went looking for which gaming news site covered it.  The press isn’t as different from the fans as they would like to think I guess.

I have long since gone off the cos-play and dance competitions.  I’m just not into it enough to care after watching it for a few years.  There are too few fresh stand-outs for me.

There were also five channels at BlizzCon devoted to “esports,” which I am putting in quotes just to annoy people, and I didn’t watch a single minute.

Still, I watched and enjoyed quite a few of the panels.  There are still some I want to watch before the time runs out on the Virtual Ticket and they disappear forever.  I think I might have enjoyed “Build A Panel: World Creation in WoW” the most, as it combined my enjoyment of looking behind the scenes on how things are made with just enough silliness.

Overall I suspect that for the rare Blizzard fan who loves all of their games equally, this was a reasonably satisfying event.  Everybody got a little something… well, except for the core Diablo audience.  But it you love Blizzard uncritically, as some seem to be demanding we should, then Diablo Immortal was good for you too.

Of course, people have been complaining about BlizzCon since the second one, during that dream era when it was just WoWCon.  The long time complaint was always that Blizz shouldn’t bother unless they have a huge announcement.  The few times there has been a huge announcement do tend to set a high bar.

However, I am fine with a tepid BlizzCon when it comes down to it.  In the end there is always more going on than I am able to watch and sometimes the fine details are more interesting than the big announcements.  And I got to play WoW Classic, which got me back to playing some WoW, so op success for Blizz on this front I guess.  I might even hit level 120.

Others in the neighborhood talking about BlizzCon 2018:

Looking Towards BlizzCon 2018

BlizzCon starts tomorrow, so it is about time I got around this post.  I have ordered the Virtual Ticket, so I will be watching all of what is coming.  However, the question is, what will we actually see?

BlizzCon 2018

  • World of Warcraft

There will no doubt be some words about Battle for Azeroth, how everything is fine and wonderful and even if it isn’t Blizz will be making things better shortly.  There might even be a mention of some new content and plans and maybe a reference to how the game will be fifteen years old next year.

But the main thing will be WoW Classic.  Once I ordered the Virtual Ticket I figured out how to download the demo so I could play it once it goes live.  It doesn’t get its own entry on the Blizzard launcher… not yet at least.  Rather, it is one of the options under “Region/Account.”

The option to select

There are not any Patch Notes, the link there points to to WoW 8.0.1 patch notes.

Once you have selected it, you can click the “Install” button and off you go.

The download

The download itself is… substantial.  It weighs in at 11.5GB, so I suspect we are getting more than just The Barrens and Westfall as part of the package.

Given that I said last year that this BlizzCon would be all about WoW Classic, at least on the WoW front, I suspect that will be the case.  I don’t know what else they would go on about.

The play time people will be allowed for WoW Classic, even for the home download, is reported to be capped or otherwise limited, which I am sure will bring out some rage.  And reports indicate that the experience will be very much in the classic vein.

  • Diablo Franchise

There has been considerable buzz around the Diablo franchise over the last few months, with speculation that we might get a Diablo IV announcement.  And, looking at the BlizzCon schedule, the first item on the main stage is Diablo: What’s Next presentation.  That primacy of place usual goes to the franchise with the big reveal.

On the other hand, Blizz has been dumping cold water on rumors, warning people not to expect too much.  So who knows.

I would still like to hear something about Diablo II remastered, something they mentioned ages ago.  Other than that, and taking Diablo IV off the table, I don’t know what else they would have to present.  I mean, Diablo III on the Switch is nice and all, but it is old news by now, even if it officially launches tomorrow.

  • Overwatch

A new hero seems to be in the works.  A new map or a new play mode would be interesting, but as with the Diablo rumors, Blizz has been trying to set expectations low.  Since I don’t play Overwatch, I am not sure what else they might announced.  New cosmetics maybe?

  • Hearthstone

Hearthstone seemed to do pretty well as a franchise over the last year.  But with a collectible card game the path forward is always clear; new decks and new play modes.  Would anybody bet against one or both being announced?

  • Heroes of the Storm

It is getting a “What’s Next” presentation on the main stage, so something is up.  I suspect we will hear more about how they are going to make it better and/or more competitive with its rivals… though, it main rival, League of Legends, has been down so far in 2018, so maybe the MOBA thing is fading.

Also, new heroes and new cosmetics I am sure.

  • StarCraft

What do you do when your franchise doesn’t get a “What’s Next” panel until mid-way through day two?  I suspect that means no big announcements.

StarCraft and StarCraft II have their own room and channel for the esports league competition, so the franchise remains a staple there.  I expect that the most likely news will be some sort of adventure pack for SCII.

  • Others

Along with the StarCraft and Diablo II rematsers, there was also talk of a Warcraft III rematser as well.  Maybe we might hear something about that?  StarCraft made it and is on the launcher, so the trail has been blazed.

And then, of course, maybe Blizzard could announce something new.  They have been hiring for new projects and they are good at announcing and keeping momentum going through until launch.  But I don’t see any large, unaccounted for open slots on the schedule.  Maybe that “Inside Blizzard” presentation is just a decoy?

Anyway, that is my somewhat mild forecast for BlizzCon.  Blizz could still shake things up with a surprise or two, but unless there really is a Diablo IV announcement I think WoW Classic will be the big item for the event.

October in Review

The Site

Happy Halloween.

A happy kitty pumpkin I carved… a long time ago actually

The strange traffic patterns here continued here for the fourth straight month and I am at a loss to explain it.  It is unusual for no posts from the current month to make the list, much less four times in a row.  And while a few posts on the list make some sense, you have to get down to 25th place before you hit a post from October. (Gamigo Buys then Guts Trion World, which was popular and linked elsewhere is in position 25.)

I cannot tell where some of this is coming from as the referrers count is much lower than the total visitors or page views, though that is not unusual.  Some sites just don’t show up in that list for various reasons, including Massively OP.  I can see the traffic hitting those pages in the Flag Counter reports, and it is from all over the US on Windows, iOS, and Mac OS, so it isn’t just one guy hitting refresh.  So I just don’t know.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com continues with its ever encroaching ad placement.  You won’t see it here, as I am on a yearly plan that turns ads off, but if I hit other WP.com sites with a browser that doesn’t have Ad Block of some sort (which I have to have for work), I end up seeing more and more ads.  The latest is an add that drops down from the top of the page to obscure what you’re reading.

Fill in the gap between the top and the other ads

This is one of those things that makes me shake my head.  Ad blockers were not created because people don’t want to support online content, they were created because the ads grew obnoxious enough for people to look for a way to block them.

And then there was this beauty.  I took a look at my other site using Chrome on my iPad, where there is no ad block extension, to use a link from the sidebar and had my whole session hijacked by an ad.

WP.com lets ads take over your browser session

I love those faked comments at the bottom from two and three years ago.  And this ad led into another and another.  I couldn’t get back to my other site.

And so WP.com has inadvertently joined in on promoting ad blockers by becoming an ad shitshow.  Well done.  I could not recommend WP.com as a platform it you plan to blog.  Go make a Blogger account for that, and make sure you have an ad blocker if you visit a WordPress.com site.

One Year Ago

I wrote about how we used to yell and sell in Waterdeep back in TorilMUD, which predates that auction house stuff we have today.

RimWorld was eating up a bunch of my gaming time.

The then still in early access H1Z1 had King of the Kill removed from its name, reverting back to just H1Z1.  This was due to as-yet-still-unrealized plans by Daybreak to bring the game to China where they couldn’t have “kill” in the name.  They have since changed their mind and renamed the game again.  It is now H1Z1: Battle Royale, or maybe Z1 Battle Royale.  It is honestly hard to tell/care at this point.  All I know is it will probably have another new name before this gets to the “Five Years Ago” section in 2022.

In New Eden I had finished up my time with the Warzone Extraction event.  I also remapped my attributes, something that affects the learning rates of skill.  You don’t do that lightly as you’re stuck with the remap for a year.  I also went and rounded up data cores.  I should probably do that again.  It has been a year.

I was headed to EVE Vegas and wrote up my report when I returned.

The Reavers SIG turned three years old.

In space we went out to Aridia to clean up the neighborhood.

As the month headed towards its end CCP released the Lifeblood expansion for EVE Online which changed moon mining, upgraded The Agency, and added a bunch of PvE content.  There was also a joke about lighting farts to be made.

However, following EVE Vegas, where VR was heavily emphasized, and the Lifeblood expansion, CCP had a round of layoffs and effectively stopped developing for VR.  Among teams hit hard was the community team.

I hit level 30 in Pokemon Go.

And I returned to World of Warcraft, having taken a break.  I once again failed to get the headless horseman’s mount.  And I was wondering if Blizzard would announce the next WoW expansion at BlizzCon.  It seemed pretty likely.

Five Years Ago

EverQuest: Mactinosh Edition was slated to shut down after a ten year run.  Meanwhile, EverQuest Live launched Call of the Forsaken, the game’s 20th expansion.  The Fippy Darkpaw server made it to The Buried Sea expansion.  And in EverQuest II, insta-level characters were set to become a thing.

Also, Daybreak got DC Universe Online onto the PlayStation 4 where it reportedly continues to do quite well.

With the release of Pokemon X & Y, which required upgrading to Nintendo 3DS hardware, I was saying farewell to the series.  Little did I know I would be pulled back in a few months down the road.

As part of some NBI event I attempted to recount all the guilds I had joined over the years.

Somebody was attempting to remake the old Kesmai game Stellar Emperor.

Path of Exile finished up beta and was officially live.

After a post-F2P boom, Trion went back to paring down the number of servers for Rift while its servers in China were shut down completely.

The instance group was still running Foundry modules in Neverwinter.

I was trying out War Thunder.  After failing to get through the tutorial for World of Warplanes, I opted for its competitor, which seems better suited for the inept like me.  I was able to get out there and be a target for other players while bombing at least.

In New Eden our gate camp deployment to the Curse region was wrapping up almost as soon as it started.  It felt like we had just snuck in.  It was time to go home to the quiet of Deklein for a while and wait for the Rubicon expansion.  While there I finally bought my first capital ship, an Archon carrier.  It went for its first jump and then stayed docked for almost a year.  Of course, I found out I had a lot of stuff sitting in hangars around New Eden.  Nine million things, to put a number to it.  And CCP was setting up classes for new players… which was great if you lived in the European time zone.

I was pondering the “journey vs. destination” question with MMOs while feeling a bit wistful that World of Warcraft holidays were not offering much new.

Marc Pinkus, founder of Zynga, declared he was bored of games.

And we finally ditched AT&T DSL for Comcast cable-modem internet, resolving the bandwidth sharing problems at our house.

Ten Years Ago

In one of the worst kept secrets in video game development it was announced that BioWare’s MMO project was in fact Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Their subscription goals were, of course, quite modest.

I celebrated my 15 years of playing Sojourn/TorilMUD with the first in a series of posts.  Nostalgia FTW!  And I guess that makes this the 25 year mark.  My, how time flies!  I probably need a post about that.

And speaking of Nostalgia, Tipa was out looking for EverQuest blogs.  I’m not sure any were discovered.  EverQuest itself launched its fifteenth expansion, Seeds of Destruction, which brought NPC mercenaries to the game to assist players.

The instance group formed up a guild and was running in Warhammer Online.  We had our best night and our worst night, plus a few that were somewhere in between.  All in all though, things were not as exciting as we had hoped.

Mythic was trying out incentives to get better server balance while starting to talk about new stuff coming soon.  Not a word about the quest log however.

In EVE Online Potshot, Gaff, and I were playing with fleets and I was flying a shiny new ship.  Also the EVE Blog Pack was defined.

Finally, I stared logging into World of Warcraft again to get things lined up for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  I managed to survive through the controversial scourge event and was intrigued by the shiny new achievements.

Fifteen Years Ago

A shooter named Call of Duty launched.  Now Activision’s annual revenue pretty much depends on shipping a sequel to it.

Lineage II launched as well.  The successor to the original Lineage, which was in last month’s post celebrating its 20th anniversary, it had the usual problem of MMORPG sequels in never living up to the success of the original.

Twenty Years Ago

The Rise of Rome expansion came out for Age of Empires.

Thirty Years Ago

The Sega MegaDrive launched in Japan.  Mentioned mostly because I ended up with a Sega Genesis, the name used in the US, a few years later.

Forty Years Ago

Really, am I going back that far now?  Yes I am!  Back in October of 1978 Space Invaders arrived in North America.  I posted about that event.  It was a big deal back in the day.

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  2. Honest Game Trailers – Animal Crossing
  3. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  4. Rift Prime Time
  5. SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite
  6. February in Review
  7. Spring Movie League – Cats and Birds and Bruce
  8. Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?
  9. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  10. H1Z1 – Going Live in Time to be a Zombie
  11. Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More
  12. How Many People Play EVE Online?

Search Terms of the Month

seagels stop it now
[It is spelled “Seagal” and he’s just the cook]

what game has more people playing everquest 1 or everquest 2 in 2018?
[The original by all reports]

sylvana windrunner rule 34 animated
[Really?]

epic journeys and random encounters (world of warcraft) hentai
[I was with you until that last word]

china gay 3d game pc
[The state probably won’t okay that]

EVE Online

The Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP was finalized and there was EVE Vegas.  While the latter brought news of the future, my time in game was actually pretty low key.  I did get my one kill mail in for the month as I joined in on shooting one of Pandemic Horde’s high sec structures.  Otherwise I spent some time with the Crimson Harvest event and that was about it.

It has been a bit of a tough month on third party sites.  First Total EVE went down due to a problem with their provider.  Then EVE Files which, among other things, hosts the null sec influence maps, had a RAID failure and went down, taking with it a lot of New Eden history.  The influence maps are created elsewhere, but have been publicly archived on EVE Files.  There are backups, and Chribba started moving some of the videos stored there to YouTube, but how this will work out is unclear.  And then there was a scare with the DOTLAN infrastructure earlier in the month.  The EVE Online ecosystem is fragile and getting more so as it ages. [Total EVE is back up.]

And then there was the Monthly Economic Report for September, which failed to materialize this month.  I don’t know if that is over as a thing, but this is the first time CCP has missed a month since they got serious about it over two years ago.

EverQuest II

I made my way to level 100 at last, though that doesn’t seem like much of an achievement when I tell you I started at level 96.  But that leaves out the real adventure of returning to the game, which is simply figuring out where to go.  Anyway, I paused for a bit at level 100 to do some of the Halloween event stuff.  That was probably to stave off deciding on which path to choose now that I am at 100.  This is never easy.

Pokemon Go

I made my first “Best Friend” in Pokemon Go.  It happened to be my wife, so true in game as in the real world.  It turn out that making a best friend yields quite a good chunk of experience.  Here is what you get by levels of friendship:

  • Good Friends – 3,000 xp
  • Great Friends – 10,000 xp
  • Ultra Friends – 50,000 xp
  • Best Friends – 100,000 xp

I was about 40K shy of level when the best friend event happened, which pushed me right into level 34.  Still a long way to go to level 40, but I have some more friends on my list to help me along as our friendships level up.  You do need to send 90 gifts to get to the best friend level, and my current problem is always running out.  I need Pokestops to be more reliable at dispensing gifts.

There was also the introduction of 4th generation into the game, which gave us all new Pokemon to catch.  That helped boost my Pokedex count.

Level: 34 (+1)
Pokedex status: 363 (+24) caught, 375 (+18) seen
Pokemon I want: Dragonite… pretty much no progress on this
Current buddy: Wailmer… past 330 candies now

World of Warcraft

Sort of stopped playing WoW it seems.  This is me being me.  At some intellectual level I want to finish up the Kul Tiras campaign and get my main to level 120, but somewhere deep within me is the bit that gets me to log in and play, and that bit isn’t having it.  Oh well.  This seems to be following my usual pattern of diving into a new WoW expansion, playing for a bit, then going away for six months or so until the issues are settled.

Hallow’s End did get me logging back in some, but the mount of the Headless Horseman still eludes me.  While waiting for the queue to pop my main hit level 118.  Who is the slowest to level now, eh?

Coming Up

BlizzCon is the day after tomorrow.  Those at the event or watching from home with the Virtual Ticket don’t get a cute pet or mount in WoW this year.  Instead it will be a chance to try WoW Classic.  The Barrens and Westfall will be available to download and play.  I expect this to be examined in minute detail and the topic of articles and blog posts for at least a week afterwards.

There was word that we might get the LOTRO legendary server on November 6th, but there is no official announcement that I have seen.  And the LOTRO Twitter account later denied everything.  It would be nice if there was a date front page, center on the LOTRO web site.  The problematic nature of this server aside, SSG failing to do a decent promotional run up to its open… which, again, would be well served by something like a big count down timer to build up some excitement… is just typical of how the game has been handled for over a decade.  There is a quote from Tolkien that I can’t find at the moment, about the race of man failing to live up to its potential that seems to fit very well to LOTRO as well.

There will also be the new expansion for EverQuest II coming on the 13th.  I’m still too far back to worry about buying that, but it will unlock some new content and more crazy stat boosts.

And then the word is that WildStar will be shut down by the end of the month, so it is your last chance to take a look… before somebody gets an emulator project off the ground.

Finally, Daylight Savings Time ends in the US… for locations in the US that observe the change… this coming weekend.  It will be slightly less dark when I drive to work now.

SuperData Shows the WoW Surge Fading and LoL Still Down

Here in the last days of October SuperData Research finally has their September sales chart out for us.  I was a bit worried after they were acquired by Nielsen that they might stop feeding us this ranking regularly.  Now if I could just get CCP to give us the September MER as well.

Anyway, to the chart.

SuperData Research Top 10 – September 2018

Last month saw the Battle for Azeroth surge for World of Warcraft, which jumped it up to second place on the PC end of the chart, putting it ahead of League of Legends for the first time in the history of this monthly report.

However that head of steam didn’t seem to last, even with Blizz offering a special mount if you would just commit to a six month subscription.  WoW dropped to fifth position, though that still put it a bit ahead of its perennial seventh place slot, so maybe some people jumped on the mount bandwagon.  Of course, if they paid for six months in September then they won’t have paid anything in October, so we’ll see if WoW drops more next month.

WoW’s loss was LoL’s gain though, as Riot’s game moved up into second place as the constant top four on the chart were locked in together again, having also pushed Monster Hunter: World down from fourth to seventh spot.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds grabbed sixth position ahead of the so-popular-the-NHL-banned-it Fortnite, which came in at eighth.  Rounding out the list are a couple of the usual suspects from the bottom of the list, World of Tanks in ninth and CS:GO in tenth.  Hearthstone, which made the list last month, fell off for September.

In the middle, the console chart has Destiny 2 at the top, most likely due to the release of the Forsaken DLC last month.  Marvel’s Spider-Man, a new release, captured second place, while FIFA 19 came in at third place.  Fornite, last month’s top entry, sank to fourth place in the face of this new content, with NBA 2K19, another new release, close behind in fifth.

FIFA 18, apparently not completely sapped by the release of its successor, stayed on the list in sixth position.  Call of Duty: WWII fell to seventh, but stayed ahead of the fresh Shadows of the Tomb Raider in eighth.  2013’s Grand Theft Auto V, which has stayed on the list, and even topped it at times despite its age, stayed alive in ninth place while PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds showed back up in tenth.

Among the titles pushed out of the way was Blizzard’s Overwatch.

Then on the mobile end of the chart, there was only a minor re-arrangement of last month’s titles, with Pokemon Go holding onto third position and Candy Crush Saga moving from tenth to seventh spot.

Other items from the report:

  • FIFA 19 scores best digital launch in franchise history. We estimate FIFA 19 digital console units grew 18% compared to FIFA 18 last year. Sales for the digital launch of FIFA hit another record, although the series continues to lag other AAA franchises in terms of download rates.
  • Destiny 2 gets a big boost from ForsakenDestiny 2 topped our digital console rankings this month on the back of the new Forsaken expansion and an increase in deluxe edition purchases. Over 60% of all monthly active users purchased the expansion.
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man is Sony’s biggest launch to-dateSpider-Man sold 2.17 million digital units on PS4 in September, excluding download codes bundled with console sales, just edging out God of War‘s launch earlier this year.
  • NBA 2K19 marks a new franchise peak – but with a caveat. While NBA 2K19 digital console unit sales were up year-over-year from NBA 2K18, growth fell short of the rate seen in the past couple of years.It should be noted that this year’s iteration of the game launched earlier in the month.

LOTRO and the Legendary Server Idea

We are excited to announce a new way to experience The Lord of the Rings Online: Legendary Worlds! Relive the tales of Middle-earth, chapter by chapter, visiting iconic locations and adventuring with new friends – or reconnecting with old ones – on the path of Frodo, Gandalf, and the Fellowship of the Ring.

Join us this fall on a Legendary World and make a fresh start with a brand new character; see Tolkien’s bustling realm anew, whether for your first or fiftieth time. Initially, the Legendary World will begin at the very start of the game and run through Angmar, then open new regions and levels over time. Relive the legend: where everyone is here and the story is now.

-Standing Stone Games, Legendary Server Announcement

I think the big question up front is whether or not WoW Classic is going to wreck the retro/progression/vanilla server idea for MMORPGs the way that WoW itself can be argued to have wrecked MMORPGs overall.

Yes, that is an odd way to start off a post ostensibly about Lord of the Rings Online, but World of Warcraft remains the dominate power in the genre and when they get into any given aspect of the genre everybody else has to take notice or get trampled.  So bear with me for a minute.

I wonder if WoW Classic will set the bar for quality and fidelity so high as to be unattainable for studios who don’t practically print money.  I mean, you can shit on Blizzard because you think they might not get the Vanilla WoW experience to line up exactly with your memories from 2005, but who else out there has the staffing and budget to pick a point in the past and go remake the game from that time so it will not only run, but will be a full on quality Blizzard experience?

All of which came to mind when I saw the Standing Stone Games announcement about their planned LOTRO Legendary Server… or World… they use both terms.

We’ll just stick with “Legendary” I think

The announcement itself is pretty brief, quoted almost entirely in full at the top of this post.  The bulk of the information is in the form of a FAQ, and the key to the whole thing, and in my question above, is in the final question.

Is the Legendary server a “Classic” or “Vanilla” server?

By most descriptions, a “Classic” server is an attempt to recreate LOTRO exactly as it was at launch, using only assets and content that was available in 2007.

A Legendary server runs alongside existing servers, and therefore contains many of the changes that have been made to the game over the years, such as UI improvements, bug fixes, changes to game systems, etc. In cases where we have updated or changed the layout of regions, the Legendary server uses the updated version of the regions. In cases where we have changed items or player abilities, the Legendary server uses those updated abilities.  Some content or gameplay that isn’t appropriate to the Legendary server’s current level cap may be restricted, until that portion of the story unlocks with level cap increases (one does not simply walk into Mordor on Legendary until the time comes).

This, along with some of the other questions, makes it clear that this is more of a fresh start progression server than anything else.  New classes, new races, and all other changes that have gone into the game over the last decade or so will be present on the Legendary server.  There will be, so far as I can tell from the FAQ, virtually no difference between starting a fresh character on one of the current servers and on this new server, save for the fact that cash shop items related to later features, like legendary weapons, will be absent and you will need to have a VIP subscription in order to play.

So what is the draw then?

This isn’t EverQuest, where the original 1999 content has been bypassed by a tutorial, fresh starting zones, and the Plane of Knowledge.  Going back to an EverQuest progression server means going into content you likely wouldn’t otherwise play.  And while some of the world has had its graphics updated, if you’re like me and long for original Qeynos, it is still there waiting for you. (Just don’t get me started about the fog.)

Also, EverQuest has 20 years and 24 (soon 25) expansions worth of content to work through.

All of the improvements from the Live servers come along for the ride, so hot bars work like you expect and WASD is a default control option, but things that came with later expansions, like new races and classes, are held off until that expansion unlocks.

And this isn’t World of Warcraft, where a lot of the original Vanilla content was hacked out of the game like a tumor, so there is no going back to play it unless you want to try a pirate server, at least until WoW Classic comes along.

As far as I can tell, Standing Stone isn’t even going to make you wear the hair shirt so popular with this sort of server by clipping experience gain or the like.  It is just going to be a live server for VIPs with all the new features and classes and currencies, just restricted to before Mines of Moria expansion… for four months, with new expansions every four months after that until they unlock Mordor two years down the road and it essentially becomes a VIP only server.

So I am not feeling the draw for this Legendary server idea.  I suppose if you had a group of friends and wanted to do a fresh start, this will be your opportunity.  And, of course, there will be the launch time euphoria when for a brief moment everybody on the server will be level 1 together and all the early zones will be full of players.  I might try it for that last aspect alone… I have a lifetime subscription, so why not… though I am not sure how long I would stay.

In addition I wonder both if there is enough to draw players and, if there is, can the live servers stand the hit?  That is a topic that has come up with both EQ and EQII, that the progression

Then there is the fact that, to my eye at least, LOTRO has not aged well.  It is still a balky UI with tiny, hard to distinguish icons graced with some of the least informative imagery to every land in an MMORPG.

EverQuest is old and it feels old as well, but the team has polished up the UI some.  The hitbox for your own character is still huge, so you end up selecting yourself annoyingly often, but a lot of other things are better than they were back in the day.  Those updates smooth out annoyances that you wouldn’t likely want to remember, things that would more likely get in the way of your nostalgia rather than enhance it.

I do want to be fair to Standing Stone Games.  Given their limited resources this is about the level of server they are up to providing.  This isn’t a cash grab, as some have already announced, but an effort to provide something akin to what a vocal segment of the community has been asking about for a while now.

All of which brings me back around to what effect WoW Classic will have on this sort of thing going forward.  When EverQuest or RuneScape classic servers were the benchmark, things like Rift Prime didn’t seem so far off base.

But when WoW Classic shows up with a remade version of late 2006 Azeroth, with paladins who can’t tank and only have a ranged attack good against undead and hunter pets for which you have to go out in the world and find updated skills and ammunition in your bag and the whole Sunken Temple or Uldaman dungeons available in all of their previous horrific glory, how is a special server that limits you to the initial content but is otherwise indistinguishable from the live servers going to stand up?

Oh well, we shall see.

And, in one last bit of irony, even at the four month between expansions drop rate for the new server, the journey from start to the opening of the Mordor expansion will still take longer than the War of the Ring, if measured from Gandalf telling Frodo to get the ring out of the Shire (April 12, 3018 TA) to the Battle of Bywater (November 19, 3019 TA), clocking in at 2 years compared to 1 year 7 months for the events in the book.

Still, that is much faster than the decade it too the game to get to the gates of Mordor the first time around.  And you might be able to start late, a month after the Mines of Moria unlocks, and try to keep pace with the books.  That would be an interesting project… maybe more interesting to read about than to try, but there it is.  Though you could do that on the live servers right now if you wanted.  Oh well.

Others writing about the server announcement:

Change of Leadership at Blizzard

You don’t want to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.

-J. Allen Brack, BlizzCon 2013

The word is out via a Blizzard press release that Mike Morhaime is stepping down as the president of Blizzard Entertainment.  He will be replaced by J. Allen Brack, senior vice president and executive producer for World of Warcraft.

Mike Morhaime will remain with Blizzard in a strategic advisory role, but a statement from him published by Blizzard doesn’t go into detail as to why he chose to step down at this time.

In addition Ray Gresko, a ten year Blizzard veteran who was involved with both Diablo III and Overwatch is stepping up to be chief development officer, while Blizzard founder Allen Adham, who rejoined the company about two years back, will also be joining the executive team to oversee the development of “several new games.”

What does all this mean?

When a long time leader like Mike Morhaime steps down after 27 years, it is generally because somebody is tired.  He is either tired of the position or somebody else is tired of his style.  And an advisory role can be many things; a thank you for years of service, a route to keep him from moving to or creating a competitor, or a way to keep a warm backup handy if the new leadership messes up.

And what does J. Allen Brack’s ascension mean?  Blizzard is a big organization, and is part of an even bigger one, so this won’t have the impact of somebody like Smed leaving Daybreak.  But it may mean change is in the wind.

You can make up all sorts of theories if you set your mind to it.  What does it mean when the executive producer of WoW steps up to run the company?  And what are these “several new games?”

Anyway, I expect we will get some additional info at BlizzCon in a month.

Addendum: A Venture Beat interview with Mike Morhainme at Blizzard’s 25 year mark, if you want some history.

Other Coverage: