Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Friday Bullet Points About Games I’m Not Actually Playing

It is the middle of January already in the year 2016, a date that literally seemed like “The Future” when I was a kid.  Yet it feels really normal, right up until I watch some TV re-run from the early 90s… my daughter and I started watching The X-Files earlier this week, starting with season 1 episode 1… and not only aren’t there any iPhones or iPads or flat screen TVs, but there aren’t any cell phones at all present.

Clearly, future me is some sort of alien, since I can barely remember a time without such things.  1992 wasn’t THAT long ago, was it?

Anyway, some small items to note.

Diablo III Patch 2.4.0

We’re getting pretty much the only thing Blizzard deigned to speak about on the Diablo III front when it came to BlizzCon last year.

D3Patch240_500px
I was disappointed by the lack of new stuff for the Diablo franchise… like another full expansion or something about Diablo IV…  but I must admit that, reading the 2.4.0 release notes, they did deliver a decent pile of stuff.  A new island, some expanded areas in older zones, new rifts, a new season, and the inevitable new gear sets.

It makes me want to go back and take a look.  On the flip side, I am more about playing through the story… and exploring every single square centimeter of the map… than I am about the post-story gear grind.  Maybe I will start a season 5 character and run through the story again.

WoW Legion Alpha

I keep reading bits about the alpha for the upcoming WoW Legion expansion.. because it has no NDA… and I have to wonder what this means.  Is this how Blizzard is trying to keep their fans invested, by letting them into the next expansion even earlier than usual?

LegionScene_500px

My gut says that this might mean the actual launch will be far closer to the September 21, 2016 than, say, the Warcraft movie release.  We’ll see.

I also wonder if this now constant exposure to the expansion content starting in alpha will make the post-launch enthusiasm window for the expansion even smaller than we saw for Warlords of Draenor, which lost 46% of its audience in under six months.  Basically, will all but the non-hardcore be mostly “done” with the expansion before it starts?

Anyway, I am averting my eyes from this… which means not reading a couple of blogs and avoiding some stories that are grinding through every detail… so as to keep myself fresh for the eventual launch.

Amazon Prime Discounts

Amazon announced that Prime members would be getting a 20% discount on new and pre-ordered  games this week.  We have Prime at our house, and get our value out of it largely via the video service, the occasional free Kindle book, and a bit of free shipping now and again.  But now I can pre-order the WoW Legion expansion at 20% off months before it goes live.

Remember back when The Burning Crusade stayed at list price for nearly a year after it launched?

Stormhold Moves On

During the summer I was trying to get myself engaged in the Daybreak first run at an EverQuest II nostalgia server; specifically the Stormhold PvE time-locked expansion server.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

I failed to get there… I played a bit, and actually had some fun, but I never got quite enthusiastic enough about the whole thing to get very far.

Time, however, moves on… as noted at the top of the post.  Last week the Stormhold and Deathtoll servers both moved to the Kingdom of Sky expansion, which also moves them out of my prime nostalgia zone.  That whole pacing question comes to mind again I suppose, but my nostalgia for the game sort of ends with Desert of Flames, with everything after that feeling like “the new stuff.”  Again, time is strange.

New LOTRO Servers

Earlier this week the team at Turbine moved Lord of the Rings Online over to their new server farm.  This was part of their 2015 plan that also involved server merges to boost populations along with promises better performance and all the other things that go with fancy new hardware.

Unfortunately, with new hardware there can also be new problems, something the game has been experiencing.  On the bright side though, the server upgrade did fix my inability to log in on the Brandywine server, something that shut down my nascent return to Middle-earth in early December.  Maybe once they get this settled down I can get back to Mirkwood.

Boot Camp Denied

I have a spoiler laden post about Star Wars: The Force Awakens sitting around waiting for the right time to post.  Maybe this weekend.  But as an indicator of the reaction at our household, my daughter had the sudden urge to play Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I gave her a taste on my computer, but to get that back I had to promise to setup a Windows partition on her iMac.  Easy stuff, right?  She has a fairly recent iMac… it is probably the best computer in the house… I have the Windows 7 media and an extra license key and there is plenty of drive space on her system.

And it mostly worked, right up until Boot Camp wanted to install the drivers for the iMac hardware, at which point it announced that the version of Boot Camp was not for this Mac model.  Google gave me a variety of possible solutions (the problem seems to come up a lot), none of which solved the problem.  Without the drivers, I have a fairly useless version of Windows 7 hanging around the house.

Now I have to guard my computer to keep her away from it.  Nothing is ever simple.

Such is life in the video game lane for me this week… at least for some games I am interested in but do not actually play.

MMO Activity Chart for 2015

Inspired by Belghast’s chart (and Liore did one as well) I thought I might put together a little chart about what I played this year.

2015 MMO Gaming Chart

2015 MMO Gaming Chart

You will note that there are no single player games on the list.  I don’t actually spend that much time playing what one might call the traditional, non-networked, video games, as my five year Raptr list would certainly attest.  I do play other games, but not to the extent that I do MMOs.  So while I played some Defense Grid 2 and Elite: Dangerous, and a few other titles, the time spent on those was nowhere near the time spent with games on the chart.

Likewise, I supposed I could list iOS games I played on the iPad.  But those are almost a different context of gaming.  I pop in and spend a couple minutes with DragonVale or Candy Crush Saga or Neko Atsume when sitting on the couch or in bed before I turn out the lights.  It isn’t really the same.  Those are like little snacks when we’re talking about full meals.  MMOs are the full meal around here.

So, now that we have narrowed it down, what did I play?

Well, EVE Online is no surprise.  It is the only MMO I played consistently throughout 2015.  And I wasn’t just docked up doing the skill training thing.  One of the reasons I liked to get on a kill mail now and again is that it shows I have been undocked and active.  So you can see my chart from 2015 for New Eden.

2015 Kills and Losses

2015 Kills and Losses

In a lot of ways kill mails are deceptive or misleading.  As I noted in the past, a positive kill ratio is the norm, since you get counted on every kill mail you assisted on, but losses are only when you blow up.  But they do show you’ve been undocked and doing stuff.

World of Warcraft was good for the first half of the year, until the garrison blues got me.  I came back for a bit in November by buying a WoW Token with some gold, but all I did was garrison stuff to earn back the money I spent on the WoW Token.  It is cool that you can log into the game and reactivate with gold.

WoW Tokens are up in price

WoW Tokens are up in price

I just wasn’t that interested in coming back to play.

Minecraft took over in June and has rolled out through the end of the year.  As a game, it is very project oriented, as sandboxes will be.  When I have something I want to build, I can spend hours playing.  But when I am done, I don’t log in so much.

There were brief runs with EverQuest and EverQuest II, largely due to the nostalgia server thing.   Then I played a bit of Diablo III, while lately I have been dabbling in Lord of the Rings Online.

So that was my year in MMOs.

Of course I’ve done charts before, they just tended to be of a bigger scale.

The Genres

My favored genres over the years

Did anybody else do a chart this year?  It seems so:

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

November in Review

The Site

WordPress.com continues on its way to “improve all the things!” with its general philosophy of “if it is newer, it must be better, right?”  One of the things announced this past was a new “high speed” editor, a tactic admission that their old “new” editor was complete crap.

I remain happy only because the old editor, the one that help convince me to pick WordPress.com over Blogger, is still available.

And I am not alone in this.  I saw just this past weekend that Mabrick moved his blog back to the Blogger platform after tiring of the “improvements” to the post editor.  See, I’m not just a solitary old crank!  Somebody agrees with me!

WordPress has also introduced some new stand alone apps for using their site.  I do actually use the iOS app, which has been around for a while and through several gyrations, on my iPad to check the site.  I will say that they have at least figured out that when I go to the stats page it should default to the current day’s data and not their mildly interesting but not really useful “Insights” tab.

But Thursday at 7pm may not be the most popular point combined...

But Thursday at 7pm may not be the most popular point combined…

It also took me a moment to figure out this chart.

Posting Activity Chart

Posting Activity Chart

That is the last 12 months, by week, oriented vertically so that Monday is the top box and Sunday is the bottom, color coded by how many posts I made.  Gray is zero, light blue is one, dark blue is two, black is three.  Apparently I never post more than three times in a single day.  That is probably healthy.  The white boxes are the result of somebody’s OCD need to square off each month’s rectangle.

Again, I prefer the old stats page if, for no other reason, it doesn’t regularly error out with a script running in an infinite loop.  And that is my WordPress.com complaint of the month.

On another blog topic, I actually had to dig deep this month to find a couple of blogs that had me on their blogroll and which I had not previously linked in a Month in Review post for the “New Linking Sites” section below.  I eventually found two, but it took me a while.  There was a lot to filter through.  I had one site tell me that there were 19,962 links to the main page here.

So, if you have me on your blogroll and I haven’t mentioned you in a previous post, drop me a note and I’ll make sure to link you!  I want to get one more month out of this, then I’ll probably swap to “who is still alive and still links me in their blogroll” or some such for 2016.

One Year Ago

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire Launched.

There was BlizzCon, about which I made the usual predictions.  I found the event itself vaguely dissatisfying.  But those who were bitching about lack of focus on WoW at BlizzCon 2015, go back and look at how little attention it got in 2014!  Otherwise we were in Azeroth collecting achievements and waiting for the expansion to hit.

Oh, yeah, the expansion hitWarlords of Draenor and server queues and all that.   Blizz was trying to fix that while I had to figure out who to play.  Blizz eventually gave everybody 5 days free for the problems.  But hey, they had 10 million subscribers on the hook again, up for the 7.4 million low point during the summer.  Doesn’t seem so low now, does it?

In EVE Online the Phoebe expansion arrived, bringing with it Jump Fatigue and the 10 year/50 skill long training queue.  Then they were on about removing other annoyances with the upcoming Rhea expansion.

In game the Reavers had finished up in Feythabolis with a bang and were off into Omist next, hunting the unwary before returning home again.

Rixx Javix was drawing spaceships.  He’s still at it.

And there was the This is EVE video that became wildly popular.

I reflected on EverQuest II at its 10 year anniversary.  Veterans of the game even got their own island.  Over on the EverQuest side of the house, The Darkened Sea, the 21st expansion for the game, went live.

And, finally, the power supply on my computer blew out, taking the motherboard and drives with it.  I had to rebuild, but was up and running again in a couple of days.

Five Year Ago

I was talking about group size and roles.  That has come up again, especially since SWTOR groups seemed to be limited to four players.

On the retro front, I played some Total Annihilation.  Still one of the best RTS games ever.

I took a look at the soon to be defunct EverQuest II Extended.  It seemed quite busy.  Of course, I went Station Access so I could peek into EverQuest II  (with some issues) and EverQuest as well.

The rump instance group was wrapping up another Summer in Middle-earth at the far end of the Lone Lands as well as in and around Ost Guruth.

At the same time, Turbine was putting crafting materials in the LOTRO Store.  Meanwhile, the OTHER LOTRO store, the real life one, wasn’t doing much for me.

CCP announced that they were removing learning skills from EVE Online.  I hit 60 million skill points and was going to get to reallocate some.

The Cataclysm open beta was coming to an end at last. I think part of the problem with the expansion was how long people were freely talking about the expansion… and playing it… before it came out.  We all knew what the hot new hunter pet would be and how much the world was going to be changedCheap copies of WoW were not going to fix that.

Back in pre-Cataclysm Azeroth, I was summing up my Wintergrasp experiences and moaning about missing the damn Hallow’s End mask quest achievement again.

On the Pokemon front, I finished the National Pokedex in Pokemon SoulSilver.  In your face!  And the march to the release of Pokemon Black and White was commencing.

The news seemed to be confused as to whether or not flying cars had come at last.

And, finally, in the completion of a boyhood dream of mine, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, officially releasing me from caring about major league ball ever again.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most viewed Posts in November

The power of spontaneous blogging.  A half-assed, spur of the moment blog post two days before the end of the month climbs to the #2 spot on the most viewed posts list.  The only thing that topped it was the LOTRO server merge post, which Google is favoring of late.

  1. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  2. Dating My Daughter – The Star Wars Test
  3. BlizzCon 2015 – Announcements and Need vs. Greed
  4. Legion in September 2016 is… about Average for Blizzard
  5. EVE Online, Kickstarter, and The Fountain War
  6. Quote of the Day – The Power of Fallout 4
  7. Finishing the Great Northern Road
  8. Of Sinks and Faucets and What People Do in New Eden
  9. Quote of the Day – The First Rule of Subscription Club…
  10. The Fountain War – Not Winning Fast Enough and Other Issues
  11. BlizzCon 2015 – Scoring Need vs. Greed
  12. In Which We Blob

Search Terms of the Month

world of warcraft banned for no reason
[Oh, I bet there was a reason]

trion rift is dead
[Not yet, though having to install Glyph killed it for me]

windows 95 dell
[Isn’t that the tech equivalent of saying “All your bases?”]

civilization 2 windows 10
[Civilization defeated in something of a blow out]

wow classes for couples
[How sweet!]

EVE Online

The Reavers deployment down to Curse to spar with TEST in the adjacent Wicked Creek region wrapped up.  Then we were into Pure Blind and pushing back on NCDot and the then current residents of Cloud Ring who were busy plinking at our sovereignty.  I participated some in that, but took the last week or so of the month off from the game, so skipped the push to bring the fight them.

Lord of the Rings Online

I am tentatively back into LOTRO.  I am going to try to press through, re-learn how to play my Captain after two years away and a skill revamp by Turbine, get through the lukewarm tedium of Lothlorien… no wonder the elves think immortality is a burden, I would too if I lived there… and into Mirkwood, an expansion I bought… six years ago maybe?  We’ll see how that goes.

And then there is server transfer dynamics as Gaff is playing, but his highest level character is on a different server from mine, and mine is on Brandywine, the only server you cannot transfer TO, so do I move stuff from Brandywine to Landroval, which characters do I send over, what do I do about various guilds, and so on and so forth.  Have to come up with a plan for that.

Minecraft

As noted, I finished up the Great Northern Road so that you can now ride a horse from the spawn point all the way to the Mesa biome about 6km north.  I then spent the the rest of the month building things along the road.  Tourist attractions and what not.  I did build a small tower and some stables in an area I am now referring to as “the horse fields,” since it is an open grassland area with more horses (and donkeys) roaming about than I have seen any place else on our world.

Xyd, Skronk, and Enaldi haven’t been on much, though Minecraft is a very project focused game for most of us.  When you finish building something you feel “done” until you figure out the next thing to work on.  Aaron though, he has another project lined up.  We’ll see how that turns out.

World of Warcraft

I bought a WoW Token, so I had 30 days of WoW time at my disposal, and yet little real inclination to actually play WoW.  After squandering the first week, I resolved to see if I can earn my gold back through garrison missions and a bit AH work.  Fortunately I invested in getting followers with the Treasure Hunter trait on my characters, so every mission for gold is multiplied by 2x or 3x.  I should be able to recoup my WoW Token given that.

Coming Up

Well, it is the end of the year.  That prefigures at least three standard, I do it every year, posts.  So you all have that to look forward to.

There is a new Star Wars movie coming out, episode VII of many.  While that doesn’t really have much to do with video games directly, judging from Saturday’s post, wrangling over the relative merits of Star Wars movies is a popular topic.  I might go there again.

In EVE, there is the eternal question of, “what are we going to do now?”  It isn’t as much of a sandbox as Minecraft, but the game does depend on being able to set new goals, lest you burn out.  At least we have a new Proteus doctrine to look forward to, and some new ships with the December expansion.  I don’t want to put too much weight on Asher’s shoulders when it comes to finding fun for me, he does a lot of work for us already, but I do hope there is something for Reavers in December.

With Minecraft I am wondering what I should build next.  In WoW it is a matter of making back by gold.  In LOTRO, the quest to get to Mirkwood will continue.  Meanwhile, 2016 looms and I keep chanting to myself under my breath, “No, really, 1990 was just 10 years ago, the calendar is wrong.”

Not Ready for a Return to Azeroth

I have to hand it to Blizzard.  They took their WoW Token idea and made it very easy for players to buy one to get back into the game.

With the World of Warcraft 11th anniversary hitting this month, I decided to see if I could log in with a level 20 or under via the Starter Edition to get the the obligatory Feat of Strength “being there” achievement so I could brag about it and pretend I was subscribed at the time or some such further down the road.

But when I logged in and got to the character screen, Blizzard popped up a dialog that said I had 200K gold sloshing around on various characters and wondered aloud in a not-so-subtle bit of copy if I wouldn’t like to just drop 35K gold on a WoW Token right now to reactivate my account.

WoW Tokens have gone up in price; not to the 90K gold some were predicting, but they are at least up past the original 30K opening price.  Still, I figured I could afford it, so I pressed the button, restarted the client, and was good for another 30 days.

I then collected and put on the Edwin VanCleef costume and the Inflatable Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker that were part of the anniversary package.

Vikund as Van Cleef

Vikund as Van Cleef

That got me two achievements.  Also, there was the now usual anniversary booster.

11tokenthing

Then I was standing around in my garrison, so I went back to business and collected the items from my followers who had all been out on missions since July.  That got me an item that yielded another achievement.

Then I spoke to King Varian Wrynn, who happened to be standing around in my garrison, took the quest he was offering, and went off to build a ship yard for my garrison.  Another achievement there.

Ships, I need lots of ships...

Ships, I need lots of ships…

That lead me on into the intro quests for Tanaan Jungle.  I did that then started on the quest chain in the jungle, ran through a few of those quests, and then called it a night.

And then went a full week before I realized I hadn’t logged back in again.

I am not sure there was anything wrong with Tanaan Jungle, though running through the garrison routine started to put me to sleep.  I suspect I am just to ready yet for another return to Azeroth.  We still have a long way to go until WoW Legion hits, even if the eternally optimistic keep saying that it COULD ship before summer.

I was interested to see who from the instance group was logging in.  Earl had been on recently.  He never unsubscribes and is a dedicated player.  And Bung had been on recently.  The rest of us in the guild though had been offline for months.  So perhaps the time is not yet ripe for a return.  I think that will have to wait until we get a firm date for WoW Legion.  At that point we can get back in, finish up Warlords of Draenor as a warm up and then set sail for the Broken Isles.

Still, that leave a hole in my usual routine, not having a fantasy MMORPG I am actively playing.

EverQuest – The Broken Mirror Lands in Norrath

I thought The Broken Mirror expansion was going to go live today… I seem to recall reading the 19th as the date over at Massively OP at some point… but when I went to go check for this post I found that the the EverQuest Twitter feed had already announced the expansion as live.  Memory is a faulty receptacle at best, and my own is more flawed than most.

So here we have expansion number 22 for EverQuest.

Mirror cracked... also boobs

The mirror cracked… also, is that Firiona Vie in a bikini?

I won’t reprise my full commentary about Daybreak announcing that expansions were out and that adventure packs were in, only to change their mind for what I consider a clear and pressing reason.  You can read Tuesday’s post for that.  I’ll just repeat my suspicion that it is all about the money.

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

The Broken Mirror pricing? Try the broken gaming budget!

Money is important, without it the game goes away, so Daybreak can hardly be faulted for going back to the expansion plan with its $140 option.

Instead I want to go with how SOE/Daybreak, despite their many mistakes… common enough for me to create a “Because SOE” tag for the blog… and the many dev hours they have squandered over the years on dubious projects that never went anywhere… SOEmote and the SOE Launcher spring to mind, while Legends of Norrath remains in some horrible limbo, neither fully exploited nor completely neglected, just lingering in some middle state… has gained, somewhere along the way, the institutional/organizational knowledge of how important expansions are to keeping their player base engaged with their games… at least their EverQuest games.

EverQuest II, which launched less than a month before World of Warcraft, just had its 12th expansion go live.  Not bad for a game that just turned 11.  Meanwhile, as noted above, EverQuest has had twice that many expansions in its 16 years, 14 of which have been launched during the reign of Azeroth over the MMO universe.

World of Warcraft… five expansions in 11 years, with a sixth set to hit just before the game turns 12.

Now, there are more than a few low cards in that 22 expansion hand that EverQuest is holding.  Some expansions arrived broken or had content of dubious quality… especially so during the rush-rush times when SOE felt the world would end if they didn’t have two expansions out every calendar year… but SOE clearly felt a sense of urgency in getting out content.

An urgency you never really get from Blizzard.

An expansion a year though, that seems to have worked out as a decent pace for EverQuest.  I think there can be too many content drops.  I think EVE Online is feeling a bit of a pinch with its every six weeks or so expansion pace, in part because now expansions are not special, so there isn’t the big spike of returning players anymore.

No, once a year seems good for Norrath.  It gives the game new content on a regular basis and has allowed enough time for some major features to be added, things like player housing.  Okay, nobody wants that in WoW, but still…

And you can certainly argue against what I am saying by pointing at the success of WoW.  The population of Azeroth is down… way down… down below half of one time peak of 12 million subscribers, with only 5.5 million hanging around now, and that is still an order of magnitude larger than EverQuest’s subscription peak of approximately 550,000 players back in 2004.  Who brings in a billion dollars a year baby?  Not Norrath!

The flip side of that of course is that Daybreak, with a small fraction of the revenue and player base somehow manages to get out an expansion a year.  You would think that Blizzard would have the resources to move a little quicker.

Anyway, there are many complexities in that comparison, not the least of which is the culture of the organization that makes the games.  But WoW is still the cash cow for Blizzard… to the point that I wonder if their move to stop reporting subscriber numbers was as much to blend WoW revenue in with their other games (like they did when they announced the combined revenues of Destiny, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm) as to stop people declaring the game is dead because it isn’t the biggest subscription MMORPG by a large enough margin… so I still wonder at their sometimes glacial speed.

Thoughts for the day as EverQuest launches expansion 22, The Broken Mirror.

 

BlizzCon 2015 – Scoring Need vs. Greed

Last Monday I put up a post which I called “Announcements and Need vs. Greed” that outlined what I thought Blizzard would announce (need) and what I wanted them to announce (greed).  That was actually a good time to write, on my part, because I managed to post before any of the pre-BlizzCon leaks.

BlizzCon2015

Now it is a week later, BlizzCon is in the past, and it is time to match up what I wrote versus what happened.  This time around I will go in reverse order from last time.

Overwatch

Need:

  • Whoo hoo, Overwatch!!1!

Plenty of that!

  • More cinematics

We got that as well.

  • More beta slots

I did not see any mention of this however.

Greed:

  • Vague gesture at a possible launch date

We got “Spring” so I think that counts.

  • Even more cinematics

Do the character intro reels count?

  • How this totally isn’t Heroes of the Storm crossed with Team Fortress 2

Okay, maybe I was being sarcastic.  Still, with more heroes, and female heroes, I guess they were at least on track for that.

  • Some sort of benefit for WoW subscribers

Does something from the pre-order count?

So lots of Overwatch hype, and a business model.  You’re going to have to buy a box, virtual or otherwise.  My daughter was especially hyped up about the Overwatch news, right up until she found out it was going to be available on Mac OS.  It will run on Window, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but not her iMac.  She was very grumpy about that.

Hearthstone

Need:

  • New card pack that will make the old ones feel obsolete and bring in some more money

Well, duh… in conjunction with something else at least…

Greed:

  • Another new battle mode

League of Explorers and all that.  That seems new-ish… I mean, there is a map right there on the playing board, right?  Maybe I should have paid more attention.

  • The ability to play within WoW, with benefits for WoW subscribers.

Not so much.  I want to play on that little board in my garrison.  I might even resubscribe for that.

People who like Hearthstone seem genuinely excited about being able to buy more stuff.  People like me, who played just long enough to get the hearthsteed… well, as long as it is making Blizz some money.

Heroes of the Storm

Need:

  • Reasons for people to spend money

More heroes, more skins.  That counts, right?

Greed:

  • Non-dull play mode

That was actually a trick statement, as I find the game itself dull.  Still, Arena mode will be a thing.  Wooo.

Even as a non-fan of HotS, I was at least amused that they took that long time WoW forum joke about two people each playing one head of two headed ogre and made it a thing.  Long live Cho’gall I guess.  I will be interested in how it spreads.  People at BlizzCon and with a Virtual Ticket will get the hero unlocked, but for everybody else you have to win two matches partnered up with somebody who has Cho’gall… playing as Cho’gall… to unlock it on your account.  I expect comedy, rage, and RMT to ensue.

StarCraft

Need:

  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!

Well, we got that.

Greed:

  • Secret, surprise feature, like the ability to play the original StarCraft in SC2.

While there was a leak later in the week about Blizz hiring to convert StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III into something playable on current operating systems, that wasn’t talked about at BlizzCon and is somewhere out in the future.

Meanwhile, StarCraft 2 will be getting DLC next year.  So at least there will be new things to do after Legacy of the Void.  And StarCraft 2 was pretty good as a spectator sport at BlizzCon.  I certainly prefer it to any MOBA.

Diablo

Here is where the disappointment train pulls into the station.

Need:

  • A new Diablo III expansion

No

  • A vague timeline for beta

No

  • Something else special for people who complete season objectives

Sort of…

Greed:

  • Diablo IV announced – I actually think this is the way to go

Hah, no

  • Diablo and/or Diablo II being ported to the Diablo III engine

No

  • Diablo or Diablo II coming to tablets

No

For anybody moaning about WoW not getting enough time during the keynote, let’s talk about how much time Diablo III got.  None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This was not the year for the Diablo franchise.  There was one panel where it was announced that Diablo III would be getting a patch that would give players a new zone and a few other goodies.  That was it for Diablo fans.  Certainly nothing else to spend money on.  Blizz has been happy to announce how many boxes they have sold, but no new boxes are on the horizon yet.

So clearly BlizzCon 2016 will have the Diablo IV announcement, right?

World of Warcraft

Need:

  • The cinematic

We got it.  It was okay.

  • Chris Metzen on stage having an orgasm about the lore in Legion

There was some discussion as to whether or not Metzen had a “loregasm” or if it was just “loreplay,” but he was up there on stage doing what he does best.  Somebody on Twitter was complaining that he wasn’t dispensing details.  That isn’t what you put Metzen on stage to do.  He is the emotional call to action, not the numbers and specs man.

  • Hard dates for beta

Not so much.

  • Something vague about a ship date that will narrow it down to a three month window

I think “summer” pretty much fits the bill there, though remember when summer ends on US calendars.

  • A decent “hook” for Legion beyond “ten more levels and a class from Diablo III

There were lots of details in various panels that got people excited.  Now we just have to wait until it ships in about a year.

Greed:

  • A ship date

Didn’t expect it.  We’ll get that in May/June I bet.

  • Ravenholdt as the rogue Order Hall

So sorry.

  • Some reason to resubscribe today

I can pre-order Legion and have another level 100 character today… which would make six for me.  And that character would even get a level 3 garrison so I could expand my grind even further.

  • Some tie-in with the Warcraft movie

Not that I saw.  Did I miss something?

So lots of stuff about Legion.  I think people who complained about WoW not getting enough time at the keynote are forgetting that it isn’t 2009 any more.  There was a stretch there when WoW was pretty much the only game Blizzard had and BlizzCon was, essentially, WoWCon with a StarCraft tournament in the back room for the oddballs.

Now though, Blizzard has six balls in the air… well, five balls in the air and Diablo on the ground and rolling towards a dusty corner.  And they need some attention.  Would you buy the game that they didn’t mention in the keynote?

Anyway, Legion is the classic WoW expansion.  A new continent, 10 more levels, a new class, and an attempt to steer the ship in a new direction based on what they learned with the last expansion.  Specs will be differentiated, and you’ll be able to play all the specs on a character… so I guess having two level cap druids isn’t necessary any more… while skill trees will be more varied and will have more “meaningful” choices.

There is some further emphasis on exploration, though there will be no flying at launch, so people who can’t explore below 10,000 feet will be raging.  Hone your sense of entitlement and let the flight wars begin anew!

Then there is the whole scaling zones and dungeons thing.  You can go in any direction you want to level up, five zones will scale at need as will the five leveling dungeons.  Then there are five more level cap dungeons.  Cheers for getting everybody off the same pipe through the content, but I expect issues with the scaling and likely won’t be disappointed.

And then, after completely trivializing crafting in WoD, there will is an attempt to bring it back from the dead in Legion.

All of which is as maybe.  Things sometimes prove too complicated or prove unworkable in beta.

Still, despite my cynicism, it does sound like it might be time to plot a return to Azeroth.  My daughter seems keen, and doubly so after I explained the hunter specs to her.  Also, she has been trying out EVE Online for the last week and so confused that she wants to just run quests and kill mobs.

We’re not running out to resubscribe today… and nobody in our house is pre-ordering Legion any time soon if I have any say… but after months away… I’ve been out since June and my daughter since March… Christmas break might be a good time to get cozy in front of a monitor and start wrapping up tasks in Draenor.  Coming in late has served us well in the past.  I think I enjoyed Pandaria as much as I did, in part, because we came in after the last big content patch.  So while others were wailing about the content drought, we were still figuring out farms and getting into pet battles.

Others looking at BlizzCon and WoW in particular: